About BerniePortal

Our Mission Statement

To be the most trusted provider of the highest value HR tools and resources that help employers provide good places to work.

April 2008

Once Upon a Time

Two brothers went into business together in Nashville, Tennessee. They wanted to build something great. The two brothers were Alex and Brian Tolbert, and the business was a health insurance brokerage. They were going to set the world on fire.

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Alex and Brian with their dad
Joel on Software blog

May 2008

The Idea

Being a broker was more difficult than the brothers originally anticipated because their prospective customers had it so hard. Being a small employer isn’t easy, and being the HR person at a small employer is downright TOUGH.

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June-August 2008

Looking For Someone To Build It

So Alex started calling software development agencies around Nashville to see if any would be interested in building a “version 1” of the HR software they had in mind—on the cheap! Alex and Brian decided they would invest $15,000 to get the project going.

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58k offer
BerniePortal site version 1

December 2008

Finding A Partner In An Unexpected Place

UGH! Discouraged but not defeated, Alex declined the $300 conversation, put the drawings online, and invited software developers from around the world to bid on the project. That led to Alex “skyping” with developers in places ranging from South America to Asia, discussing the project. Video conferencing wasn’t a thing in 2008, and internet connections were often not good enough to reliably support the calls. Alex still managed to establish a bidding process and invited firms to bid on building “version 1” based on the drawings.

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2009-2014

The Incubation Period

Almost immediately after BerniePortal 1.0 was up and running, Alex and Brian’s brokerage customers began using it and gave valuable feedback on how it could be better. From 2009-2014, Alex took that employer feedback and worked directly and exclusively with the team in India to continue to improve upon that first version of BerniePortal.

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Taj-Mahal

2015

Competitors Rush In

In 2015, a BerniePortal competitor raised $500 million from venture capitalists. Yes, that’s right, a half-billion dollars. It had not been in business as long, did not know the customer as intimately, and was trying to destroy the health insurance brokers that HR at small employers often rely on. But still, to say this wasn’t distracting for the brothers would be completely untrue. It was a HUGE distraction! What’s more, several other companies had entered BerniePortal’s space and they also raised tens of millions of venture capital.

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2016

Bernie Becomes More Widely Available

This time period marked a very exciting time in the small employer HR technology space, and we decided to spin BerniePortal out of Bernard Benefits into its own, standalone business. This allowed it to be available to employers everywhere – the incubation period was over. And it worked! BerniePortal almost immediately began generating serious revenue on its own. For those of you counting, that is about eight years after writing the first line of code!

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2018

10 Years

2018 marked ten years since the first line of code was written for BerniePortal. We certainly had a lot to celebrate, and we did when BerniePortal’s marketing team surprised Alex with an “It takes 10 years” party. A wonderful gesture and also a sign of how much Alex had talked with the team about Joel’s 10-year prediction during those many years when BerniePortal was not producing much revenue at all.

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2019

BernieU

While the ten year milestone was a great achievement, there is still a lot for BerniePortal to accomplish. Since 2018, we’ve continued to work hard to celebrate and support the HR pros who keep small businesses going and growing—and in ways even beyond the new features and improvements we’re always making to BerniePortal.

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2020

HR Party of One

In 2020, we continued to increase our investment in supporting HR effectiveness with the launch of our very own YouTube series, HR Party of One.

2021

Our Users Conference – Weekdays with Bernie

In 2021, we hosted our HR clients and the benefit brokers who support them at our annual users conference, Weekdays with Bernie, with both in-person and virtual options to network and learn best practices for helping to keep their organizations going and growing!

2023

Sale of Bernard Benefits

After 17 years of working together side-by-side, Alex and Brian decided to sell BerniePortal’s sister company, Bernard Benefits, to Fortune 500 member Arthur J. Gallagher (NYSE: AJG). While it was a difficult decision for sentimental reasons, the brothers ultimately believed it was the right thing to do for all stakeholders – giving each business, their employees, and their customers the benefits that come from focus.

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