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Jul 01, 2017

What are your expectations as you head to an industry convention? I didn’t plan to take a spontaneous swim while fully clothed, BUT my excitement over this year’s event matches the first NAHU convention I attended in 2010 in Chicago. I always anticipate the camaraderie, the knowledge, and the fresh momentum to bring back to my home state. 

This year was no different! Below are my 8 takeaways from NAHU 2017 in Orlando...

1. The organization is influencing change

It’s no secret our industry is experiencing A LOT of changes - which seem to come at a faster pace all the time, making it even more imperative to keep up. Janet Trautwein (NAHU CEO) took the stage to give us an update on the political climate and reminded the attendees how we’ve influenced some legislative changes. She also shared that she would be flying out the next day for a meeting at the White House to discuss healthcare tax reform. As if that’s not cool enough, two days later during the town hall she briefed us on that meeting. How awesome to hear first-hand info on something that happened only a few hours earlier!

2. Belief is powerful (and contagious)

That first day we also heard from Ruben Gonzales, the only four-time winter Olympian (Luge) that has competed in separate decades. Wow! What an incredible story of perseverance, determination and a bit of crazy (his word, not mine). Let’s be honest: there is so much change and negativity around our industry that it’s easy to let apathy set in. Ruben’s core message inspired me, “Don’t let other people’s disbelief erode your belief.” And following this advice will definitely differentiate you from the crowd.

Things were off to an inspiring start, and the next day spurred my motivation and creativity even further. I spotted a meeting titled “Vision Speak” – the name alone intrigued me to attend. Turns out, this was NAHU’s version of 15-minute TED Talks. Each speaker shared their vision of how we can improve our businesses, our industry and our client’s experience. They were all awesome. Every. Single. One.

Therefore, these last few nuggets are insights shared during this unique format…

3. Take back control of your business

Karen Kirkpatrick reminded us that “many of us entered the business 20-years ago with the expectation of working part-time hours and earning full-time income.” But along the way we got busier than ever before and started giving away services for free to try to keep our clients. Her message was to get control of your business again and know your worth. It’s okay to charge for your time and services.

4. Sell the problem

Kevin Trokey punctuated the importance of selling the problem and not your product. He shared HOW to do this, and reiterated that it’s okay to make money. It’s okay to charge a fee for your service (thank you!). I’m not sure where we got steered down the path that it isn’t okay, but we are professionals who bring a wealth of knowledge. It’s okay to earn a living while helping others. In fact, it’s a GREAT thing.


5. Find a true connection

Kevin Harris’s message was a very personal one about volunteering and community involvement. Although such things sometimes start off as a way to just “check a box”, it can unfold a strong sense of connection and healing. There’s unique satisfaction and pleasure from getting outside of yourself and doing something that isn’t really about you. When that happens, it has power to add perspective and energy into every area of our lives.

6. Push for transparency

David Contorno shared the importance of transparency in health care pricing. A shift toward consumerism perspectiveamong employers and employees opens the opportunity for cost transparency tools to be effectively implemented (hello, freshbenies!). He also spoke about the insanity that has grown out of the hospital’s ChargeMaster that hinders transparency. His article in Forbes Magazine, PPO Networks: The Devil Employers Think They Know, tells the story in depth. 

7. Take responsibility for your life

Judy Hissong highlighted the importance of accepting when you‘ve made a mistake. Don’t waste time blaming anyone else. Acceptance that mistakes are okay opens up a willingness to learn and change. Judy pointed out that we only have 3 things to invest each day: time, talent and treasure. Take responsibility if you haven’t invested them wisely in the past. I believe that accepting mistakes leads to learning – necessary components for a leader. You can be a lifelong learner.

8. Be open to options

The funny and talented Charles Marshal concluded the session. He emphasized that it’s time to program your mind to be open to options. Perhaps even a step further after listening and learning from all the speakers: once you are open to the re-programming, you’ll discover a vision for the future of your business. 

Sometimes when you learn so much, gain new energy and become super-inspired, the occasion simply has to be marked. One way is to spontaneously jump into a pool :-)


8 takeaways nahu convention 2017



Seriously, going to annual convention is an incredible time of connecting, learning and building relationships from all over the country. These experiences always strengthen my resolve to give back to my industry.  

Now it’s your turn! What were your takeaways from the convention? What motivates you to grow and lead? Comment below or email me at

Jo Ann

For over 20 years, Jo Ann has been helping brokers and employers develop strategies and benefit programs for their clients and employees. She takes a consultative, holistic approach to benefit design by providing relevant solutions for employees and ultimately cost savings for the employers. She can be reached at

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