Earl Shindruk, president, founded Optimax Benefits in 1998 because he wanted to create a company that would always do the right thing for the right reasons.
“Optimax is a specialized employee benefits consulting firm and brokerage in Edmonton. We provide services with exceptional client care and we play an active role in the community by supporting a variety of local charities and not-for-profits,” Shindruk says.
The Optimax team is known for the way they take the time to personally engage with clients and learn about the goals they have for their companies and employees. They actively work with clients to help them make the right decisions regarding challenges and they design a comprehensive employee benefits plan to address those areas.
As a brokerage, Optimax works for the clients, not for any single insurance carrier. This allows the team to shop the market on each client’s behalf and customize plans that work for each client’s best interests.
“A benefits brokerage always ensures companies are effectively represented in the Canadian benefits marketplace. We bring a national perspective to the process, which results in better pricing and objective analysis,” Shindruk adds.
As Optimax celebrates 25 years, Shindruk reflects on how it all got started and where things are today.
“In our first few years, as the company was establishing itself, I was the only full-time employee,” he says. “Today, we have three full-time staff members who manage client onboarding, research, implementation and that face-to-face customer service that has always set us apart.”
“One of the reasons clients enjoy dealing with us is because we are a locally owned and operated company,” he continues. “Our clients are our neighbours. We have long-term relationships and we have earned the trust of our clients. We also have high service standards and include frequent touchpoints with each client every year. We are very community minded and support those who help and care for other people.”
Hiring the first employee was one of Shindruk’s memorable moments.
“That was a true highlight and helped solidify and grow the business,” he smiles. “However, our most memorable and impactful moments happen daily when we receive feedback from our clients. Having a business owner tell you he is sleeping better at night because he knows his employees are being looked after… well, it’s hard to put a price on that!”
Insurance is a changing field with plenty of challenges. Shindruk and his team face those challenges head on and overcome them.
“The employee benefits field, like most industries, is becoming more competitive. We are very fortunate that we grew steadily and slowly with a solid business plan. We’re small but mighty – agile and local with access to employee benefit offerings from across Canada. It also helps that we have history with our clients; we understand their challenges.
Change is a constant in this industry too. Shindruk explains, “We help employees in time of need with the most comprehensive coverage within their budget, provide disability coverages for when an employee gets injured or contracts a disease and incorporate prescription drug plans that help pay for medications to keep workers healthy and productive. However, we have also evolved with the times to provide a more holistic approach to benefits. Now, a gym membership or a treadmill could be included as part of a package and we are willing to explore more options that may not be considered traditional. For example, with the onset of COVID-19, our services expanded to include virtual health care, enhanced employee assistance programs and increased counselling services.”
“Although Edmonton feels like a small town, it’s a proud, growing community that has always boasted a can-do spirit!” he says. “It’s an exciting place, as evidenced by a large number of companies starting and expanding each year. Another difference between Edmonton and many other big cities is that people here are invested and involved in their communities. It’s an honour for us to partner with so many of those folks throughout the year.”
One of the hallmarks of Shindruk’s career is giving back to the community personally and professionally. He achieves this, in part, as a guest speaker at MacEwan University, U of A, CPHR Alberta and the International Personnel Management Association (IPMA). He taught sessions in employee benefits and human resources at MacEwan University for many years, serves on many not-for-profit boards, volunteers with numerous causes, was one of the founders of the Meningitis Foundation of Alberta and was a founding member of 100MenYEG. To date, 100MenYEG has raised over $200,000 for more than 40 local charities.
He adds, “We also host an annual charity golf tournament, the Optimax Open, that raises awareness and funds for a chosen local charity. We are proud to be hosting our 10th annual tournament this year.”
The Optimax Open has raised more than $42,000 since it began in 2012. The proceeds from the 2023 tournament will benefit Adeara Recovery Centre.
Shindruk learned the value of giving at an early age.
“When I was young, we had enough but my family was considered poor by today’s standards,” he muses. “A big part of my life was the store my father owned – Sprucefield Cash Store with an Esso pump next to it. I spent a lot of time there stocking shelves, pumping gas and selling items to the local farmers.
“However, business was slow and one year just before Christmas, my father decided to close the store. He had boxes of chocolate he brought in that were not selling, so he drove from farm to farm giving the chocolates away.”
That one act changed everything.
“What happened next is what I consider a miracle,” Shindruk continues. “The families from those farms came into the store more often instead of driving to a nearby town. They wanted to support the local business. From that Christmas on, my father continued to hand out gifts. That is where I learned about the value of giving back to others. With his one humble act my father had not only saved the store but also brought more business to Sprucefield.”
In 2018 Shindruk received a national philanthropy award for his work in supporting local charities that focus on social services.
On behalf of the team, Shindruk says, “We are fortunate and grateful to have had the encouragement and support of many mentors and friends over 25 years. Additionally, business training and coaching from Canada Life was very helpful in obtaining focus, direction and guidance for Optimax.”
He concludes, “The next steps for the business include continuing to grow and expanding in Alberta and British Columbia. We will do so by ensuring each client is treated with care and provided with all the support they need for their employees and their group benefit and retirement plans.”
6060 88 St NW Unit 15,
Edmonton, AB T6E 6G4