When you talk with Erik Fredriksen, you’ll hear the word “we” a lot.
Fredriksen, broker and heir apparent of Fredriksen Health Insurance, a Boise, Idaho-based independent agency, isn’t one to separate the business entity from his own career. In fact, the two seem indelibly linked. When asked about personal accomplishments, he can’t help but refer to the accomplishments of the business. In fact, every part of conversation is peppered with a team-focused mentality.
That’s a unique approach for a young agent who wasn’t in line to take over the business. In fact, the elder Fredriksen, Steve, who’d started the agency in 1980, wasn’t thinking that succession planning would involve his kids. Yet an aging employee base, coupled with the new federal health care option, led Steve to look for young talent. The search ended with his own children.
As the agency transitions from father to children, the younger Fredriksen, who is 31, says the focus will remain on what his father started — working with individuals and businesses in his state to provide health care options. It’s a focus he believes is critical in today’s post-Affordable Care Act environment.
The path to insurance
Fredriksen’s path to insurance was not direct. After attending college in Spokane, Washington, for business management and accounting, he returned to Boise to work as a public accountant for KPMG. After a few years, he transitioned to Boise Cascade as a public internal auditor, then as a controller in one of the company’s packaging locations. That’s when he got his first encounter with the health benefits business. “During that time,” he says, “the Affordable Care Act had been passed. Costs and other changes made the benefits side of things more confusing.”
Also during that time, the company he was working for was acquired by a Chicago-based company. Fredriksen was faced with a choice. “If I wanted to move up in the company, I’d have to be in a different town or be a corporate guy in Chicago, which I have no interest in.”
That, along with seeing his father accomplish much locally helped Fredriksen come to what he says was a fairly easy decision. “My father helped a tremendous amount of people through not only the health insurance business, but also by being able to support the community through the wealth that has been generated here. It’s been an appealing thing for me to watch from the sidelines.”
An agent for two years now, Fredriksen has seen plenty of challenges. One of the larger issues he’s fought to overcome is the way customers and veteran agents view millennials. “There’s a dynamic where the millennials are painted in a certain light. You have baby boomers exiting the workforce and millennials are beginning to inherit it. Being able to be taken seriously, speak professionally and work side-by-side with the age dynamic can sometimes be challenging. They’ve been in the industry for so long, you’re trying to learn it; they have the knowledge, you’re trying to gain it.”
A definite challenge, but Fredriksen says there’s also opportunity. He says he listens and learns, and it’s helped him establish his own approach. “You look at things a little differently, but you listen to them and put your little spin on it.”