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Grow your advisor business with health and dental

The need for private insurance can help you connect with small business owners.

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Description automatically generatedFor more than 20 years, senior advisor Rhett Bagnall of Edmonton-based Specialized Benefits has been a strong partner to small business clients right across Canada, offering them peace of mind with extended health and dental, critical illness and life insurance.

Across Canada, millions of Canadians are living the dream of being self-employed, offering all kinds of services, such as tutoring, dog walking, blog writing, private chef services, massage therapy, running food trucks and the list goes on. Entrepreneurs choose to run a business for many reasons, including flexible scheduling, being their own boss or working in a location of their choice. But without careful planning, this type of career path carries a higher risk of exposure to financial hardship. For advisors, helping the self-employed build their own personal safety net offers a niche business opportunity that can pay dividends for years to come.

When first starting out in his career, advisor Rhett Bagnall recognized an opportunity in his community of Edmonton and knew it could be his foot in the door. “Instead of trying to go through the front door with life insurance and investments, which most advisors are taught, I came through the side door with health and dental benefits,” says Rhett. “It was a lot of cold calling, door knocking and conversations with business owners who would initially react with some resistance. But after explaining that they’d be covered for dental visits for their kids, massage therapy and drug coverage, very quickly they were interested in learning more.” 

Rhett refers to extended health and dental as a “me” benefit. “I find that business owners see the value of a health plan for their family, and there’s no hesitation in spending $200 or $300 for a monthly premium because they know what they’re getting,” says Rhett. “Building this trust has also led to deeper conversations where the client is asking me for information about life insurance or disability insurance.”

For more than 20 years, Rhett has assisted thousands of small business owners, which has led to a strong referral network. An example of this is his experience with the massage therapy profession. “For the most part, massage therapists are sole proprietors that don’t have access to a company group benefits plan, so I’ve been really happy to help so many across Canada with their health and dental coverage, and other insurance needs. It’s a large membership of thousands of massage therapists, and they will refer colleagues.”

Another niche within the health and dental space is the small business owner with only a few employees who has the desire to offer a good work environment. “The individual business owner with one or two employees, say a mechanic or a hair salon, can pay the monthly premium for an employee to have an individual health and dental plan, with the flexibility of letting them pick and choose the aspects of the plan that are important to them,” says Rhett. The employer sets the parameters of how much they are going to cover. Because of the fluid nature of employment, there will be more employees to onboard as staff turns over. Thus, setting employees up with coverage can also often lead to additional business opportunities. “The gas bar owners that I work with will often experience a turnover in staff, where someone is only on a plan for a few months. And while the turnover may seem labour intensive, the positive is that you’re making a connection with a new person that may have other insurance needs down the road,” says Rhett.


  • In Canada, one out of six people say they have a dental need that they can’t address because of financial concerns.3 Do you know what you’d do if you needed cavities filled, a tooth broke or a child needed braces?  
  •  It’s estimated that four out of five Canadian adults will experience back pain at some point – and it could be severe enough that bed rest is required.4 But preventive measures such as massage therapy may offer a benefit to workers who sit or stand for long hours, or who may be prone to repetitive strain injury.5 If you had to take time off work because of a bad back, how would you cope?  
  • Tax deductions are welcome news for most small business owners. Did you know that a portion of the cost of extended health and dental insurance premiums may be a tax-deductible business expense?  
  • Accidents happen – if you dropped your prescription glasses and can’t see very well, it could be impossible to work. Would eyewear replacement financial support be useful for you?  
  • When you need prescription medication, that expense becomes a priority. What would be the positive impact on your household budget if some of that drug cost was covered?
  •  More than one in five Canadians don’t have a family doctor, which can mean long wait times at walk-in clinics or hospital emergency rooms, but virtual health care is becoming more available.6 Imagine if you could simply have a video chat with a doctor or nurse practitioner rather than taking time out of your day to visit a medical facility? 
  •  How often do you travel for business or pleasure? Dealing with illness or injury outside of Canada can be stressful and very expensive. How useful would it be to have travel insurance as part of your overall health insurance coverage?
  • It’s so important that mental health awareness is growing, especially given that 50 per cent of Canadians have experienced a mental illness by age 40.7 Did you know that you can get mental health supports as part of your extended health coverage? 

Advisor support material 

Manulife Flexcare Health and Dental (FR) offers seven core plans designed to meet a range of needs. Some plans offer prescription drugs, some offer dental coverage and others offer a combination of both. Consider meeting with your wholesaler to talk about the various aspects of each plan and for guidance on how best to approach potential clients.  

In today’s digital world, getting your foot in the door also means making a meaningful connection via social media. “There’s a lot of marketing supports available from Manulife to promote a health and dental business on social media, as opposed to cold calling,” says Rhett. This Manulife Health and Dental toolkit offers ready-made social media posts, postcards and flyers, as well as approved images for use in your marketing plans.  

And don’t let the potential for economic uncertainty cast a shadow on your efforts – you may be offering just the safety net that people want. “During economic uncertainty, there’s a tendency for people to start their own business, or maybe they’re working two part-time jobs that don’t provide benefits,” says Rhett. “I remember back in the 2008 financial crisis, I’ll never forget – the phone rang more than ever. My takeaway from that is when times are good, people know they should have coverage and they can afford it. But when times are bad, they really want to protect what they have because their morbidity is being challenged.” 

For more client supports, look to Solutions magazine , which offers a variety of materials that you can share with your clients to help them understand the need for extended health and dental coverage. Consider these links: 

1 The size and characteristics of informal ("gig") work in Canada

2 Key small business statistics 2022

3 The state of oral health in Canada

4 Statistics Canada, “Back pain,” Musculoskeletal diseases, catalogue no. 82-629-MIE, last modified April 4, 2006, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-619-m/2006003/4053542-eng.htm.

5 Massage therapy as prevention

6 Half of Canadians do not have a doctor, or battle for appointments: Survey

7 Mental illness and addiction: Facts and statistics  

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