Featured Cowork Frederick Member: Sam St-Phard

Sam St-Phard is an insurance benefits broker and small business owner in downtown Frederick. He is the founder and Principal Broker of SSP Benefits, a group that assembles insurance plans on a mass scale for employers to offer their employees. Sam is also the owner and founder of DMG Expediters and Couriers, a company that specializes in acquiring building permits for residential and commercial construction projects as well as providing same day courier services.

People are at the heart of what Sam values in his personal and professional life. “What matters to you, matters to us,” is the tagline of SSP Benefits. That level of individualized interest in people is obvious when you meet Sam. Friendly and outgoing, the passion he has for his work and family after just a few minutes of conversation is apparent. For Sam, putting together the best possible insurance plans for employees is a way to provide people with peace of mind. “It isn’t about the commission,” he tells me, “it’s about people being okay.”

Working as a part of the insurance industry was not always part of Sam’s vision for the future, but it isn’t surprising that he would excel in a field centered around being a people person. Sam comes from a tightly knit family. Growing up he spent much of his time with his father’s brothers and their children. His cousins were more like brothers, and that side of his family displayed a zeal for life that taught Sam that the best way to approach a new experience is by fully embracing it. He talks about his wife, Cora Lynn St-Phard, their three sons, Benjamin, Jordan, and Aaron, and his grandson, Brodey, regularly and with pride.

Sam’s formative years were spent in Columbia, MD where he notes the lack of racial prejudice had a significant impact on his development. In Columbia he was judged for his personal decisions and how they affected others, not uncontrollable parts of his identity like race, religion, or nationality. But his parent’s divorce when he was thirteen made it necessary for his family to leave the area. When Sam’s father remarried the family moved around the country, living in Wichita, KS and Mobile, AL before finally settling in Slidell, LA.

After finishing high school Sam took college classes at Centenary College of Louisiana and Longwood College. He was taking marketing classes at the University of Maryland College Park when he decided to end his formal studies in 1988. After college Sam got a job as a new car salesman at Herb Gordon Auto World in Silver Spring. It was at this position that he learned an important lesson about working in sales. He learned that the average customer had already made up their mind whether or not they would purchase a vehicle. The bigger question was who they would choose to buy the vehicle from. With this knowledge Sam had the realization that his ability to build trust and be liked by the customer were the most important factors within his control.

As Sam went further in the sales world he always held onto that understanding that at its core a deal, no matter how big or small, ultimately comes down to two people deciding whether or not they want to work together. Unfortunately, when he first entered the world of insurance sales he would also be forced to learn that not everyone shared his passion for connecting with and caring for others. He encountered people who saw his talent and dedication as a way to further their own financial goals. It took persistence and the goodwill of others in a position to help that kept Sam persevering through the most difficult times.

Sam began working selling voluntary benefits through Aflac in 2011 after getting his first health insurance license. He credits the time and training he received while working for Aflac to his mindset of placing the customer’s needs ahead of his own financial ambitions. As he progressed in the insurance world, changing companies and business partners, Sam always held onto the focus of addressing a customer’s individualized needs. It was this attention to detail that ultimately would propel him forward in the insurance world.

In March 2011 Sam got his life license, qualifying him to sell life insurance in addition to voluntary benefits. In February of 2014 he set an industry record by selling 44 Indexed Universal Life Insurance Policies in a month. For most people selling 20 policies in that period of time would be considered exceptional. Sam’s achievement made him an anomaly and earned him attention from companies across the country, but this was just the start of his upward swing.

Two more encounters were pivotal in growing Sam’s company SSP Benefits from single agent status to a full brokerage. The first came in September of 2015 when Sam and his youngest son, Aaron, were walking around downtown Frederick. While on the way to their car Sam spotted the Cowork Frederick sign and decided to stop in to learn more. The appeal of having a workspace was what initially convinced him to sign up for a monthly membership, but Sam soon learned that Cowork Frederick had a lot more than an attractive atmosphere to offer. The wealth of knowledge in the coworking community became a catalyst for further growth as well as a flexible and affordable way for him to scale the size of his business.
It was actually while explaining potential life insurance policies to a client using a meeting room at Cowork Frederick that Sam experienced the second encounter that would push him to transform SSP Benefits, then an agency, into a full brokerage. Sam’s client was so impressed by the individualized attention he was receiving for a simple life insurance policy that he wanted Sam to handle the health insurance policies for his entire company. Not having a health insurance license, Sam regretfully told his client that he wasn’t authorized, but his client was persistent. Eventually, Sam realized that this was an opportunity for growth he should not pass up. By the end of 2016 he had obtained his health license and became a broker.

The enthusiasm Sam has for coworking, his business, and the people in his life is infectious. It is easy to see why customers feel confident when they have him in their corner, because at the end of the day for Sam it always comes back to the person as an individual. When asked what advice he would give someone entering into the insurance business he said, “Do it for the right reasons. Don’t come into it seeking money or material gain. You come into this business because people are the end and not the means.” That people first perspective has at times made this a difficult journey for Sam, but it is clear he would do it all over again to be where he is today.