Graham Co.: 'It's not for everybody'

Stephanie Rogers, a loss information specialist, shows off the "Grahammy Award" she won in 2004 for her good work at The Graham Co. The Philadelphia-based insurance brokerage won first place among "mid-sized" companies in our Top 100 Work Places survey. (Elizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer)
Stephanie Rogers, a loss information specialist, shows off the "Grahammy Award" she won in 2004 for her good work at The Graham Co. The Philadelphia-based insurance brokerage won first place among "mid-sized" companies in our Top 100 Work Places survey. (Elizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer) (David Ralis)
Posted: March 16, 2010

The Graham Co., a Philadelphia commercial insurance brokerage, puts huge demands on employees. If an accident occurs at a client's work site at 2 a.m., a Graham employee is expected to be there quickly to protect the client's interests.

"It's a hard place to work. It's not for everybody," said Michael J. Mitchell, executive vice president at the Center City company that employs 165. "It's not a sweatshop. We're in a service business. People understand what that means."

In exchange for all the hard work by his employees, owner William A. Graham IV plows money back into the firm, providing superior health benefits, a 9 percent 401(k) contribution, and perks such as three catered lunches a year, a lactation room for nursing mothers, and time off to volunteer, Mitchell and others said.

The company even pays for a health advocate who helps employees investigate nursing homes for their parents or medical specialists for their children, said Lucille H. Carey, vice president of operations and human resources.

Al Paxson, an associate producer at Graham, which means he works for one of the company's salespeople, said benefits at Graham were so good that his wife, who works for a Fortune 500 company known for great benefits, is on his plan.

But it took more than benefits and perks to win top honors among medium-size companies in the Top Workplaces 2010 survey in the Philadelphia region.

"I think you are respected for what you do," said Paxson, 43, who has been at Graham for nearly 12 years.

In the survey, Graham employees said they loved their jobs because the work was challenging and rewarding, supervisors treated them well, and upper management cared about employees.

Mitchell said Graham, the chairman and chief executive officer, created the company's way of doing things. "It's a culture of working hard, doing what's right for the customer," Mitchell said. (William Graham was an investor in Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C., owner of The Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com.)

Graham Co. customers, mostly located within 200 miles of Philadelphia, are predominantly privately held firms with $50 million to $500 million in annual revenue and 100 to 1,000 employees.

Graham, founded in 1950, does more than find insurance companies to supply policies for its clients, which are concentrated in construction and manufacturing but include other sectors, as well.

It acts as an interface between clients and insurance companies. "We help manage the claims process. We make sure claims aren't just gratuitously paid," Mitchell said.

To make all that happen, Graham has an extensive training program for new hires. After six months of study at "Graham University," new employees work with mentors for two years before they get their own book of business. "That's a big investment for us," Carey said.


Contact staff writer Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or hbrubaker@phillynews.com.

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