William A. Graham
The Graham Company
CEO and Chairman

Biography

When William A. Graham arrived at Dr. G. William Glendenning’s office in 1982, he was desperate. Mr. Graham had been looking for a couple of years for two suitable candidates to join his Center City insurance brokerage, The Graham Company. Dr. Glendenning, a professor at the Fox School of Business and a former president of the American Risk and Insurance Association, told him not to worry. He had a number of students who could be a good fit. “What’s the highest starting salary a Fox School graduate’s been offered in the last few years?” Mr. Graham asked, sensing, if what Dr. Glendenning was telling him was true, that he needed to be ready with a strong offer. “$21,000,” Dr. Glendenning answered. “Tell them I’ll pay $23,000,” Mr. Graham said. And then he asked, “What’s the standard starting salary for the insurance industry?” “$14,000,” Dr. Glendenning replied. “How do they get anybody good for that?” “They don’t,” Dr. Glendenning said. “They don’t provide them with any training, either.” That conversation made an immediate impression on Mr. Graham. He promptly set about forming the foundation for an extensive training program for his staff that would launch a couple of years later. Even today, it remains virtually unparalleled in the industry. Mr. Graham had decided that, if the talent pool was so shallow, he’d look beyond the insurance industry, toward attorneys and engineers, and groom them according to his specifications. The Graham Company employs eight full-time technical professionals to execute Mr. Graham’s training model. Every new consultant spends their first six months in a classroom, where they’re graded and tested every week. (They receive full pay and benefits all the while.) From there, they move to what Mr. Graham describes as a “tribunal,” basically a two- to three-hour oral exam. Finally, the consultants move into the field, where their every proposal is graded for the next three years during their continued on-the-job training. If that sounds like a lot to endure, it is. But keep in mind the other lesson Mr. Graham learned that day back in 1982: “To cultivate a quality staff, you need to pay well.” Put the two together and it’s why turnover at The Graham Company is almost nonexistent. Mr. Graham ended up hiring two of Dr. Glendenning’s candidates. One of them is still with the company. The unparalleled investment in technical training coupled with the unusual longevity and all that it entails (experience, loyalty, consistency) is why The Graham Company routinely plucks clients from the national brokerages mid-term. And how Mr. Graham was able to grow his enterprise from $300,000 in annual revenue when he bought it from his father in 1972 to over $55 million. His career is hardly short on accolades for his efforts—The Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, for one, named him one of the industry’s “Game Changers” over the last century in 2013. But Mr. Graham hones in on one recognition in particular as his proudest: The Musser Award he received from the Fox School in 2015—perhaps as much for the night’s enthusiastic celebration of his fascination with pigs (his office is loaded with paraphernalia) as for the opportunity to meet the award’s namesake, a titan even to a game changer.

Temple University Awards & Affiliatons
Musser Award for Excellence in Leadership, 2015

What I wanted to be when I was 20 years old
I didn’t have a clue. I thought I wanted to be in business or sales, but I wasn’t knowledgeable enough about business to know if I wanted to go into insurance, specifically. My father, who founded The Graham Company, always thought I would join him, however. When I was younger, he used to say that I was his annuity.

Best piece of advice anyone ever gave me
Dr. G. William Glendenning, a former professor at the Fox School, told me almost 40 years ago that the insurance industry struggled to find and retain talented people because the pay was too little and the training was nonexistent. I heard that and immediately set about shoring up both fronts.