This month, Benefit Logic, Inc. is poised to celebrate its 15th year in business. That makes owner Ed Gussio pause for a moment to reflect on the past and future of his independent insurance agency that specializes in health insurance.
“I guess you can say we are preparing ourselves for another 15 years of growth,” he said.
Gussio believes his business is a success because of its philosophy, which is: Do what is right for the customer, no matter what.
“Unlike other agencies, we are not on commission. We are salary-based team members. When we make recommendations for a business or individual, we don’t care what the compensation is going to be at the end of the day. We make recommendations for what is right for the person,” he said.
Of course, the company could not have come this far without its dedicated team. Several of the team members are celebrating 10 years with the company. “We all go home every night knowing that we did everything we can to help the customers,” he said.
Through the years, the insurance business has had its ups and downs like any other business. “There was a time about three years ago when our economy went down. A lot of our customers got smaller and our pool of insurance also went down. There have always been times of challenge, but we look at it as an opportunity to restructure or offer new products. Last year, we rolled out property and casualty insurance. We are diversifying.”
The next challenge is dealing with the Affordable Care Act. “Everything has changed with health care reform and it has been a huge challenge, not just for us, but for our customers and providers. We’ve been doing a lot of classes given by the federal government through health and human services so we can be certified by the Marketplace as well as some of the carriers,” Gussio said. “Imagine any industry where the government changes dramatically how business is done and done in a way, in my opinion, it came together at the very last second, not very well. We have been adjusting the way we do business and to be honest, we are still adjusting.”
Gussio says he and his staff are using the federal marketplace to sign up customers.
“That is the one that has been in the news quite a bit lately and there are still hiccups,” he said. “It’s a complete roll-out disaster. Too much has been changed to solve the problem. They could have achieved a much better success rate in helping people afford to pay for the insurance without changing every aspect [for] people who have it or provide insurance for their employees.”
He said some of those who have been providing insurance for their employees are now struggling to continue providing it going forward. On the other side, health care has benefited others. “We have seen a few people benefiting from this law. It’s not all doom and gloom. There have certainly been some winners in this thing. My opinion is that some insurance is better than no insurance.”
Most of the company’s clients are in Flagstaff, but he has a small office run by two employees in Phoenix. Gussio and his wife, Shelly, are longtime residents of Flagstaff.
“I am an [alumnus] of NAU. I studied exercise science and business,” he said.
He met Shelly there. After college he went to work for a large insurance company in Phoenix where his job was promoting corporate wellness and he was teaching classes on exercise and nutrition.
“I stumbled into a position at a local insurance company that was hiring a marketing person.” Through this position, he became involved with large corporations such as Salt River Project and Honeywell.
“As companies do, there was a merger and my position was eliminated,” he said. “I had the option of working for another company or starting my own business. I knew more about insurance companies than most brokers know.”
He decided to take the plunge on Jan. 15, 1997. Since his background is in the service department of a large insurance company, he says he knew how to make sure the person had the right coverage and he is glad to educate a company’s employees about what benefits the company has chosen for them.
Benefit Logic is not his first business. Growing up in Chandler, he had a lawn mowing business. “I was mowing lawns for $2 and taking the money to buy Slurpies and spending every hour in the summer in the pool.”
Gussio moved to Arizona at the age of three when his parents moved from South Carolina. “I grew up in Chandler. It was a farm town. My father was the city planner. I have great memories of growing up there. I grew up playing soccer and playing with friends around the neighborhood.” Although his father died when he was 10, he said he had four older sisters who took care of him.
Gussio went to Chandler schools and played soccer in Chandler High School and then on to NAU. After college, the couple moved back to the Valley. One day about 15 years ago, he and Shelly were visiting his sister, who lives in Flagstaff.
“I was sitting on the back porch and saw that a dentist had put an ad in the paper for a dental hygienist. That is what she [Shelly] was,” he said.
She got the job and they moved to Flagstaff. Gussio’s business was about a year old at the time. The move was a good one. They love the area because they are avid mountain bikers, skiers, hikers and campers.
“We love being in the outdoors.” And he says it is a great place to raise children.
They have two children, ages seven and 14. In their spare time, the couple volunteers and supports many charitable organizations. He serves on the board of managers for the Flagstaff YMCA and several insurance councils both locally and nationally. They also are supporters of the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce.
“We believe in giving back to the community.” FBN
Benefit Logic is located at 2321 N. Fourth Street in Flagstaff. To learn more, call 928- 526-5691 or visit www.benefitlogic.net.