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Connor Benjamin - Point C

Connor Benjamin is an Integration Manager for Point C. Connor started with the company with no experience in the third party administration (TPA) of benefits space, but he had the hunger and drive to rise to the challenge. Connor now leads the integration process when new companies join the Point C family of companies. 

 

Point C is a TPA platform for medical and dental benefits for self-insured employers. Administrative services the company currently provides include claims processing, network management, and utilization review. Point C’s mission is to support TPA partners through business process innovations and product solutions that drive value for employers and enhance the member experience.

Transcript

Introduction

Connor Benjamin: So being a collaborator I think was just the right fit for what the company needed in the sense of not someone's going to come in and think what they know is best or what they know is right. But someone who truly and genuinely loves to bring people together and loves to work through problems and loves to find solutions that make people's day-to-day lives easier. That is genuinely who I am.

I've never been someone who likes to be in the spotlight. I would rather be behind the scenes helping teams rework things, for the better. And so I think that collaborative approach that I take, is something that brings a lot of value to the business and is almost refreshing to a lot of the stakeholders that I work with.

Anderson Williams: Welcome to Everyday Heroes, a podcast from Shore Capital Partners that highlights the people who are building our companies from the inside, every day, often out of the spotlight. With this series, we want to pull those heroes out of the shadows. We want to hear their stories, we want to share their stories. We want to understand what drives them. Why they do what they do. How they might inspire and support others to become everyday heroes too.

In this episode, I talk with Connor Benjamin, the Integration Manager at Point C. Even in his introduction, Connor demonstrates his desire to grow and try new things. At work and well beyond.

The Iterative Process

Connor Benjamin: I grew up in the Boston area, born and raised, went to school up in Maine.

I spent a few years there post-grad and moved out to Chicago only a year and a half, almost two years ago. Come from a really close-knit family, very fortunate for that, have really close siblings that I keep in touch with. And funny enough, I have a twin sister and she moved out to Chicago at the same time that I did. More for personal, fun, adventure reasons. And my reason was for the job.

I'm someone who just loves trying new things. I think that's part of why I took this job is, hey, I don't really know what I'm getting myself into, but let's go check it out and have fun with it. So actually a few months ago I decided to take a woodworking class and so really had zero experience.

I may have taken an arts class in college performing arts class. I'd stumbled across a few friends and family that were doing woodworking and I thought, you know, let's check this out. So, I entered a nine-week woodworking course in Chicago. It was awesome. It was a 10-person class. It was all hand tools and honestly, I think it's something I'll probably do for a long time.

It's funny, I joke with Mark Larsen, our COO at Point C and I just say, Mark, thanks for giving me the time to escape for two hours on a Wednesday night and do some woodworking. But yeah, I'm just someone who loves to go try new things, have new experiences. I love getting my hands dirty, whether it's at the job or in my hobbies.

Anderson Williams: What is it about woodworking that you've found sort of engaging or captivating or cathartic, or just say more about that.

Connor Benjamin: I think I've always been someone who loves seeing something go from nothing to something. And growing up, my dad wanted to actually install a pretty expansive patio in our backyard.

 

And you know, I was eight years old at the time and I said, hey, you know, I want to see this piece of grass turn into this beautiful patio with this waterfall and all this, so let me help you. And I wanted to get my hands dirty and get down and lay those stones and level everything. And I think about woodworking and it's that same concept of having this vision and coming up with this idea of something you want to build.

 

And then figuring out, okay, what materials do I need? What skills do I need to have to do that? And then going and executing. And then going to people who are experts and say, hey, how do you work this angle? Or how do you work that angle?

And so I've had a lot of fun just coming up with that vision and then executing and honestly having a product that isn't perfect at the end of the day. And saying, whoa, I could do this better next time. That's kind of, I love just the iterative process of that, of woodworking.

Anderson Williams: The iterative process, figuring things out, seeing a project from idea to conclusion, even if, or perhaps especially if that conclusion is imperfect and requires further iteration. This all makes sense in the realm of woodworking, but I was curious how it plays out with Connor in his work and how he got to Point C in the first place.

So, tell us what your role is at Point C.

Figuring Things Out

Connor Benjamin: My role at point C currently is Integration Manager. So, I stepped into this role back in May of 2022, and prior to that I started at Point C in September of 2021 as a Business Analyst.

Anderson Williams: Tell me a little bit more about what Point C does and the types of businesses you're acquiring and integrating.

Connor Benjamin: So, Point C at its simplest form is a collection of third-party administrators, and without getting too much into the weeds, a third-party administrator, also known as a TPA, what they do is they provide the backend services behind employer benefit plans. So, if an employer would like to offer benefits to employees, think medical, dental, vision, then we will help administer those services.

Make sure that claims are paid, deductibles are met, things of that nature, all behind the scenes work.

Anderson Williams: And your background isn't in the TPA space, right? You came actually from a construction company?

Connor Benjamin: That's correct.

Anderson Williams: And you mentioned that you like trying new things. Tell us a little bit about moving from home and family in Boston and working in a construction environment to a new city, a new place, and a TPA, that's a pretty early-stage private equity backed company at the time.

Tell me how that unfolded and why that seemed like the right opportunity for you.

Connor Benjamin: It's a bit of a funny story and a lot of my friends and family thought some screws had been knocked loose when I moved out here. So just to give you a little bit more context, right out of school, I actually did the whole consulting ordeal and tried that for actually less than a year, and I just felt it wasn't really pushing me to where I wanted to go.

I felt like I was very much a cookie cutter situation, and I learned very quickly that I wanted to feel a part of an organization and that I wanted to make an impact and I didn't want to be a part of a program that was in two years, you get promoted to this, and then the next two years you get promoted to that.

I wanted to kind of carve my own path, and so not knowing where to go or what to do, I did some networking and I'd found out project management. So, I thought, ooh, where could I go do some project management? So, I stumbled across this family-owned general contractor in Boston. That was really a very kind of a hidden gem.

Very near and dear company to me today. And what I learned in that role was just kind of the importance of communication and the importance of setting expectations. And I think the owner of that business, and what he really taught me is having caring for the work that you do and going that extra step to show your clients that you're there for them.

But again, knowing my personality, it came to a point where I said, I'm looking at my boss's boss's job, and I don't want that. Nothing against it. It was a great career, but I didn't want to be in that industry, but I wanted that skillset. Long story short, stumbled upon Point C and Mark Larsen through a mutual connection, and what I said to Mark is, what I'd really like to be a part of is, something that's high growth, high energy, competitive, but again, doesn't quite have that formality of maybe a large consultancy.

And I also really wanted to be in a part of a group where you just had to figure things out. I didn't want to know everything, and I didn't want to be the expert, and I didn't want to know really how anything worked. I really wanted to learn. And so, I sat down with Mark and Ben Frisch, our CEO, and reiterating why I wanted to be there.

And it was all about wanting to put myself in uncomfortable positions and wanting to really just support a growing business in any way possible. And I think I stuck true to my word, and they believed in me. And in that moment, I think they were just looking for a hard worker who was willing to try things and learn things.

So that's where we kind of aligned and it worked out.

Anderson Williams: Well, and probably somebody that they knew was coming in eyes wide open, that there was still a lot to be figured out in an early-stage platform.

Connor Benjamin: Right. And again, frankly, I didn't know what I was getting myself into, but just having that open mindset of let's learn, let's try this and teach me how this works.

And I will say, the first couple months were, many months were difficult. But it's one of those things, you look back and you say, that was pretty cool. I learned what this new industry was. I learned how to communicate with upper management, et cetera, et cetera.

Young Hungry Talent

Anderson Williams: It's one thing for a young and hungry up and comer to take a risk and jump at an opportunity like what Connor found at Point C.

It's another thing to be the person who hires someone young and with no industry experience into a key role in a young and growing company. So, I wanted to hear directly from Mark Larsen the Chief Operating Officer at Point C, about what he was looking for and why Connor seemed the right fit.

Mark Larsen: My philosophy on hiring young, hungry talent is that you're hiring on potential, not on knowledge base.

I moonlight as a university professor, and I know I can teach smart people concepts and industry. What I can't teach is drive. I can't teach hustle. I can't teach emotional intelligence. Those are traits that individuals cultivate themselves through their own hard work. When I hired Connor, I had a good feeling, but I really wasn't sure how things would play out.

I knew he possessed those qualities, and I was hopeful, but he surprised our entire company by becoming an absolute rockstar who we rely on to keep our business growing.

Anderson Williams: Hunger and drive and emotional intelligence. These are powerful descriptors of a young leader. So, in a new environment and in a whole new industry, in a new town with a new team, I wanted to better understand what Connor faced in the real world when the rubber hit the road in his new position.

What were the biggest challenges? Were they related to industry? Were they related to just learning the environment? What were some of those big early challenges?

Connor Benjamin: Yeah, I'd say the two that stick out to me first is absolutely the industry. I remember being on a interview call with Mark and I said, so, by the way, can you explain the industry?

And he said, I will explain the industry at a later date. And I said, really? Okay. Well, this is interesting because then friends and family said, oh, cool, you got a new job. Where are you going? And I said, I'm moving to Chicago. I got this new job. I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm going to be a business analyst and I'm going to go support the C-suite in whatever they need.

And so, I'll let you know.

Anderson Williams: I mean, it speaks a lot to the trust that you obviously earned from your past experience and through the process. Right? That, that you could come in and not know all the details. But be an immediate asset to Mark and Ben and the team that they were building.

Connor Benjamin: And Mark and Ben instilled that confidence that said, you don't need to know the industry to be effective.

You will get there, and you'll become more effective once you learn the industry, but you don't need to get there today. So that was more of a personal challenge because I'm someone who wants to know how things work. That's just my personality. I will ask the silly questions to say, can you clarify that, 'cause I don't understand right?

So that was one challenge. The second challenge was I would say my lack of experience and how that looked to others. So, as I was getting more involved in the business and trying to support not only Mark and Ben and the rest of the Point C management team, but also our TPA partners.

I certainly felt and received, you know, some commentary of pushback that said, you know, you're new, you're not familiar with the industry. And there were moments where maybe I was put in a position where I had to not give direction but make a suggestion or introduce a tool that we should maybe adopt.

And again, point C very much takes the approach of collaboration and working with our TPA partners and wanting buy-in from everyone before we make a decision. But there were just moments early on where I felt like, not that I needed my voice to be heard, 'cause it certainly didn't. I understood my place but wanting to feel part of the team and recognizing I'm inexperienced and younger, so that was a challenge.

Growth and Evolution

Anderson Williams: Connor's challenges related to age and industry experience are true almost by definition for a young leader. Mark Larsen knows firsthand what it means to be the youngest executive in the room from his own early career. So, I asked him about facing and working through those age and experience related challenges.

You've been a young executive. Can you just say a little bit about that challenge and some of the ways that he as a young leader, has grown and evolved into the role?

Mark Larsen: Ageism goes both ways. The medical insurance space tends to skew older, tends to skew more experience. And having a young guy in his mid-twenties who didn't know a thing about insurance, show up ready to innovate is a complete shock to the system.

What Connor did masterfully was showcase his humility. He built trust by showing people he cared about them. He didn't come in with bravado saying, this is how things are going to be. Even though he had identified much better processes, tools, and structures. He took the time to listen and learn from others' experience, and that's what's made him most successful in his role.

I'll never forget a day when Connor was implementing a change at one of our businesses. He had done all the groundwork, gotten everyone on board, was sending the final communication, outlining the changes. In response to that email, he got a nasty gram from one of our stakeholders complaining about the change and specifically singling him out.

And in this case, Connor had done absolutely nothing wrong. This was just a poor reaction from one of our other employees upset about the change. Connor immediately called me. And he talked me through a plan to address it, and then he ended with a question. 'Mark, what could I do better to avoid this from happening in the future?'

That's the kind of guy Connor is. It's something that's not in the least his fault. Yet he's always looking introspectively, thinking of ways he can improve himself and also the experience of those around him.

Anderson Williams: Connor added a little color to this challenge and really to the challenge and opportunities in his role managing integrations.

Connor Benjamin: When we first started, all of our businesses remained pretty insular. They've been doing their business, running successful businesses for many years. And so when this acquisition comes about and they hear that there are these other partners to work with, they're more hesitant. They say, we're good, we can operate on our own.

But once we create that kind of open-door policy and say, hey, we're all in this together. In the past six months, we've actually started to see a lot of TPA partners collaborate very closely with each other and say, hey, what if we built a team that could support all of us that did this one function because this is a function that is a pain point for all of us.

So that it's slowly you can see that openness creeping in and there's an energy being built around it, which is really fun.

Anderson Williams: That's really cool. Everybody's sort of going through the process of excitement for the partnership, but then a little bit of protectionism, to then a rebuilding of trust, to then starting, even if they're thinking across those previously insular companies, now they're thinking like a platform.

They're thinking what's the network effect of us all being a part of Point C and generating those kinds of things is really remarkable.

Connor Benjamin: And this is what I love about the integration role. It's never ending. So you can start bare minimum, you know, we're going to merge our insurance plans, our financials, our HR, right?

But you can just keep going deeper and deeper and deeper into every operational process within the business, and then eventually it kind of feeds into a culture, right? So that's the fun part.

Looking Ahead

Anderson Williams: So when you look at the growth of Point C and the opportunities, what are you most looking forward to? What are the areas you want to continue to grow as you look out the next 2, 3, 4 years?

 

Connor Benjamin: I will say I feel in the past three to four months, I've been really psyched with what I'm doing, and I feel like I've hit a stride in terms of playing the role I want to play at Point C. And so, the reality is I really just want to expand on that and I want to make more and more of an impact by supporting more and more of our teams.

And again, finding those pain points and saying, hey, how can I help? Can we make this easier for you? And I would say at a kind of another deeper level, a personal goal or a project of mine is to really take this momentum and this energy and create a Point C culture. So again, historically, each of our businesses have been very successful, have built cultures, have had people with an average tenure of 10 years, right?

Or 10 to 15 years of working at these businesses. So, there's clearly something that works in that model. The goal of mine is to fold that into a Point C culture, that everyone feels bought into this vision and excited about it, and isn't fearful that, hey, things are going to go wrong, or, hey, we're going to get too big and we're going to lose this culture that we have at this location.

I want to work and come up with strategies to make everyone feel a part of this.

Anderson Williams: Yeah, and in that process of expanding your role and kind of hitting your stride, Mark said that you just got your first direct report as well.

Connor Benjamin: I did, yes.

Anderson Williams: So, I'm curious, what's the sort of top lesson that you need to impart or that perhaps already have imparted on, your new direct report based on what you've learned to date?

Connor Benjamin: I've learned a lot in the first couple months of how to manage and how to be the right support role and mentor. And it's funny, I was talking to Ben Gilbert earlier today and just saying, you don't really reflect on how you were managed or trained until you have to do it for someone else. And what I've learned is I think two really important things, and one is over communication.

And what I mean by that is when you assign a project or a list of projects to a direct report, you clearly outline what the objective is and what the due date is. Another thing that I found very valuable, is sometimes when you're fresh out of school or new to the industry or whatever it may be, you sometimes are given a task and you don't know how to approach it.

And this is something Mark did really well with me. He would give me a task and he would say, just so you know, let's spend 20 minutes and I want to show you how I would go about this. Because you know, you're new to the business, you don't know what to expect, and you probably don't even know where to start.

And so, I've been doing this with our new hire, and I've sat down and said, you know, just to give you a 20 minute spiel, this is how I would approach this. This is what I would look out for, and I'm going to go let you do it. You don't have to follow my approach, but just wanted to share. And then she'll go off and either take my approach or take her own and that will kind of just spur some ideas of how she wants to tackle it.

And then of course she'll come in. We'll do a session where we'll look at what she's built so far. We'll provide some feedback and then we'll kind of move it up the ladder to Mark and Ben.

Versatility

Anderson Williams: Given all of this conversation and given the state of Point C, given the rhythm you have in your role, a new direct report, all the things that you can see on the horizon, what at this stage of your career have you accomplished that you're most proud of?

Connor Benjamin: I would say what I'm most proud of, it's nothing really tangible. It's more of a skillset and I think my ability to be nimble and truly take on whatever's thrown my way. And as we like to say, just figure it out and use the resources I have available to do that, is something I'm most proud of, and I think it's something that will hopefully set me up well for future endeavors.

 

And I think there's been moments, as I've looked back in my career of being nervous of, oh, I don't have a specialty. I can't say that I'm a data scientist or that I'm a programmer. And I've thought, you know, do I need to pivot into becoming, you know, get out of this generalist position, and get more specialized?

While I still have moments of thinking that way, I do think my ability to just take on any role or be a part of any industry and just kind of have that versatility in my background and in my skillset is something I'm most proud of and hopefully will pay off in the future.

Anderson Williams: Connor Benjamin is an everyday hero whose superpower is his versatility.

Connor has deliberately cultivated his versatility by stretching himself, taking risks, developing new skills, asking for help, asking for feedback, and then just being willing to go figure it out.

This podcast was produced by Shore Capital Partners with story and narration by Anderson Williams. Recording and editing by Andrew Malone. Editing by Reel Audiobooks. Sound design, mixing and mastering by Mark Galup of Reel Audiobooks.

Special thanks to Connor Benjamin and Mark Larsen.

This podcast is The Property of Shore Capital Partners, LLC. None of the content herein is investment advice, an offer of investment advisory services, nor a recommendation or offer relating to any security. See the terms of use page on the Shore Capital website for other important information.

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