Ricky Sims has invested the duration and hard work of a 45-year career in protecting his neighbors in northwest Alabama. In 1978, he began writing personal and commercial insurance lines in Hamilton and several surrounding towns. His book of business was acquired by another firm in 1983 but he remained, eventually becoming its president and guiding its growth over the next several decades.
Your Insurance Centers today is one of Alabama’s leading independent insurance agencies, serving the communities and towns northwest of Birmingham. Sims and his partners were founding members of Alabama’s chapter of SecureRisk, a highly selective industry cooperative comprised of “the cream of the crop of Alabama independent insurance agencies.”
YIC’s book of business has evolved over the years, shifting from mostly personal lines to predominantly commercial lines today. The agency writes significant business in Municipal, Utility, General Contracting, Church and Transportation lines.
As Sims explains, he’s grown his business by acquiring other independent agencies, usually “Mom and Pop” insurers who were ready to stop working and enjoy retirement. In a recent conversation, he lost count at 10 the number of times he’s bought another book of business. He’s also seen organic growth as the area’s businesses have matured and become more diverse.
Throughout all the acquisitions, YIC has remained committed to relationship-based selling, personalized service and an overriding dedication to caring for its employees and customers.
So, for Sims, the prospect of retiring himself presented a few challenges. How would he successfully position the agency to continue to thrive? What would happen to its employees, many of whom had been with the company for over 20 years? Could he find a partner that placed the same level of emphasis on customer relationships as YIC did?
Last year, he and his partner Mike Evans began by methodically analyzing their operations. A business evaluation exercise yielded surprising results. Those results made it clear to Sims and Evans that they could leverage YIC’s business to find the right partner that would ensure its future success.
They culled the initial list of two-dozen interested suitors to three, mostly based on geographic footprint and experience. “It was important to us to partner with folks that had our same values,” Sims said. “We know our customers and their families. We help them solve business problems. We know the struggles they have and share the same successes. We even asked them what they thought of a potential name change and shift in ownership. Because we’ve built our business on relationships and trust, there was zero pushback.”
Sims continues, “Oakbridge was by far the best fit for YIC. Their resources are tremendous. Their support in HR, technology and finance uncomplicates things for us and frees us up to focus on our customers and to pursue growth opportunities. And we could tell that they were just good people who shared our values. That was very important. It’s been a win/win for all of us.”
For Sims, the decision to partner with Oakbridge is particularly rewarding. “The future of the agency is secured. We’ve done some good succession hiring. The partnership with Oakbridge ensures that we’ll continue to grow. Our employees and customers will be taken care of just like before. It’s like family. We’re in good hands.”