For Jim Ash, taking a new job was seizing an opportunity, whether it was expected or not. It was also the ultimate path to creating Ash Brokerage Corporation, the business that today brings value to clients and employees.
"I grew up in Ohio, where I developed the value of customer service by working with my father in his hardware store," Ash says. "I then joined the Marines and served for three years. When I returned home, I took an entry-level job at International Harvester."
While working at International Harvester, Ash wanted to study accounting; however, an equipment strike at International Harvester caused a layoff.
"I was walking out that last day when someone asked me if I'd ever thought about selling insurance. I thought it would be better than unemployment, so I started training," Ash says. "On my first day at work, I delivered a $1,000 claim check. I could see how much that meant to the recipient. My reaction was, 'that's what this business is about.'"
Ash had been working in the insurance industry for a number of years when he recognized that he had developed transferable selling skills. "I liked brokerage, and I could see a unique opportunity in that field. I took the chance and added brokerage to my services."
In 1971, Ash founded Ash Brokerage Corporation. The company started with three employees and a vision to do the right thing for the buyer, the seller and the provider.
Today, Ash Brokerage remains dedicated to bringing value to everyone involved. "We call ourselves 'The Practice Enhancement Company,' and through two simple principles – service and relationships – we meet agent needs in a way no one else can," Ash says.
This dedication to value continues through 318 employees spread throughout the country. Ash employees provide services to more than 54,000 financial professionals through consultative approaches to product solutions, concept evaluation, underwriting negotiation and business development.
Ash also believes in giving young people a chance by providing them with a collaborative and supportive team environment to reach goals together. "Being a successful entrepreneur, I want each and every one of my employees to do well, too. I want them to have opportunities to grow, because it's all about each of us being the best we can be," Ash says.
Ash says technology keeps the company a step ahead of the competition, and differentiates the company from others in the industry. For Ash, opportunity, like the value of technology, is not something that can be easily calculated or explained.
"While you can hire talent, you can't hire opportunity. People either see themselves in what we're doing or they don't," Ash says. "Yet, when you combine opportunity and talent, what you get is growth, for the employee and for the business."
By continuing to combine opportunity and talent, Ash says he wants the company to grow more over the coming years. He also wants the company to remain a good place for young people to find opportunity, whether in the Fort Wayne headquarters or in any of the company's 17 other locations around the nation.
"We don't need to tell youth how to do something; they already know what needs to be done," Ash says. "They need us to set a positive example, like the people who have influenced me did, and they need us to give them opportunities."
Ash also believes in giving back to the community. The Ash Family Foundation helped to found the ASH Centre (The Academy of Sports & Health), a 25-acre complex that includes five outdoor baseball fields and a 40,000 sq. ft. indoor complex including a field house, office space and an academic/training area. The mission of this non-profit organization is to offer a first class "destination" for community programs whose focuses are youth outreach, senior support and activities for special needs.