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Jerry Kalish of Retirement Plan Blog: LexBlog Q&A

While we often feature our law bloggers in this space, we’d be remiss not to give attention to some of the successful non-law members of the LexBlog Network.

One those is retirement plan consultant Jerry Kalish, who works with employers to provide better opportunities for plan participants to meet their retirement income objectives. His company, National Benefit Services, works with both business owners and employers to put together customized retirement plans that work for them.

He’s also been blogging at the Retirement Plan Blog since 2004, a lifetime in blog years. His original aim of growing the business by using technology to reach his audience still holds true today.

"The response [to the blog] has been gratifying not in the terms of ego-massage, but being able to reach the target audience in a very effective and efficient manner," Jerry says. "And it has helped us grow our business."

We reached out to Jerry for this LexBlog Q&A to discuss more about the relationships he’s formed and how his blog has led to his writing for other outlets.

See our email exchange with Jerry, after the jump.

Lisa Kennelly: Briefly, describe your practice and the clientele you work with.

Jerry Kalish: We are one of the growing number of non-attorney LexBlog clients. National Benefit Services, which I founded in 1978, is in the business of designing and administering retirement plans for both profit and non-profit organizations. But that’s the functional description of what we do which can be said of any other firm that provides the same types of services. We “uncommoditize” ourselves in two ways.

  1. Our Defining Statement: We work with business owners who want to put more money away for retirement and/or employers who want a state-of-the-art retirement plan for their employees
  2. Our Vision Statement: We are an independent employee benefit consulting and administration firm based in Chicago, Illinois, that aims to have our clients justifiably enjoy the highest possible confidence that their employee benefit objectives will be met by:

a. Direct contact with one or more of the firm’s mature, experienced professionals;

b. Assistance with defining client needs and evaluating alternatives for meeting them;

c. Individualized employee benefit program or engagement development;

d. Skillful implementation of the chosen programs or engagement;

e. Continuing client education through reports, client conferences and other tools for evaluating results and revising objectives when necessary, and where the employer has discretion, for making informed decisions; and

f. Committed attention to all aspects of plan sponsor responsibility.

Lisa Kennelly: What do you find most rewarding about your work? What is most challenging?

Jerry Kalish: The most important aspect of our work is that we can help employers provide better opportunities for plan participants to meet their retirement income objectives. The most challenging is communicating complicated technical and tax rules and concepts in a manner that can be understood by employers and employees across all industries and socio-economic classes.

Lisa Kennelly: Your blog is practically ancient in Internet years (which is a good thing) – why did you first decide to start it, and how have you seen blogging changed since you first started?

Jerry Kalish: I started our blog in 2004 under the name of Benefit Plan Blog but quickly learned that the more specific name of Retirement Plan Blog got the message across better. We were one of the first non-attorney clients of LexBlog. Very simply, the purpose was to grow our business by using technology to reach our target audience: retirement plan sponsors, i.e., employers, and potential referral sources such as lawyers, accountants, investment and insurance consultants, advisors and brokers. In fact, the blog was the culmination of waiting for the technology to catch up with those objectives, e.g., to bypass using the mail for quarterly newsletters and the Bulletin Board System (BBS) we had in the 80s. For those youngsters out there, a BBS was the primary kind of online community through the 1980s and early 1990s, before the Internet and a graphical user interface (GUI) became prevalent.

Lisa Kennelly: What has the response been like to your blog, and from whom?

Jerry Kalish: The response has been gratifying not in the terms of ego-massage, but being able to reach the target audience in a very effective and efficient manner. And it has helped us grow our business. My objective – being realized on an increasing basis – was to grow our business – not by attracting clients – but by developing relationships with people I would never have had but for the blog. And it’s from relationships to which value can be added that professional services business grows.

Lisa Kennelly: Do you feel your blog has helped you to be viewed as an authority in your field?

Jerry Kalish: Absolutely, it has helped extend my status as a “thought leader” which has developed into writing for other venues, e.g., Slate’s BizBoxBlog, a special promotion by OPEN from American Express and Employee Benefit News, the leading publication in the benefit industry.

Interested in hearing more? Recent LexBlog Q & A posts:

Or, see our full list of legal blog interviews.