Never forget to sell every day.This advice has proved successful at my agency, Cobbs, Allen &Hall. It has kept the agency growing from its start in 1887 towhere it is today: 175 employees with five branch offices, inaddition to its corporate office in Birmingham, Ala. The agency isemployee owned, with more than 40 shareholders, from the presidentto account managers. Humble beginnings
Cobbs, Allen & Hall was founded in 1887 as the John G. SmithCo. The name was changed in the 1920s to reflect the principals incharge at the time. The business grew as an insurance and mortgagebrokerage firm around the Birmingham area during the middle part ofthe last century. In April 1992, a group of investors, headed bycurrent president Grantland H. Rice III, purchased the agency. Atthe time, the agency was a small insurance brokerage with officesin Birmingham and Gadsen, Ala., writing $10 million a year inpremium with 20 employees. In 1993, Bruce S. Denson joined thecompany as CEO to grow Cobbs, Allen & Hall into a largeregional brokerage. Denson's vision was for the agency to growsteadily at a rate of 15 percent a year for the next decade. By2004, the agency boasted 140 employees with $300 million in annualpremiums. Today, there are 175 employees in the corporate office inBirmingham and other branches: Gadsen, Montgomery and Mobile, Ala.;Atlanta; and Shreveport, La. In 2000, the agency joined AssurexGlobal, a partnership organization of elite private brokeragesaround the world.

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Rice, who headed the group of investors in 1992, began hiscareer in insurance with our agency. He previously had served as avice president of a regional travel management servicescompany.

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Denson, whose vision was instrumental in the agency's growth,began his career in insurance in 1971 and previously servedMcGriff, Siebels & Williams as chief operating officer prior tojoining our agency in 1993. Specialties
Cobbs, Allen & Hall's targeted specialties as a risk managementprovider are construction, manufacturing, non-profit, riskmanagement accounts and captives. The economic situation is havingquite an impact on the construction and manufacturing industries,which are a large part of our business. However, rather thanshifting our focus away from these industries, we are using ourexpertise in these industries to help our clients now more thanever. We provide benefits to our clients by carefully reviewingtheir risk management programs, ensuring that they have the rightones in place. By mitigating our client's risk in a proactivemanner, we can help minimize their cost and potential losses, thusimporving their bottom line. Effective risk management is a must intoday's economy. Commercial lines business makes up 80 percent ofour revenue, employee benefits are 16 percent, and personal lines 4percent. Although this ratio remains true in our current economy,we are seeing and feeling the impact in a number of ways. Healthcare cost is a huge concern to employers. We continue to seeincreases in premiums annually, a trend that is requiring employersto reevaluate and look at other possible alternatives. Thecontinued rise in cost is eating away at shrinking profits ofemployers and their employee's paychecks. Our role is to helpclients find alternatives and solutions to reduce their cost. Wehave consultants who work with our clients to educate theiremployees on safety, wellness and consumerism. These initiatives take place atour home, too. At Cobbs, Allen & Hall, we participate in theNational Start! Walking Day annually. We also have “recess atwork.” Every day for 15 minutes or so, employees move from theirdesks and walk outside or up and down the stairs. Setting anexample is important. We offer our clients a number of value-addedservices and resources to help manage their overall risk. Theseservices range from analytical software applications to legislativeand information portals. We also work with our clients' data todrill down into claims information and pinpoint where an employermay be having issues. We look for trends, and then develop customsolutions and programs that specifically address their issues.Prevention is the key to properly managing risk. In line with thatphilosophy, we offer our clients consulting services for humanresources, healthcare management, safety and loss control andemployment law. We position ourselves as an outsourced risk managerand go beyond just insurance by providing services that impact ourclient's total cost of risk. This philosophy has helped improve ourclients' success and has allowed us to be successful regardless ofthe market conditions. What is unique about Cobbs, Allen & Hallis our approach. It's not a cookie- cutter approach by any means.Every business is different in their people, operations andculture. In order for us to be effective in our role as a riskmanager, we must truly understand our client, how they do businessand their overall objectives. We have a great staff of employeeswith a wide range of expertise in various areas. They use theirskills and knowledge to “peel back the onion” and find the crucialareas where we can truly help our clients. Friends in moreplaces
As an Assurex Global partner, Cobbs, Allen& Hall has developed relationships with leading insurancebrokers in more than 20 countries. Assurex Global boasts more than20,000 insurance professionals on six continents and more than 115independent brokers who generate annual premiums in excess of $23billion. It is the world's largest privately held risk managementand commercial insurance brokerage group. Partners are selectedbased on their market positions, growth histories, quality, breadthof services and commitment to clients. Assurex Global benefits ouragency in many ways, according to our company president, GrantlandRice III. “We bounce things back and forth and you learn in a peergroup,” he said. “It also gives us both international and nationalpresence. For instance, if I have a client in Alabama with amanufacturing plant in Argentina and I need to know local laws inthat country, globally I can go to my partner and get help.”Agency automation
At Cobbs, Allen &Hall, we constantly are looking for ways to be more efficient andprovide our clients with exceptional service. We recentlyimplemented a system, CSR24, which allows our clients to reportclaims, access policy and certificate information. This systemallows access to several other features 24/7, via phone orInternet. We are in the process of implementing a new system calledProspX. This system is a tool for our salespeople to track andmanage sales opportunities. Our philosophy is to give our employeesthe education, resources and information required by their roles asteam members–then support them and hold them accountable forexceptional service to the client. With that in mind, our humanresources department offers training and education for a variety ofpositions and roles within the agency. In addition, we also bringvendors onsite to conduct educational classes. Fortunately, we havenot had any layoffs. We are all aware of the economy and noemployer is immune to the possibility of layoffs. We are watchingexpenses closely and looking for ways to do more for less so Cobbs,Allen & Hall can be as efficient and productive as possible.>Our company's leadership is always looking ahead and preparingus for whatever conditions we might face. They always have ourclient's, our company's and our employee's best interests in mind.“We try to stay a little ahead of the curve,” says our companypresident, Grantland Rice III. “In late 2007 we looked at ways toimprove our efficiency. We aligned people with service teams andpeople who are able to handle more work.” Rice stresses that thecompany isn't immune to the economy. “Our clients are suffering andfeeling the pinches of the economy and we are right there withthem,” he said. “We are trying to help our customers become morecompetitive and more efficient, and improve their risk profileswith a number of the value-added services we offer.” With more than120 years since inception of the company, the agency as seen manychanges and continues to evolve and grow. However, one thing thathas remained a constant is our reputation for providing exceptionalservice to our clients.

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