A Century-Old Success Story

G. Richer “Rick” Budke and Andrew Trower of Sublimity Insurance Company discuss … ▶ corporate culture ▶ staying viable for more than a century ▶ going high touch/high tech ▶ interactive systems ▶ expanding geographic footprint and product mix

ADVOCATING A SLOW AND STEADY approach to growth, Rick Budke (left) and Andy Trower have seen Sublimity Insurance's business triple during their tenure.

Sublimity Insurance Company was founded in Sublimity, Oregon, in 1896 by a group of farmers who felt they were being underserved. Originally called the Farmers Fire Relief Association of Sublimity, the company gradually added insurance products and expanded their reach to include Idaho and Utah. A strong team, unmatched expertise, and “can do” attitude have contributed to the company’s success over the last 115 years. Two executives that have been key to propelling business growth are G. Richer “Rick” Budke, president and CEO, and Andrew Trower, senior vice president, marketing and underwriting. Since joining Sublimity, the two have seen the business more than triple.

What factors have contributed most to your success over the last century?
Budke: We’ve maintained competitive rates and commission payments to our producers. I believe in generous bonus commissions, which are based on performance. Sublimity Insurance Company also has a fairly sophisticated back-office system that has been developed on a proprietary basis. It is an interactive system, which makes it easy for agents to do business with us.
Trower: Our agents would tell you our system is among the easiest they work with, and that is one of the biggest drivers as to who agents choose to do business with.

How does Sublimity Insurance Company stand out from other insurance companies?
Trower: We have a corporate culture that puts a high value on both employees and our agency partners. We take great care of our employees and we are a company that tries to foster an atmosphere where agents want to work with us.

Budke: Quality customer service is favored over quantity. Our professional, experienced staff conducts business personally and is responsive to our customers. People can reach us by phone to do business; they won’t be stuck in a phone tree.

How do you plan to succeed moving forward?
Budke: We aren’t interested in being the biggest, only the best. Our intention is to be high touch and high tech. Larger companies tend to sacrifice service with automated efficiencies. We’ll preserve our accessibility and I think that will continue to pay off.
We will be very selective in expanding our geographic footprint. There is no question in my mind that we will grow geographically and with our product mix. We’ve seen an average growth of 11 percent each year over the last 10 years. Because of our market share there is a great deal of business out there that we can have without doing anything too dramatic. We’ll stay within our area of expertise and proceed carefully.

How have you seen the insurance industry change over your career?
Trower: Over the years the more things change the more they stay the same. There are cycles that happen in the industry that are fairly predictable. We’ve seen changes in the product line and regulatory environment. While some of these changes bring challenges, as long as we stick to our fundamentals—providing outstanding products backed by outstanding service—we continue to do well.

As industry experts, what are you able to contribute to the business environment?
Budke: We don’t get thrown when confronted with a problem. Managers are facilitators and problem solvers. With our experience we realize things will crop up that need to be dealt with. Rather than being very reactive or emotional when handling a crisis, we are able to resolve them and move on.