I am intrigued with how Baby Boomers approach life transitions as they close in on the end of formal working years and careers. My favorite research method is to talk to them and hear their stories. In a previous column, I shared helpful tips for thinking through these seasons of transition. If there is a desire to step back but remain in the workforce, in a paid or volunteer capacity, one approach is to build on skills acquired from years of employment. This is the story of one person who did just that.
Stan Grant got a degree in business and started out as a stockbroker before going to work for an ambulance corporation in California, eventually becoming the vice president of operations. In this role he learned about emergency management services. He describes himself as having an entrepreneurial spirit, which prompted him to write a proposal to Los Angeles County to create a department of emergency management services.
His proposal was accepted and implemented. Stan became its first director. Building on these skills, he next took an administrator position with Harbor General UCLA Medical Center, followed by a time with Coopers & Lybrand’s health care consulting division. Next was a VP of marketing position at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.
It was interesting to hear how he continued to build on skill sets in new ways along his career path. Prompted by a suggestion from his wife, they left California and moved to Colorado Springs — it was time for reinvention. His entrepreneurial spirit led him to be his own boss, successfully starting a health care consulting business.
Several years later he again put his experience to work, partnering with a friend and the El Paso County Medical Society to create the first pharmaceutical discount card in the United States. This is where my path first crossed with Stan’s.
The discount card was a national success and led to launching insurance agencies in all 50 states to provide health insurance to independent agents. Years later, and at a time when many retire, Stan sold the agencies and launched his next endeavor — Medicare Without Boundaries — benefiting low-income seniors and disabled individuals.
However, Stan’s focus changed from creating another successful for-profit venture to meeting a need in our community through a social enterprise, a business that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being.
Stan describes the business model as a hybrid, blending an insurance agency with case management to help people navigate the complex world of Medicare and other benefits to support their health care goals, such as food stamps and Medicaid. The case management services are free while, at the same time, allowing the insurance agent/case manager to generate income through commissions by signing clients up for Medicare supplements.
Plus, Stan’s “retirement” business is creating new jobs. He is now recruiting and training independent agents.
“I specifically target people who have a hard time finding a job due to some life event from their past, such as [veterans or] individuals who have recovered from substance abuse,” he said. “The ideal candidate must also possess a strong sense of community and a desire to help people.”
Another advantage to his business model is that no upfront investment is required. Clients come to the agents through referrals from local public and nonprofit agencies, such as the Colorado Springs Fire Department and Catholic Charities’ Marian House.
Today, Stan has five agents in addition to himself, aged from the late 30s to almost 70 — truly an intergenerational team. Yet Stan’s story gets better and better in terms of a “win, win, win” retirement endeavor. He has also contributed his expertise to Silver Key Senior Services — Key Benefits is a nonprofit social enterprise that spins off part of its profits to support Silver Key’s mission.
Is this the last chapter in Stan’s career book? Hardly! He’s now looking at franchising the concept and developing programs that would help poor Medicare beneficiaries who can’t afford shingles shots as well as distributing unused pharmaceuticals to poor people.
So, back to where we started … if you are approaching retirement or another life transition, take advantage of your existing skill sets and build on them — like Stan did.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
B.J. Scott, an advocate for age-friendly workplaces, is the former CEO of Peak Vista Community Health Centers and its foundation. She can be reached at email@example.com.