A husband and wife who opened their own insurance brokers in their mid-twenties are celebrating a successful three decades in business.
Allan and Julie Carrick set up Aynsley Insurance in 1989 with their business partner Graham Cook, specialising in personal insurance – predominantly for cars.
In 1993, the pair bought Graham’s shares in the business, and seven years later went on to acquire Taylor Cartlidge Insurance brokers, which was based just a few doors down from its Hanley office.
The landmark deal allowed Aynsley Insurance to diversify its customer base – and transform the business into what it is today.
Allan said: “We had only been married two years when we bought the business, but we were able to use some equity from our house in Baddeley Green to put into setting it up.
“We were lucky at the beginning because Graham had already got another business, things went really well for us.
“But when we took over from Graham we found ourselves sitting in some interesting interviews with some insurance agencies who questioned our abilities to succeed.
“We were young adults but our passion for the business shone through and we were able to convince them and have gone on to build a successful business.”
Today, Aynsley Insurance boasts a nine-strong team which provides insurance services for car, house and travel, as well as fleet, private medical and business.
Their first employee, Sean Glover – who joined Aynsley as a 16-year-old apprentice – remains with the company as business manager.
Julie added: “We opened the door with no clients whatsoever. All we had was a potted plant and two filing cabinets, but we have always stuck to the same approach and it seems to have worked – putting the customer first.
“Taking over Taylor Cartlidge was a big turning point for us because we were able to diversify.
“Insurance is a very hard thing to sell, it’s something that people don’t really want because it’s just another bill they have to pay.
“But we have had customers who have been with us for the whole 30 years, which is great.”
Over the last three decades, the insurance sector has moved on from pens, ledgers and cash payments to rapid electronic transactions and website-generated quotes.
But Allan and Julie believe that it is their customer-first approach which has helped them reach their 30-year milestone.
Allan said: “The biggest challenge when we first started was the competition. There was an insurance broker on every corner of every town, but we never feared it, we embraced it.
“In the early days, a lot of premiums were paid in cash, and on Saturday mornings we’d have a queue outside the door as customers waited to pay their monthly instalments.
“Today this has changed, but we still have a high street presence and our customers can come in and see us at any time.
“The industry is highly-regulated and compliance is integrated into the core of the business.”
Allan added: “We pride ourselves on our customer service and this reflects in our high level of customer retention.
“People can obtain online quotes, but when they need help, we are here to hold their hands and guide them through the process.
“This is the reason why many people put their trust in independent insurance brokers, such as ourselves.”