Q&A With Jim Ash, Founder of Ash Brokerage
As a family business for 45 years, Ash Brokerage understands the importance of lineage. Our roots begin with Jim Ash, who founded the firm in 1971 and remains actively involved in its operation. His three children – Tracey, Tim and Amy – grew up in the business and all work for the company today. We asked him what it was like creating and growing his family’s legacy.
A: That was the hope – I think it’s the hope of a lot of people who start their own business, but they don’t know quite how to go about it. When I was young, my dad owned a small hardware store, so I grew up seeing what it was like.
When he was 10 or 11 years old, Tim started coming on the road with me to visit advisors. We used to drive to South Bend and stay in a hotel – he loved it because back then, that was the only place you could find a remote-controlled TV.
When they were teenagers, I started taking Tim and Tracey to conventions, and later on I would take Amy, too. Some companies didn’t want kids there, but I wanted them to see everything. Later on, advisory boards would ask me how to get more young people in the business. Well, they should be inviting the kids and make it fun for them.
A: I never criticized. The kids will tell you I always gave them confidence. I have a philosophy with young people (not just my children) … Don’t tell them how to do things – tell them what needs to be done. They’re usually smarter and brighter than you, and they’ll find their own way.
In a family business, the current generation has the same values as the previous generation, and those are carried on to the employees. We have always wanted Ash to be a family atmosphere, and it makes it easier if you bring those family values into the business. No matter what, you have to care about other people more than you care about yourself. That’s what makes you a family.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of attending the retirement ceremony of my friend, Dick Formica, a.k.a. Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, Commanding General Army Missile and Space Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (the Army has way cool titles). After 36 years of service to our country, Dick made the decision to hang up his boots and try life as a civilian.
Suzanne and I met Dick and his wife, Dianne, almost 17 years prior, when they moved in next door to us in Burke, Virginia, while he was on a tour of duty at the Pentagon. Our kids became fast friends and spent the next four years together. An Army brat myself (my dad was career Army after graduating from West Point), I knew Dick wouldn’t be staying anywhere very long. After we met, Dick had four other assignments, including a stint in Afghanistan. This kind of movement can be hard on a family, so I know it wasn't just Dick who was "serving."
At Dick’s retirement ceremony, there was plenty of brass in the room, but I was struck by the soldiers who attended, including a few wounded warriors. One in particular was familiar to me. Col. Greg Gadsen was the commander of the garrison at Ft. Belvoir, where the ceremony was being held. Col. Gadsen played football at Army; that's where I first saw him. He was later wounded in Iraq, losing both legs to an IED. Having inspired the New York Giants when a former teammate invited him to speak, Gadson is often seen at their home games and even has an honorary Super Bowl ring.
But, it's the fact that the colonel continued to serve on active duty, not retiring until 2014, that amazes me. I'm not sure what the Army's benefits are, but I imagine a double combat amputee would earn a pension that would allow him to retire to nice civilian life. Instead, Greg chose to continue to serve his soldiers and the Army in a leadership position. He knew he was making a difference.
The same holds true for any of us. While I don't think the sacrifice given for our level of service is akin to that of Col. Gadsen or Gen. Formica, I do firmly believe that what we do matters. The benefits you provide do make a difference in people’s lives, and it is incumbent upon all of us to be great tellers of that story.
People often see insurance as a “necessary evil," but I would say that you’re all heroes, serving families in your own special way. We help people protect what they love about their lives by managing life's emergencies. Because of what we do, when an emergency happens, kids are still able to go to college, a mother can still support her family after the loss of her husband, and families get to stay in their houses. This is service!
About the Author
As executive vice president of life sales distribution, Bob Klein is responsible for all of Ash Brokerage’s life, long-term care and disability income insurance sales. He is driven by his desire to help others get the most out of their natural gifts, and he gets the most satisfaction from seeing others grow and succeed.
This is my beautiful daughter, Jenna. She is spunky, incredibly bright, a true giver … and she was diagnosed with autism at age 5. Sometimes, I can actually feel the twinge of concern from others when I mention autism, but I consider myself the luckiest mom!
Every April 2, I celebrate a birthday, but instead of thinking about the extra gray hairs I’m finding around my temples or the laugh lines around my eyes, I spend time Lighting It Up Blue (#LIUB) in honor of my amazing daughter World Autism Day. We’re grateful for organizations like Autism Speaks, Special Needs Alliance and Ash Brokeragefor working hard to debunk the myths around life insurance and the autistic community.
There are different planning challenges with a special needs child. Parents may insure themselves to provide a benefit for their child with autism, and today, many children who are on the spectrum qualify for life insurance, too. The premiums for a policy on child with autism may be higher, but advancements in medical care show many of these children will go on to lead stable, healthy lives, which is finessing the costs dramatically compared to what we saw years ago.
Many life insurance companies have guidelines for writing policies on those diagnosed with autism. These guidelines may be tied to the high to severe functioning of a person with autism, as well as the actual diagnosis and co-morbid disorders tied to the condition. Some adults with autism live and work independently, while others need more hands-on assistance. Each case is therefore uniquely underwritten, but know the days of a flat decline for diagnosis of autism in and of itself are pretty much gone.
So, how can financial service professionals help?
First, contact an underwriter to discuss the needs of your client and their child. An underwriter can help you navigate some of the challenges and point you in the right direction.
Next, be sure to take advantage of the special needs materials Ash Brokerage offers. Simply reach out to your Ash Brokerage RVP or internal wholesalerand ask for a copy of our materials. They are free to use!
Lastly, let’s Light It Up Blue on April 2! Be sure to reach out to your respective communities and help parents of children who have autism create a financial plan which will keep these young people safe in the event their important caregivers die prematurely. The autism community needs champions for life insurance to support those on the spectrum.
Remember, the work you do is important and makes a difference in ALL lives! Thank you.
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