Through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan trust, one of the mid-Atlantic region’s largest insurance and benefits brokers, The Graham Company, recently announced that it is now 100% employee-owned.

With a history spanning over five decades, Chairman and CEO Bill Graham has grown his Philadelphia-based brokerage from six employees with revenues of $300,000 to a team of more than 180 employees with revenues surpassing $50 million.

Along the way, the organization has received numerous accolades for its workplace culture, earning Best Places to Work honors from The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Business Journal, and Central Penn Business Journal.

Bill Graham and his 180 employees at their company event at Del Frisco’s celebrating the 100% employee ownership.
Bill Graham and his 180 employees at their company event at Del Frisco’s celebrating the 100% employee ownership.

“The Graham Company’s hard-earned reputation for professional excellence, bedrock integrity and 24/7 client service is a testament to the incredible talent we have been able to attract,” Graham says. “By making the transition to an employee-owned organization, we are grateful to be rewarding our employees for their countless contributions to clients’ successes, while empowering them to play an integral role in our shared future.”

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By working with consulting and investment banking firm MarshBerry & Company, The Graham Company plans to implement an iCAP solution, which will combine the ESOP with other unique structural features to offer a customized plan to allow insurance brokers like The Graham Company to perpetuate and remain independent.

“This is an exciting day for the Graham Company, a milestone that ensures the unmatched culture and business model that Bill pioneered will be upheld by the next generation,” says Ken Ewell, president and COO of The Graham Company. “For our clients, it means we will continue to attract the best and brightest, fiercely committed to proactively helping businesses in high-risk industries navigate complex issues and keep their employees safe.”

Ewell adds that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to perpetuation succession planning and becoming 100% employee-owned may not be for every brokerage, but it worked out for them.

“There are some agencies that should sell. However, for an agency with a strong, healthy culture, a strong sense of purpose, leadership and a desire to stay privately held, having a merit based ESOP is the right choice,” Ewell says. “You have to have a healthy, profitable organization to do this and when you go through an ESOP, you need to make sure the ownership has a fair return.”

As an employee-owned company, The Graham Company will continue to operate under the same business model and management structure as it has in the past.

“Bill Graham has a vision and the leadership team shares that vision,” Ewell says. “When you have a small team of leaders make a decision, commit to it and see it through that’s what it takes to take a company to where we are today.”

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