Managing Setbacks

By Jim Moody, CAE
CSA President

One of my biggest personal challenges is my weight. I have a genetic predisposition for a large belly, and I tend to like sweets a lot more than green things (unless they are sour apple Jolly Ranchers). For more times than I care to count, I’ve gotten large and then exercised it off only to repeat the cycle.

Sometime in May I decided I had gotten big enough and started running again. Running has proven to be the thing I can keep up the longest and has the best results. Unfortunately I’ve aged to the point that I can’t exercise my way out of being fat. I have modified the diet a bit and lost about half the weight I need to lose.

Last week, I had a real victory. We have a marked 10k loop on our cart paths in Peachtree City. It has only one road crossing, so you don’t have to worry about cars. It’s shaded, and much of it runs along a pretty lake. My dream when I started running again was to be able to run the whole 10k loop. I did it last Sunday in well under an hour – blazing speed for an old, fat man!

Saturday I set out to do it again. I made it two miles and thought I was going to die. I had a million excuses why – it was hotter and more humid; I had a cold and couldn’t breathe properly; I didn’t sleep well the night before. But they were just excuses. The truth is that it was a setback.

Running, I think, is a lot like life. It’s not always progressively better. There are ups and downs, good days and bad. You can’t let the bad days stop you from going out and trying again.

I think that’s true in business as well. We recently faced a bit of a setback with CSA. About three years ago, we began investigating options for health insurance. Members were telling us that this was their biggest worry, and we were seeking a better solution than the marketplace was offering. We partnered with a couple of other associations that had started a Health Trust. The underwriting for it was different that “regular” insurance. Under Obamacare, regular insurance prices went up to subsidize those who were now covered but couldn’t pay full price. Our plan would underwrite based on the health history of your own employees and theoretically be cheaper because there was no subsidizing other folks.

Over time we came to realize that lumber yards don’t typically employee the healthiest of people. The underwriting was sending back quotes that were higher than regular insurance. Very few CSA member companies found the plan to be a deal. Meanwhile, the Health Trust itself ran into some issues. It merged with another trust to gain critical mass, but it still wasn’t big enough to spread the risk to be as profitable as the state insurance regulators wanted it to be.

Last month, our Board of Directors voted to withdraw from the Trust. We only had a couple of companies still in the plan, and they almost certainly will find lower rates in the open market. The risk of staying in the trust far outweighed any benefit we were deriving.

This was a setback, to say the least. We’d invested money, time and CSA’s brand equity into this health plan and lost on all fronts. But we all know there are no guarantees in business. No one has a crystal ball to see into the future. The reality is that some things we try will work, and some will not. I think we’ve had enough successes at CSA in the past few years to at least bring us back to even. So I’ll take the experience we had with the Health Trust and learn from it. But I’m not particularly sad that we tried it. Never trying anything new is not a good way to conduct business or life.

We have some new programs in the works that we’ll be excited to roll out next year. None of them are related to health insurance, but they do address some needs we’ve heard our members express: technology and HR/people issues. I’ll be sharing more about those in the coming months.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to discuss the failure of the health plan or any other aspect of CSA, I welcome your call. Even better, come on over and go for a run with me. I’ve got a good 10k course I’d love to tackle with you.