Chairman's Column: The Entrepreneurial Actuaries Section Vendor "Preferral" Program

The Independent Consultant

Chairman's Column: The Entrepreneurial Actuaries Section Vendor "Preferral" Program

by Chuck Ritzke

We are an attractive target market. As small business owners, partners, or others with purchasing responsibility, we have the need to purchase many products and services ranging from computer equipment, software, office equipment and supplies to training and educational materials to legal or accounting services. We each use vendors that would love to have exposure to 600 or more other professionals just like us.

Those facts were the impetus behind our just recently approved vendor "Preferral" pilot program. (That is at least our working name - we have not officially decided.) For those familiar with it, you can think of this as sort of an "Angie's List" for entrepreneurial actuaries.

In looking for ways to add value for our members, we figured we could take advantage of our unique nature as an attractive target market. The pilot program will work something like this:

If you do business with or know of a vendor that you think would be worthy of referral to other members, you can have that vendor contact any member of the section council. In the preliminary discussions with potential vendors, the reception has been enthusiastic. Many vendors are willing to offer special member discounts or other benefits in exchange for being included in this program.

The vendor completes an agreement form and, if approved, the vendor will get a listing on our EAS vendor page on the SOA Web site (with contact information and a brief description of the products, services and special deals they may offer). We will also spotlight the vendors in future newsletters and e-mail blasts to members.

The approval process (by the section council and SOA Section Services) is primarily to determine that the referral is professional/business related and not in conflict with any existing arrangements the SOA has with vendors. The services provided by the vendor should tie to the overall mission of the EAS. Agreement to add a vendor to the "Preferral" list is not an indication the SOA recommends the vendor, only that individuals from the section believe the vendor can provide good service or benefits to fellow section members. In exchange for the listing, we are required to charge the vendor a nominal listing fee of $25 per year to defray some of the SOA administrative costs for the program.

What's in it for you?

As a member of the EAS, you will have access to all the exclusive products, services and discounts offered to EAS members. If it is as successful as we think it can be, just availing yourself of one or two of the services can pay for your EAS membership many times over.

But we also think the benefits can go beyond that. We think that the leverage of being part of an organization of 600 or more potential customers can make us very important customers in the eyes of our vendors. We all try to do a good job for all of our clients, but think about your important clients. Aren't they the ones who have the potential to bring more future business your way?

So help us make this a success. The next time you are talking to your favorite vendors or service providers, ask them whether they would be interested in such a program. And be on the lookout for vendor announcements as we start the program over the next month. As always, let us know any ideas you have and what you think about the program.

Charles E. Ritzke, FSA, MAAA, is president of Problem Solving Enterprises, Inc. in West Dundee, Ill. and Chairman of the Entrepreneurial Actuaries Section.