Early in my writing career, I had the opportunity to interview many successful entrepreneurs for an OC-based regional business/lifestyle publication. While the scope of the featured businesses was diverse, the owner/operators all shared an unerring passion for their profession and a common belief that “if you love what you do, the money will follow.”
It didn’t take long after meeting Denice and Stephen Merrill for me to discover this energetic, enthusiastic couple were obviously cut from the same entrepreneurial cloth. As specialists in the complex and often confusing Medicare insurance industry, they help educate seniors on the ever-changing nuances of Medicare and the myriad of Medicare Insurance plans available.
For the past fifteen years, Denice has been working in the insurance industry, first as an independent agent, and then as an incorporated business owner, as Merrill Insurance Services Inc. entered the market in 2009. Like any other field, there are the requisite hoops to jump through on the way to owning one’s own insurance business, and Denice has leapt through them all. State board exams, licensing, ongoing certifications. “Even with all the classes, there is nothing that can beat years and years of practice,” she says. “Especially in a specific field: in my case, Medicare insurance benefits.”
In 2005, Denice began shifting her attention to the senior market in her field of Insurance . Helping to enroll and guide them in an area which is so confusing to most was an exciting new challenge. She asked herself “how could I stay in touch, be relatable with this demographic exclusively, when most were dropping off the radar due to the confusion around these benefits or not wanting to dig in and specialize ?” As an independent agent, broker and business owner, Denice found that there was not just one approach to the process of “guiding people, organization and staying in touch. “Keeping myself open, selfless and available started setting Merrill Insurance Services apart from others in the industry, and I’ve always tried to operate in a way that I appreciate in any given market - to never approach anyone as a salesperson.” Find what you might have in common. Enjoy people. It’s easy - Today’s seniors are so diverse and active!
It’s also important to Know your product and services inside and out. Don’t try to be the jack of all trades! Lots of agents try to do it all, and end up knowing very little about the products they are recommending.
Even with all the classes, there is nothing that can beat years and years of practice. Especially in a specific field: in my case, Medicare insurance benefits.
Clients began flooding in. In the ensuing years, Denice and her husband Stephen (who joined the agency in 2012 have focused their efforts to exclusively supporting the senior market. “We have both found incredible contentment and passion in our day to day lives and helping seniors. Education and taking the time to explain the details is what makes us different.” We always look at what makes the best financial sense for the client, even if it means suggesting they hold off on activating their Medicare and not enroll with us for a period of time.... (sometimes staying with an employer plan can be the most prudent).
Toward that end, Denice is a regular editorial contributor to Sorbet - a SoCal Senior publication and is the sole presenter at a series of free educational seminars on Medicare each month at Mission Hospital. Standing in the spotlight is certainly outside her comfort zone and she found the idea of speaking to a large group unnerving. But she talks to the audience like she does to each and every one of her clients: as individuals, with families, and history, and legitimate concerns about their future. “By offering or showing all options, we can help everyone that is 65 and over. There is just never one plan that fits all.” At these seminars, Denice explains Medicare Basics and the Full Benefits of Medicare in a side-by-side comparison model and finds that “everyone benefits because it is so interactive and lots of questions get asked.” Questions like “How will MY personal prescriptions be covered?”
“This is what might make one plan a better fit for you than another,” she says. “Honestly, I can simplify and help you to understand your options of a Medi-Gap Supplemental policy or a Medicare Advantage plan and they all offer amazing coverages, but its the everyday or every month usages of medications that can really break the bank!” I want to protect people and have the skills to help them.
When you love what you do, it doesn’t seem like work. My success has come from being honest and just being human and down to earth. I’ve always felt blessed to have found this business, actually out of a time in my life that was difficult financially.
Being self-employed has given Denice the opportunity to grow without limitations. “My agency now guides other agents and we are helping them replicate what has worked so well for us.”
Staying true to her core values has helped everything fall gracefully into place, one hour at a time. “I truly enjoy people and hearing their stories,” says Denice, and these stories are what make her days. “Today, many businesses are so hands-off, so computerized. I am told daily that clients appreciate when they call me, I actually answer the phone: it’s unheard of!” You must really love something to practice at it, deliberately, for minutes, hours, months, years. Denice’s husband, Stephen, is a product of the theory too. And he’s taken his hours and turned them into relatability, Denice says.
“When you love what you do, it doesn’t seem like work,” says Denice. “My success has come from being honest and just being human and down to earth. I’ve always felt blessed to have found this business, actually out of a time in my life that was difficult financially. It took a few years and finding my stride before I was able to convince my husband to leave his engineering and sales background to join the company. Now the only thing he can say is that he wishes he’d done it sooner. We tend to draw people in that we can relate to, and Stephen found his success with folks who share similar interests like being outdoors, golfing, fishing, etc. We try and keep it fun. Like with this cover, showing what the face of Today’s 65+ Year Olds look like - very sports-oriented and active. Certainly not what we used to think of when turning 65! We love our clients and hope that is what comes through.”
Connect with Denice directly by calling (949) 584-2646. CA Lic.# 0H08139.
You can also connect with Stephen Merrill by calling (949) 584-2634.