SHIFT Baltimore is the world's only mission-driven, localized, invite-only entrepreneurial membership community. Our mission is to create a new standard for business, one where money and mission are not mutually exclusive. We use the most rigorous, holistic approach to personal and professional performance: honoring the whole-self of business, body, balance, and being. We are creating meaningful, sustainable change aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Our members are relentlessly committed to inspiring, influencing, innovating, and impacting Baltimore. And we're spreading across the word!
We are thrilled to introduce SHIFT Talks: a series of unique stories from local entrepreneurs, each detailing how they've experienced shifts within their personal life, their company’s journey, their industry, and most importantly, our city. Their stories. Their SHIFT Talks.
Peter Chesner is the founder and co-owner of McQuade Consulting, LLC. With more than 22 years of employee benefit consulting experience, he has built a consulting firm with an approach on improving employee health for clients of all types and sizes, rather than reducing benefits or cost shifting.
His experience with diverse employer demographics and needs has provided a thorough expertise in all facets of employee benefit programs including: financial analysis and projections, underwriting negotiations, DOL compliance, electronic eligibility and administration, and employee communication.
Q. How did you get started with McQuade Consulting?
A. A lot has happened over the last 10 years. It was August of 2006 and at that point; I had just left my employer. I kind of walked out the door and pulled a Jerry McGuire. I grabbed the fish and left. The very next day I started working out of my house. I woke up that morning and said, “Okay, let me call everybody I know and tell them what I’m doing, and lets see where things will go from there.” I had a lot of support from my old clients.
As I was making those phone calls, my offer to them was this: I don’t want to be paid. I wanted to continue to work with these companies, but I was under a non-compete after I left my job. All I really wanted was to come in, be an adjunct to their HR Department and help them with the employee benefit decisions. I was curious; I wanted to know how they were going to do their benefit funding. It was a really good starting point for me because there wasn’t a lot of initial pressure. I was giving my services away, and, everybody was grateful for the free work. After doing that for some time, I got invited to present at a couple of different boards, which helped me gain a reputation among a number of board members. This opened the door for me to participate directly on a few boards and help these teams with their employee benefit decisions. As a result, I started getting referrals from the other board members, and that kind of helped kick off the company.
Over the course of 10 years the company grew from just me, to now a dedicated 13-person firm. And over those 10 years, we have hit our revenue goals every single year. Our ultimate goal is to hit $4 million by 2020, and we’re on the right track and doing everything we can to get there. About five years into the business is when I joined forces with my business partner, William Stevens, and his skill set was completely different than mine. We were great friends in college, but when we graduated we went down two very different paths. Luckily, right around the same time, we both decided to quit our jobs and start our own firm.
Shortly after starting McQuade, I realized I needed a CFO, which was Bill’s (William Stevens) business – to outsource CFO services. It was a nice marriage, and as we evolved we realized we were stronger together than we were separately.
When The Affordable Care Act was passed, it really opened up the door and brought CFO’s into the decision-making process of employee benefits. The Affordable Care Act has large penalties if companies don’t do the right thing and follow all of the rules. Having Bill talk with the CFO in a CFO language was extremely beneficial, for us and for our clients.
McQuade has grown a lot since then, and where we landed is a great space where we can help communicate and advise employee benefits between the C-Suite and the company’s employees. We are able to ensure that the money employers are spending on their employees to provide benefits are both useful and favorable for everyone.
One of the reasons you offer employee benefits is to attract the best employees to work, and stay at your organization. If the benefits you offer aren’t accomplishing that, you’re wasting money. Our goal is to make sure the money you’re spending on your employees is providing value, and are benefits the employees want. It’s not necessarily just health insurance. It’s a broad spectrum of benefits. It could be anything from more days off, a new computer, or having dry cleaning delivery to the office. Simple things like that. Anything that make you stand out against your competition and hold on to those employees. Then, hopefully you begin to attract employees from your competition instead of it going the other way.
Q. What is one important moment in your life that you think has impacted you the most?
A. I would have to say that the single most important event that happened in my life was the death of my mother. It was life changing, and made me move forward in my life trying to honor her memory. Her memory affects just about every decision I make. I ask myself: “Am I doing the right thing?”
Business-wise, the most important moment was when I left my job and started my business. Which led to the next really important moment, when I hired my first employee. I realized that I am 100% responsible for her livelihood, her child going to the right school, having a roof over their head, and food on the table. It was a lot of pressure. It also made me think about when I make decisions on the direction the organization. I begin to consider things like: Will we stay in business? Will I be able to now supply a livelihood for 12 other people? Can I make sure their family can do what they want to do? Live where they want to live? Get educated where they want to get educated? It all adds a little pressure to the process.
Q. What’s one of the most thrilling things you’ve ever done and what’s still left unchecked on your bucket list?
A. For me, a weeklong sailing trip in the British Virgin Islands was an extremely exciting experience. I actually made it to Richard Branson’s island… but he wasn’t there.
What’s left unchecked for me is either skiing in the Rocky Mountains, or a boat trip in the Caribbean.
Additionally, one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done is delivering food baskets in Camden, New Jersey around Thanksgiving. The feeling I got when I would walk up to the front door and have no idea what I was going to see when that door opened, whether it was going to be a happy family, whether it was going to be a scary situation, a tearful situation … I had no idea. But once the day was done and I looked back on all the smiles on people’s faces that might not have had a Thanksgiving meal it was extremely gratifying.
Q. What do you see for the future of McQuade Consulting and how has being a member of SHIFT helped to shape that vision?
A. I think for me, I want to change the direction of where I’m going right now. I want to work and build an organization that can be pretty dynamic, scalable, and exciting. I want to use my experiences I’ve had thus far in developing something … whether it’s a product or a service. But I want to be able to fill a need that hasn’t been filled before. I want to build something exciting; something that will be a real game-changer. I have a couple of different ideas for what it might be, but I know I want it to be big and impactful.
After many SHIFT meetings I’ve gone away and shifted and reworked my own business. SHIFT has helped me see outside of the box, to really look at the future of the company differently. I have realized that the group of people I have in MY organization are as talented as any group doing what we do, and I don’t think there are many people out there that can do what we do. The biggest shift I’ve noticed has been the confidence we have developed. We can walk into any situation and know we are capable of improving the situation.
It is no longer just the block and tackle of what needs to be done as an employer considers the cost of their employee benefits-- we’re much broader than that. We bring in the employees. We bring in the culture. And we’re extremely confident when we walk into that situation that it will be improved when we leave. That shift has been an eye-opener for me because I no longer look at an opportunity and say that organization might be a little bit too big for us, or their processes might be a little bit too complicated for us to handle. We no longer have that negative belief. We are the solution for everybody out there and nothing is holding us back. We’re the right solution for them.
Q. Taking into mind the mission-driven nature of SHIFT and its focus on local and global impact, we have to ask—what is your hope for the world?
A. I think for myself, and everybody else in SHIFT, we see the answer to that question as peace. It weighs on me often. I pay attention to politics, to the world news, to what’s going on in the world, and it can scare me at times. There’s a fear of walking into any public place and having something happen. With everything that’s going on in the Middle East and how the people in Syria have to live every day, to try and survive, just to make it to the end of the day. It makes me think about my own problems, like I might be upset because I got a parking ticket, but is it important in the grand scheme of things? It’s a real dynamic difference between what my life is and what other people experience, and closing that gap is what’s important to me.
My wish for the world is for things to just calm down a little bit. With recent political changes we’ve had in our own country a lot of anxiety has been stirred up. When you look online at what people communicate back and forth to each other, there’s a lot of hatred and disrespect, I don’t think it is productive in any way, shape, or form. My wish is to have people start to take a step back, realize that their words have meaning, and think about it before they speak. I want to see people really try and bring a little bit of humanity back to the conversation and have us focus our energy on trying to solve some problems.
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