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For me, insurance is a family business. While attending King’s College in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, I obtained my insurance license so that I could work part time at my father’s agency and learn the business. Graduating in 1977 with my degree in business and accounting, I found a market flush with opportunity. Seeing I could make more money than my father could offer at the time, I took a job with an agency in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
I stayed at that agency for about two years, picked up a side business selling for Franklin Life Insurance, and found I really loved it. Then, in 1979, my father was having health issues, so I went back to work with him in a partnership. We bought an agency in Old Forge, Pennsylvania that was the first of what became about 20 subsequent acquisitions. It was also about the time that my brothers began returning home from different walks of life and joining the business.
Each acquisition was relatively small, but a good addition to the overall business. Typically, they’d be majority personal lines, a couple small commercial accounts. Those personal lines clients, however, would often have great business connections in the area. This presented great opportunities to build out the business with our capabilities in commercial lines.
We seemed to be pretty well positioned to continue growing and had designs on eventually expanding out of state. We were very secure, with no debt. What we didn’t really consider was time. We weren’t getting any younger. I’d been at it 45 years and we had employees with even longer tenure than me. At the same time, the next generation didn’t seem all that interested in taking over the operations. They’re all very bright and well educated, but were more interested in the work, not running the business operations and being in charge of everybody. They wanted to work it, not run it.
Pushed along by an impressively persistent financial advisor at a company specializing in insurance mergers, we decided to see if we could find the right fit. We ended up interviewing eight suitors. The first four that we eliminated were all money and banking people. We wanted a firm that was industry people. Risk Strategies easily made that cut. We all agreed that the Risk Strategies acquisition team just outdid everybody and it was enlightening to find out what we didn't know about the insurance business. From markets to product and industry expertise, they just had so much to offer. I think we made the right decision for our business and especially our people.
The other three we spoke with were all great companies, very talented people, national scale, name brands in the industry, but didn’t seem to bring anything for the next generation of our people as far as product knowledge, training, and such. Risk definitely did.
We were just left with a tremendous confidence that we could share with our employees that they were going to be more than okay with this deal. We knew that not only were we not just selling out to an outfit that was just going fire them all, but we were going with a firm where they could expand their horizons and meaningfully contribute and engage pretty much from day one.
I think our people are really going to knock it out of the park. The early going has been great. Our cultures are jelling very well and we’re seeing many opportunities to share expertise and grow. Really, we've only just started.