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Joe Guzman is a co-founder of Indianapolis-based Ascend USA, the new trade adopted after Guzman merged his benefits brokerage, Benefits Strategies Inc., with benefits business Steven Goodin. The eight-person firm expects to hire as many 15 new employees in the next year. Those workers will help Ascend diversify from health benefits into brokering commercial insurance products, such as property-casualty, worker’s comp and general liability, as well as to offer a new cost-analytics service to help with purchasing efficiencies.

IBJ: A lot of brokers are getting out of the business, selling their brokerages to larger outfits. Instead, you’re diversifying. Why?

A: Being bought out has never held any appeal for us because of the TLC we give our clients. I’m not willing to put my clients at risk. I know many other folks who have sold out and I’ve heard first hand the tales of what has happened.  … The [new] lines complement each other. We’re dealing with the same decision makers [as with health insurance] in most organizations. To that end, it seemed like a natural progression for us. We’re not having to develop a new relationship. And our mission on the commercial side is the same as it has been: reduce administrative drag.

IBJ: How much did the new health law impact your decision?
A: Health care reform has had no impact whatsoever in the strategic direction we’re now taking. [But] as the intricacies of health care reform begin to roll themselves out over the next several years, I think there’s going to be a lot of questions, and yes, a growing need for independent representation and strategic planning. I’m bullish about it.

IBJ: Are you making these changes in response to or anticipation of changes in how health insurers pay brokers?

A: Do I think that there is going to be some margin trimmed wherever possible? Yeah. This area is going to be under not just continued scrutiny, but increasing scrutiny. But I’m not concerned about what happens to the remuneration basis as it concerns our role. I’m much more concerned with being well positioned on an expanded scope to bring value to our clients.


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  1. A Tilted Kilt at a water park themed hotel? Who planned that one? I guess the Dad's need something to do while the kids are on the water slides.

  2. Don't come down on the fair for offering drinks. This is a craft and certainly one that belongs in agriculture due to ingredients. And for those worrying about how much you can drink. I'm sure it's more to do with liability than anything else. They don't want people suing for being over served. If you want a buzz, do a little pre-drinking before you go.

  3. I don't drink but go into this "controlled area" so my friend can drink. They have their 3 drink limit and then I give my friend my 3 drink limit. How is the fair going to control this very likely situation????

  4. I feel the conditions of the alcohol sales are a bit heavy handed, but you need to realize this is the first year in quite some time that beer & wine will be sold at the fair. They're starting off slowly to get a gauge on how it will perform this year - I would assume if everything goes fine that they relax some of the limits in the next year or couple of years. That said, I think requiring the consumption of alcohol to only occur in the beer tent is a bit much. That is going to be an awkward situation for those with minors - "Honey, I'm getting a beer... Ok, sure go ahead... Alright see you in just a min- half an hour."

  5. This might be an effort on the part of the State Fair Board to manage the risk until they get a better feel for it. However, the blanket notion that alcohol should not be served at "family oriented" events is perhaps an oversimplification. and not too realistic. For 15 years, I was a volunteer at the Indianapolis Air Show, which was as family oriented an event as it gets. We sold beer donated by Monarch Beverage Company and served by licensed and trained employees of United Package Liquors who were unpaid volunteers. And where did that money go? To central Indiana children's charities, including Riley Hospital for Children! It's all about managing the risk.