Small Business Owner Jim Elliott on Choosing Marsh & McLennan Agency (formally Barney & Barney) for All of His Insurance Needs
Like most family-owned businesses, Ann and Jim Elliott, previous owners of Western Graphics, have decades of hard work behind them. Marsh & McLennan Agency (MMA) was privileged to watch their success grow and today, Jim and Ann Elliott are one of B&B’s longest-standing clients.
Over 40 years ago, Jim took weekly trips from San Diego to Sacramento where he walked the halls of the capital, selling direct mail services to legislators. After two years, Ann and Jim made the bold move to start their own company. In 1974 they launched Western Graphics, a direct mail marketing company in Lemon Grove, California. Initially, the company printed and mailed newsletters for members of the Legislature. The company grew to provide consulting services, printing, and mailing for commercial and non-profit organizations as well as political campaigns. In 2007, Jim and Ann sold Western Graphics.
Jim now works for Eye/Comm as the Marketing Consultant and has taught classes on Direct Mail at SDSU, USD, and UCSD. With multiple prestigious awards under his belt, such as the Margaret Sellers Lifetime Achievement Award and the Luke Kaiser Award for Direct Mail Education, Jim is a direct marketing expert.
We recently spoke with Jim about his 40 year history with MMA.
How did your relationship with MMA begin?
Forty years ago, Ann and I took $5,000, which was all of the money we had in the world and we started Western Graphics. Within two weeks that money was gone. Everything was going okay with the State Assembly, but to work with the State Senate, I needed a Completion Bond. Our insurance sales person at the time kept asking for more information but was not really able to help. A couple of the Senators were holding off doing business with us and we were obviously going to lose their business if we didn’t get the bond.
My banker told me to talk to Barney & Barney, which was on 5th Avenue at the time. They had a young lady by the name of Kathy Ybarrondo take care of us—she hadn't been with the company very long. I don’t know how she did it, but we had the bond in a few hours. We didn't know at the time what a "find" Barney & Barney was. Over the years, Western Graphics grew. Eventually, we sold the firm, but we still do business with Marsh & McLennan Agency.
Kathy later went on to lead MMA West Region's Employee Benefits Division. What was your experience like working with her?
What’s great about Kathy is her story. When we came to Marsh & McLennan Agency, we didn’t have very much money and she was just starting out, too. She went up through the organization and eventually became a Principal. Our successes were parallel. You can’t do a story about Western Graphics without mentioning Kathy Ybarrondo.
Pat McQuade has been your representative at MMA now for the past 15 years. How have you worked together over the years?
Pat is a nifty lady. I‘m convinced that she handles our insurance like she would her own. One time, we called her about some travel insurance and she recommended something she didn’t make any commission on. My wife and I know Pat always puts the interests of her clients first and she knows her industry very well.
We’re lucky that we’ve only had one claim: 25 years ago 3 eucalyptus trees came down in our backyard. You never know how good your insurance people are until you need them. We are big fans of MMA and we are big fans of Pat McQuade. The service at MMA is outstanding.
You partnered with MMA for not only Western Graphics but also your personal insurance. Why?
We do business with people we trust. When you own your own business, you want to find a few suppliers that you believe in. We think it’s important to establish relationships and to keep those relationships. Find good people who put your interest before theirs, then stick with them. We are loyal clients.
We have all of our insurance with MMA. We own all of our own real estate, including the Western Graphics buildings. All of our cars are insured with MMA. Our house is insured through MMA. Our health insurance is through MMA. We use MMA whenever we can. We’re very happy customers.
And we’re happy Jim and Ann are happy.
Our Private Company & Family-Owned Practice specializes in solutions for local businesses just getting started or for companies like Western Graphics, that have been thriving for decades. And our insurance solutions aren’t just for businesses. Our Personal Lines team is dedicated to providing comprehensive health and personal insurance programs to protect your loved ones, your home and your legacy.