Practice Management

The Benefit of Building Relationships beyond the Business

By Leila Martin

Building a strong business is all about relationships, and according to Josh Hunnex, second-generation vice president of family TPA firm Hunnex and Shoemaker, Inc., the best relationships are built when business gets a little personal.

“A lot of my success has been in sharing our family stories,” Hunnex said in a recent interview. “I’m explaining to advisors and clients what it is that we can do as a family business; a lot of that is making you feel like you’re part of the family.”

Part of the Family

The ability to tell that story is hugely rewarding, Hunnex said, pointing out the difference a family feeling can make in a business where so much depends on relationships. He takes pride in the fact that his clients can call him up any time, day or night, knowing he’ll be there for them. And while he acknowledges that some might consider that a workaholic attitude or a bad work/life balance, Hunnex doesn’t see it that way.

“For us, we really are putting a lot of the family into the business, so it’s worked for me to live my life as a TPA, even in my personal life. I think a lot of that leads to success – better friendships, better communications, loyalty and trust, and the idea of it being a real relationship, not just a business relationship on its own.”

This is true of working with business owners offering retirement plans, but it also applies to all the businesses a TPA brings together to service those plans.

(Related: TPA View: Drop the Pitch and Listen)

“Find people who align with your beliefs,” Hunnex said, “and you’ll have a lot of success. Having conversations that aren’t just stuck on business can expand client and business opportunities down the road.”

It also helps when you need to call in a favor. Hunnex shared the story of a restaurant that had a hard time getting participants in its retirement plan because so many of its employees were part time. Hunnex called in a favor from an educational specialist who met with employees, resulting in a record number signing up for the plan and starting contributions.

“It’s great when you have people who are committed to the long-term relationship with you,” he said, “who will do favors when you need them. It favors the long-term growth potential of the relationship.”

Do Your Homework

Hunnex’s top piece of advice for advisors giving presentations: know your prospect beforehand.

“We’re the consultant,” he said of the TPA role. “We’re the brain that comes up with the solution to problems, but we’re not the one doing the presentation.” But before one huge bid, because of Hunnex’s relationship with the advisor who was giving the presentation, he got a peek at a powerful process.

The advisor asked Hunnex to look through his slide deck. He had found pictures of the family business he was presenting to and included logos and other historical things that would be familiar to the prospects. His research on their history also unearthed something that turned out not to be familiar: the story of what their grandpa did back in the beginning when he was forming the business. The advisor got to share something about the family business that the family didn’t know, and it opened up a space for a powerful connection.

“It’s not just about being prepared on the products,” Hunnex said. “Do you know about the people? Can you connect with them on a non-product level? There’s always that moment in the meetings where you feel like you said the right thing. You connected with them to the point where they want to pick you, because you’ve solved their problem and there’s a personal aspect to that aha moment.”

And even when the TPA’s role is technically over, Hunnex doesn’t let the relationship go that easily. “When I send a contact sheet for a client who’s going forward, I lead by letting them know that I’m not going anywhere. If they have a problem, they can call me. We’re not sales guys who sell and then walk away.”

The Right Frame of Mind for Success

Successful financial professionals, Hunnex said, look at every sale with a service mindset. Even if they have a big team with a lot of people doing a lot of different things, successful people ask themselves what they can do for their prospect or client, not what the sale can do for their own business. They think about what they can give their clients for free, just to get a relationship started off on the right foot.

It’s as true for TPAs, Hunnex said, as it is for advisors.

“I’ve been really lucky to love everything I do,” he said. “We’re in such a long-cycle business, and it’s fun to look back at that first round of beers you had with that advisor who now trusts you because you shared your story and built a relationship beyond the business.”


More from MassMutual

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Prospecting Outside the Box

How to Win New Retirement Plan Sponsors? Referrals.

The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. MassMutual, its employees and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to seek advice from your own tax or legal counsel. Opinions expressed by those interviewed are their own, and do not necessarily represent the views of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.