InsurTech Ohio Rising: From 4 to 400
Beam Benefits Shares How They've Cultivated an Authentic Culture While Growing the Team 100x
Alex Frommeyer is the CEO of Beam Benefits, a digital-first employee benefits company that offers dental, vision, life and disability services. Alex was interviewed by Ron Rock, Senior Director at JobsOhio, a private nonprofit corporation designed to drive job creation and new capital investment in Ohio through business attraction, retention and expansion efforts.
Alex, what are some of the most recent accomplishments that you’ve had at Beam?
“We've had a phenomenal year. We started off with plans to add around 100 new Beamers to the team, which we've successfully done. We moved into a new office space as well, and we’re getting ready to introduce that. The headline at Beam is that we introduced a series of new products all under the banner of a slightly different, but, very important brand name. Beam historically has been known as Beam Dental. About 90 days ago, we reintroduced ourselves as Beam Benefits.
This is so exciting because it was coupled with the launch of new products that allow us to speak to the future of our business by modernizing all employee benefits for small to medium-sized businesses around the country. Whereas previously we had been laser-focused on modernizing dental insurance, our success in that arena opened us up to seeing a new opportunity and helping small businesses solve a new problem: all of their benefits need to be digitized and modernized to meet the changing needs of today's workforce. We're really excited to have new products and a broader approach to employee benefits that also aligns with the industry's recognition that benefits have arguably never mattered more than they do right now.”
What are some of the bigger impacts that you expect in the change from Beam Dental to Beam Benefits?
“We love the opportunity to become a more important part of a small company’s talent strategy. Say we were to introduce ourselves to a small business that has a gazillion problems, for example, a 10-employee coffee shop up the street. They're trying to deal with talent and HR-related issues, but also keeping hours, how to advertise cost effectively, and how to grow their business with an uncertain interest rate environment to a second location. Previously, we would only talk about ourselves as a dental solution, and while that's valuable to a small business, that’s only solving one problem. Beam Benefits is solving many problems for a small business and really taking a whole topic area off their plate, giving them leverage and helping them scale and do what they do best.
Now, we're telling a completely different story as a business focused on taking your company culture and thinking of it as an employee benefit, investing in your company's culture, then coupling that with who you choose to do your benefits. We think it’s an exciting new language that we're introducing to SMBs all over the country.”
As you’ve been scaling up the business, what are you doing right to keep your core culture intact?
“Building culture as a business is a never-ending process of refinement. That's the thesis: it's always a work in progress. But, where I think we've made a lot of progress this year is by being intentional about articulation of the culture itself. This starts with the employer brand that we put out in the market and how we engage candidates.
We do an interview for every potential Beamer that's called the GRITT Interview. Our core values as a business are built around an acronym of GRITT. It stands for Growth, Resilience, Initiative, Tenacity and Team First. We added a second ‘T’ to ‘GRIT’, and the interview is exclusively focused on your ability as a candidate to demonstrate that you have those attributes as a filter for our team, which is always a different group of people – a random selection of Beamers around the business. We want to make sure that every person joining the business isn't just qualified to do the hard skills of the job, the core scope of work itself, but will also be additive to the culture of the company. That intentionality starts before you even join the business. After you join Beam, we are constantly talking about GRITT and how we connect those values into daily life. We could always get better at this. It's a work in progress in a variety of areas right now, but we're fortunate to have started early and often in crafting that value system, really embedding it in the business and emphasizing it all the time.
I'm a strong believer that if you can simply articulate your company culture, the expectations and reality will meet at the right moment. It lessens the opportunity for people to feel like they joined a company that's different than advertised. Ninety percent of the problems from a culture perspective are generated from that simple misalignment when someone thought, for example, the company said they were transparent, but that person’s definition of transparent and the company's definition of transparent turned out to be wildly different. Now, that person feels disenfranchised. That's something that we care deeply about getting as right as possible, living in that nuance and trying to be as thoughtful as we can about it.”
You've won numerous awards for ‘Best Places to Work’ in multiple publications. Culture is one factor, but what are some other factors you feel contributed to those wins?
“The most common thing we hear from our team about the company itself, or senior leadership in the business, is authenticity. We are, by design, really high on context, very engaged and truly ‘sleeves rolled up’ in the business. It's by design because I never want to be in a situation where someone is guessing what I think. Having both a virtual and physical ‘open door’ policy allows me to meet Beamers no matter where they are. We have 400 folks now, so I'm constantly trying to meet everybody and build some sort of relationship with everybody in the business. People want to know that they're working for a real human, and that despite flaws there's pure intentions and authenticity to the mission and values.
Truly living the values and then demonstrating them becomes a really valuable piece of the puzzle. What we find is that the more time we spend in person, or even virtually with people in one-on-ones, it's the most throw-away sounding conversations at first glance that are some of the most impactful."
I know there were a lot of different factors for coming to Ohio. What's been the most impactful thing in Ohio that's helped your business?
“I think I’m a uniquely good example of the power of Ohio and the direction in which it's headed. The reason I say that is that we have no connection here. I'm from Kentucky, but I have no connection to the Columbus market other than my business. I'm here for a very specific reason: to build Beam to become the fullest expression of itself that it can. If that's the fundamental filter that we've put on our 2014 decision to move from Louisville to Columbus, then we have one of the most pure examples of what that filter has meant to us because there's no Ohio State grad amongst the founders, there's nobody's spouse that's from here, there's nobody's Grandma that lives in Upper Arlington.
We are here for one reason: it's because it's the best place to build our company. The talent market is what we came here to access. For the insurance talent that is also here as an insurtech company, we need a lot of seasoned insurance talent, and we've been able to find all of that and grow from the four people that came to Ohio to now 400. We've added 100x growth in people, and the vast majority of that's been in central Ohio.”