Happy Thanksgiving

In addition to spending time with my family and close friends on Thanksgiving, I enjoy running in a road race (or two). This year I will be at the Bow Police Association 5k Turkey Trot and Bishop Brady High School’s Galloping Gobbler.  The air is usually cold during these races and sometimes it can be challenging to find the motivation to get out there and run; however, the camaraderie of other runners and the sense of accomplishment I feel at the end of the race is always worth it.  While I have found my exercise niche in running, I understand that one size does not fit all when it comes to physical activity.  Regardless of the exercise you choose, it’s important to stay moving, despite the weather.  After all, we are hardy New Englanders!

If you are looking for a motivating run or walk to participate in this week, I have included a few below.

Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.


New Hampshire


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There Are No Do-Overs Recap

My book, There Are No Do-Overs, that I co-authored with NBA Hall-of-Famer, Dave Cowens, and my former Northeast Delta Dental colleague, Barbara McLaughlin, was released over a year ago so I thought it appropriate to recap what is discussed throughout my book here on my blog.  What follows is a recap of Chapter Two, “Develop Your Players’ Skills”

In my last column I discussed how to find the right employees for the right position within a company. While you are hiring dependable and capable employees, you must also be willing to take the next step in your commitment to them by developing their skills. At Northeast Delta Dental, we regularly monitor what training employees need through evaluating performance reviews, communicating with managers, and we even ask the employee what they would like to learn.  From there, we develop a training plan.

Depending on your business’ product and your clientele, I suggest offering training that will help your employees do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.  For example, we offer dental terminology courses and training for employees to earn or maintain professional licenses and certifications. We also have a substantial repository of helpful books and other materials related to anything from business savvy to retirement planning.

Don’t forget that managers need training, too, as they must be able to mentor and train their employee colleagues.  We train our managers on situational leadership so they are able to deal with others in a non-cookie cutter manner.  This has been especially helpful in recent years as there has been a greater number of the millennial generation (born in the early 1980s to early 2000s) entering the workforce and the baby boomer generation (born in the late 1940s to early 1960s) is slowly retiring.

Because of this, we train our managers to understand these generational and cultural differences – especially because the millennial generation has started to transition to managerial roles, and often times, this requires baby boomers to report to an employee colleague who is younger than they are, something that may be uncomfortable for both parties at first.  The training we offer allows for all employees regardless of race, gender, age, religion, or a disability they may have, to be coaches and mentors — not dictators. Employees want their managers and co-workers to respect them and see them as a person and not just someone who exists to get a job done.

If you are utilizing financial and human resources on training, I recommend you monitor how you are doing and determine if you are achieving the goals of the employee and/or manager and if this translates to success for the company.  For example, our customer service employees receive about 300 hours of on-site training before they are answering customer phone calls by themselves.

The bottom line is if you invest in your employees, they will invest in you. Another way you can develop their skills and encourage them to meet goals in their professional and personal lives is through offering a formal tuition reimbursement program.  When one of your employees advances in their role or earns their degree you should celebrate this as a company success story.  My company is fortunate to have many success stories like this and sometimes this results in an employee leaving the company to advance their career.  While you will miss the employee and their contributions to the company, instead of being disappointed about it, we celebrate with them and note this as a “promotion outside of the company.”

In summary, any successful business needs to demonstrate a commitment to its employees.  If you invest in them through training and/or tuition reimbursement, they will always remember you for this.  It will make their work lives easier and you can rest assured knowing you are giving your employees the tools and encouragement to be successful in their personal and professional lives.

Thomas Raffio, FLMI, is president & CEO of Northeast Delta Dental, northern New England’s most trusted name in dental benefits.

There Are No Do-Overs:

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Books I am Reading: Mind in the Making

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of participating in a special conference, Transforming Tomorrow’s Workforce Today: A First in the Early Learning Nation. The conference focused on early learning in relation to workforce development. I have been volunteering and working towards change in the education realm in New Hampshire for more than 15 years and while there is still more that needs to be done, I was happy to see so many education, business, early childhood, community leaders, and political leaders such as Senator Shaheen and former Secretary of State Clinton, come together in support of this important initiative. I believe the proper investment in the zero to four years takes care of most, if not all, longer term issues.

One of the speakers at the conference, Ellen Galinsky, of the Families and Work Institute, wrote a book titled “Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs.” I picked-up a copy and her book is most certainly on-par with the abilities every child needs to become a successful adult. I have paraphrased these seven life skills below.

1 – Focus and Self Control: In today’s world, we are faced with distractions 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year. A child must learn to avoid these distractions to help them pay attention, remember rules, and free-up their mind to think at their own pace and in their own way.

2 – Perspective Taking: It is important for children to be empathetic and be able to anticipate and react appropriately to their peers. This includes their friends, teachers, and parents.

3 – Communicating: This skill is what many educators and employers feel is most absent today. This skill involves more than simply understanding language, speaking, reading, and writing, it is to determine what one wants to communicate and knowing how this communication might be understood by others.

4 – Making Connections: Instead of simply knowing information, an individual who is able to use this information well will be more successful. This skill involves the ability to interpret information, notice connections between information, and sort this information into categories.

5 – Critical Thinking: This skill involves one’s ability to question the validity of information and a hunger to understand why and how certain things happen

6 – Taking on Challenges: We live in a challenging world. When a child learns to see a challenge as an opportunity and not a hindrance, this will prepare them to be more successful in life.

7 – Self-Directed, Engaged Learning: Our potential is realized through learning and the world is constantly changing. If a child is able to be present and enjoys learning, it will greatly benefit them.

As the father, I have seen my four children navigate through life, and I am proud that they are all successful, thriving adults. As I mentioned above, more needs to be done to move the needle in the right direction for the early years which will improve high school graduation rates, and ensure New Hampshire’s future workforce is prepared and able to meet the staffing needs of our state.


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Find the right players for the right positions in your company

My book, There Are No Do-Overs, that I co-authored with NBA Hall-of-Famer, Dave Cowens, and my former Northeast Delta Dental colleague, Barbara McLaughlin, was released over a year ago so I thought it appropriate to recap what is discussed throughout my book here on my blog. What follows is a recap of Chapter One, “Find the Right Players for the Right Positions.”

To be successful, you must make sure you hire dependable and capable employees who are committed to the mission and vision of the company. Under the leadership of our Vice President of Human Resources, my company has developed a hiring process that considers three important success factors: critical thinking, being a team player, and self-integrity.

You must hire employees who know what the right job is for them. For example, if an employee knows that selling is something they do better than anyone else, they should communicate that to their manager. If this sales executive continues to prove their worth, it is typical that a promotion will follow. However, this might not be the best move for this employee. Perhaps they don’t have the appropriate supervisory skills or management skills and a promotion might not be the best move for the employee, their employee colleagues, or the company. As Jim Collins says in his book, Good to Great, having the right people in the right seats on the bus is one of the keys to an organization’s success. Promoting this employee might move them to the wrong seat on your company’s bus.

When you hire capable and competent employees who are aware of their strengths and weaknesses and are also committed the company’s mission and vision, there is little need to micro-manage them. When employees feel comfortable in their skills and training, they are more apt to share their own ideas about how to make improvements on processes to increase the company’s performance.

To promote the free and open exchange of ideas between employees and our senior management team, my company established a formal program. We feel that no idea is too big or too small. When employees submit their ideas, we review them, and if we have the resources and believe their idea is logical and will benefit the company, we implement it. While we are not able to implement every idea and some would not bring a great enough benefit to the company, in the spirit of open communication, we make sure the employee knows why we decided not to implement their idea.

In summary, organizations have a responsibility to hire the right employee for the right position. Potential candidates need to have self-integrity and critical thinking skills, know their own strengths and weaknesses, and have a passion for the job and the company. It’s important to realize that every position within a company is equally important to its success. Without our expert mailroom staff, our participating dentists wouldn’t receive their payments on time and our customers would not receive important communications about their dental plan. Further, without our sales and marketing team, we wouldn’t have customers. And, of course, without our customers, we wouldn’t be here. Everything is full-circle and if your company begins with the customer in mind, the right employees in the right seats on your corporate bus, you will be successful.

There Are No Do-Overs:

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A healthy team is a powerful team…

This year I have challenged myself to be in the best physical shape I can be in.  I competed in the Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race, finished the Capital Area Race Series, the TD Beach to Beacon 10K, and completed my fourth sprint triathlon and I was fortunate to have my employee colleagues join me! It is rare that I run a race without at least one of my Northeast Delta Dental comrades’ there, too.  I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal which featured Tim Henschel, CEO of Hotelplanner.com who trains at lunch with his employees every day.

I think Henschel is genius for recruiting his employees to participate in triathlons, tough mudders, and marathons.  While running and triathlon are technically individual events – it certainly makes the miles go by faster when you are swimming, biking, or running, as a team.  Everything from your head to your toes matters to your health and Northeast Delta Dental is committed to improving the oral health and overall wellness of our customers and the general public.  This, of course, must start with our internal customers – our employees! At Northeast Delta Dental we have a strong wellness culture and our employees understand that without exercise and eating a healthy diet, you cannot have good overall health.

We don’t run a country club at Northeast Delta Dental but we do encourage employees to move away from their desks several times per day.  Our Safety and Wellness team distributes simple exercises that employees can complete near their desk and we have a running/walking team, the Toothaches, that practices weekly and supports each other through every community run and/or walk.  We also provide an on-site fitness center and have a fitness coordinator on staff and we make complimentary fresh fruit available to our employees Monday through Friday.

I appreciate what Henschel says in the article — his employees motivate him to workout instead of him motivating his employees to work out.  If I didn’t schedule my workouts, they wouldn’t happen.  Would it be easier that way?  Sure, but I know I wouldn’t have the energy to run my company effectively, serve as Chair of the State Board of Education, and handle my other board responsibilities.  If I didn’t take care of myself, I wouldn’t be an effective leader.

You will see me and the rest of the Northeast Delta Dental team at the Cigna/Elliot Corporate Road Race on Thursday.

Here’s a photo of us at the Run United 5k last week.

See you out there.

Run United 5K

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Supreme Court of the United States Upholds the Affordable Care Act’s Tax Credit Provision

In anticipation of a decision on the King v. Burwell case re: the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Tax Credit Provision, Northeast Delta Dental had completed scenario planning and I had speculated on the outcome in two earlier blogs.  Well, on Thursday, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), released its decision on the applicability of the ACA’s tax credit provisions to people purchasing plans on the Federally Facilitated Marketplace and decided that yes, they do.  The government won.  The vote was 6-3 with Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan voting in the affirmative (Roberts delivered the decision); Scalia wrote the dissenting opinion in which Thomas and Alito joined. This means life goes on for Northeast Delta Dental and oral health coverage for citizens who purchased our coverage on the New Hampshire and Maine exchanges, but more importantly, it solidifies the medical coverage for about six million United States citizens whose medical coverage is tied to these tax credits.

It’s an easy read – and not just by SCOTUS’ decision standards- so give it a go:  King v. Burwell decision.

Some excerpts of the SCOTUS’ King v. Burwell decision, released June 25, 2015:

“The issue in this case is whether the Act’s tax credits are available in States that have a Federal Exchange rather than a State Exchange. The Act initially provides that tax credits “shall be allowed” for any “applicable taxpayer.” 26 U. S. C. §36B(a). The Act then provides that the amount of the tax credit depends in part on whether the taxpayer has enrolled in an insurance plan through “an Exchange established by the State under section 1311 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act…”

“The parties dispute whether Section 36B authorizes tax credits for individuals who enroll in an insurance plan through a Federal Exchange. Petitioners argue that a Federal Exchange is not “an Exchange established by the State under [42 U. S. C. §18031],” and that the IRS Rule therefore contradicts Section 36B. [citation omitted] The Government responds that the IRS Rule is lawful because the phrase “an Exchange established by the State under [42 U. S. C. §18031]” should be read to include Federal Exchanges.”

“In a democracy, the power to make the law rests with those chosen by the people. Our role is more confined—“to say what the law is.” Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 177 (1803). That is easier in some cases than in others. But in every case we must respect the role of the Legislature, and take care not to undo what it has done. A fair reading of legislation demands a fair understanding of the legislative plan. Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter. Section 36B can fairly be read consistent with what we see as Congress’s plan, and that is the reading we adopt. The judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is Affirmed.          

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Father’s Day and the Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race

First and foremost, I hope all Dads had a wonderful and peaceful Father’s Day on Sunday, as I did as you can see in the first photo. Dads and Moms are often our first role models or mentors; my Dad who died a few years ago was my role model for hard work and for giving back to the community. They didn’t call it social responsibility or “Paying in Forward” or community outreach back then but I remember at his wake that many heads of not for profits (YMCAs; Lions Club to name two) mentioned to me how my Dad was instrumental in making their organization successful via work on capital campaigns and other volunteer assignments.   I say this because not all young people may have a Mom or Dad as a role model, so I always say look for an opportunity to be a mentor — you can positively influence a young person’s life.

Tom_Fathers DayTom_Mount_Washington_Race

As for the Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race, I didn’t quite make my time goal that I referenced in my last blog, but I did make two secondary goals. The two goals were completing the grueling 7.6 mile up the mountain race (Grade average 12%, extended 18%) in less than two hours and to do it without any walking.   (Note: many racers who finished ahead of me do speed walk, and a few speed walkers passed me as I was “running,” but for me, keeping running form, albeit very slow, works better for me).

With 6/10ths of a mile to go (see second photo; that’s me with the green shirt) I had just under 15 minutes to get in under two hours, which seems reasonable except the last portion of the race is extremely challenging, including the final 100 yards which is at a 22% grade. Well, it all worked out as I crossed the finish line at 1:57:11. Also, while tempted to walk a few times, I did keep a running/jogging form.

In preparing for the Northeast Delta Dental Mountain Washington Road Race, I did a lot of cross training (cross fit; spin) and stopped eating junk food and ice cream. But I did make a fun promise to myself: if I made it to the top in under two hours without any walking, I would treat myself to a soft serve vanilla ice cream at the Dairy Queen that sits near the traffic light as you make your way to Jackson or Story Land, close to the hotels where runners stay for the Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race.   If you have ever been to North Conway or Story Land, or cross country ski in Jackson, you know this Dairy Queen. Thus, you see me in the third photo with a smile as I embark on eating an ice cream, double fisted, for the first time in a long time.   So, yes: train hard, work hard like my Dad taught me, but also have fun and treat yourself occasionally when you accomplish your compelling goal.


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