Cogent Advisors is an employee benefits advisory firm.

I started Cogent because I realized that there was an epic problem in the employee benefits space – from the standpoint that it’s the second or third largest expense for any business regardless of where they are located, regardless of the industry that they’re in. And it’s currently just a transactional expense for them.

The impact of it is absolutely huge because people talk about having great employee benefits to hire, retain, and attract talent, but yet when it comes time to purchase their program or when their annual renewal comes it’s incredibly deflating. The conversation is almost always solely focused on “what was my increase?” or “how much is it going to cost?”. Then the question becomes “how much are we going to push down to our employees?” Notice it never quite tracks back to a business owner’s real intent in offering benefits in the first place.

This all becomes an absolutely negative experience. I believe most companies want a great employee benefits program because they truly want to take care of their employees yet that is not really what happens.

We recently took a poll on LinkedIn and asked “What upsets you most about Group Health Insurance?”

It was no surprise that the expense and reactive or poor service were tied for the most responses.

We asked ourselves, “Why is it done this way?”

Epic Problem

To me, I see the Traditional Insurance Model as an epic problem.

The definition of an Epic Problem is something you can’t write a check to make it go away. To solve it:

1. You need to work collaboratively with others you trust

2. You need to think strategically

3. You need to implement tactically with a plan that’s clear & simple so it can be understood.

What is the Epic Problem we are helping clients solve? It’s the “relationship” the middle market has with insurance.

In Employee Benefits, a traditional broker or agent is

– Transactional

– Lacking clearly defined objectives

– Reactive to issues and not proactive

– Only around for the renewal (to make sure they get paid)

– Not truly transparent about their commission and how they will earn it

– Not able to help their clients’ employees feel like they are receiving a true benefit from their employee benefit program

Our clients expect more. They not only deserve a great benefits plan design but they also look to us to improve their current & future Enterprise Value.

It’s not getting better out there…

With the epic problem growing, we asked ourselves “how can we help?”, “How can we help contribute in a boring and traditional model, that’s broken and continuing to get worse, and continuing to get more expensive?”

And that’s when I came up with the, ‘what if…?’.

What if we were an employee benefits firm that totally changed the game and took the entire industry and turned it on its head?

How would we take this up and solve it?

In asking these questions, we found our mission and purpose.

Enterprise Value

Cogent’s purpose is to improve current and future Enterprise Value for businesses on their second or third largest expense.


The Cogent Way™ is our process of Discover, Design, Implement, Manage.

The first step is to understand an organization.

Unfortunately, the first step in the traditional employee benefits model is where most agents ‘show up and throw up’ with fancy Powerpoint and they will tell you all the amazing things that they do. Most times it is focused on them, not you.

So, first and foremost, in our Discovery we listen and ask great questions to really understand how an organization functions. When we can understand how they function and how they operate, we can then look for opportunities to improve their enterprise value.

The next step is the Design. We decide how we are going to take the problems and the issues that are specific to the organization, and with the tools that are in our Cogent Ecosystem™begin to design something that can help them solve some of their biggest issues.

Again, that has to happen by asking the right questions and pulling from our deep experience on our team. Once we fully understand the issues and opportunities, then we can design a plan that would enable an organization to go to that next level.

Next is implementation. We take what is what’s going on in that organization – not just from an employee benefits standpoint but from an overall organizational standpoint.

Employee benefits programs are the tactical piece, we want to work strategically first.

We take what we learn and have suggested resources (including an Employee Benefits Program design) that we provide over a 12 month period. These are objectives we would work on together.

Once that discussion happens, we work collaboratively with them to and say, rank the items by priority and then break those down into quarterly objectives. This becomes our mutually agreed upon plan of action.

Finally, is the Manage portion of the process.

For accountability, we provide quarterly report cards to each of our clients and ask to be measured against what we said we were going to do and the impact this is having on the organization.

Measuring Results

If we’re truly going to help improve an organization’s Enterprise Value, then we have to measure it.

Our process and scorecards are the keys to accountability. 

– Are we helping improve current and future Enterprise Value?

– Are we consistently working within The Cogent Way™ (D-D-I-M)? 

– Do you have clarity at all levels of the organization of where that company is and where you are going?

– Are you experiencing greater joy, greater fun, and greater happiness in your business?

I think that last point is really important. We don’t really talk about those in Corporate America as much as we should.

Business is made up of human beings? And you and the humans who are on your team need to have greater fun. You need to have less drama and need to have greater happiness in your life because you can actually lead a better organization because of that.

Cogent – “Driven Together”

I’d like the opportunity to sit down with you and to discover the possibilities of what could happen when we as organizations are driven together.

We have 4 key tools that are of great value to mid-to-large sized companies:

– Unique Self-Insured Model

Our Healthcare Coalition provides organizations with the similar buying power of Fortune 500 companies.

– Behavior Analytics

Health-Related Behavior Analytics that provide transparent clarity about what is truly driving claims expense.

– Fully Insured Healthcare

Offering various health insurance plans for any industry.

– Strategic Advisory

Helping organizations with the development and implementation of various objectives and strategies.

If this information has resonated with you, and you believe you deserve more, then reach out to me personally or contact us via phone, email, social media, or forms on this site.

– Shawn D. Spencer