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.
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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!Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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!
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.