From its humble beginnings in a backroom office, to what is now a six-office brokerage, Josslin Insurance is a family business and a staple in the community – a success story with roots dating back to 1880.
Managing partners and brothers, Scott and Steve Wagler want to continue to keep their father’s legacy alive as the business keeps on booming.
“The Company grew over the years and the boys grew with it too,” says their father, Don Wagler.
“They worked in the office on evenings and weekends doing odds and ends and learned the business. Scott worked for a number of insurers and after university, Steve came directly here. They’ve helped the business grow into what it is today. They’ve been in it from the ground up. There was no coercion to come into the business, it was their choice.”
And the brothers never looked back.
“We learned from mom and dad that it’s about personal relationships and that it takes a lot of good people to grow,” Steve says.
For Scott, the same core values remain present in the business today, as they were from the very beginning.
“It’s about caring,” he says. “They’ve always cared about what happens to their customers and this is what works. This is why it continues to flourish.”
And flourish it has.
What began with only two employees, now staffs over 76 in offices located in New Hamburg Elmira, Kitchener, Cambridge, Tavistock and Wellesley.
As one of New Hamburg’s oldest businesses, Josslin Insurance is recognized as being an integral part of history in the area.
Louis Peine, from New Hamburg, opened the business in 1880 and became known as one of the foremost insurance specialists in southern Ontario.
By 1920, he ran his own insurance business, the CPR Telegraph Office and a bookstore. He also represented New Hamburg on Waterloo Country Council.
But five years later, Peine was tragically killed when his car stuck a freight train on Waterloo Street. He was 69.
Following his death, his sons Fred and Theodore formed a partnership and continued the business, but in 1930 Fred contracted pneumonia and died at age 52.
Ted Peine continued the business for 17 years until he sold it to Robert A. Park in 1947.
In 1950, Park sold the agency to Rupert L. Hatter, the superintendent of agencies at Economical Insurance Company and three years later it was sold to John B. Josslin.
When Josslin’s lease expired in 1975, the agency was sold to New Hamburg native, Donald Wagler, who had worked for Prudential Insurance Company of America for 10 years.
And the rest is history.
New offices opened and two years after purchasing the agency, it became a family operation, with Don’s wife Rose coming on board.
The couple have recently celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary.
Although retired, they are still keen to lend a helping hand when they can.
“We overcame a number of challenges,” Don says. “When we bought the business, we just had two people working at the time. The government then had decided that we had to become a brokerage so that’s when we became an independent brokerage, working with different insurers, representing our clients.”
The insurance industry has evolved over the years and Josslin Insurance has had no choice, but to make changes with it.
“At first, we were primarily dealing with personal lines. There seemed to be a rate for every risk. Now, most insurers have their own appetite and if they haven’t a certain rate for a certain risk, they simply don’t want it,” Steve says.
“Everything has become more complex. We sell a government mandated product and since I started with Scott in the 90’s, it has become so complicated.”
Josslin Insurance offers a variety of insurance products including, car, home, life, commercial farm, group home and auto and group life and benefits.
The company is partnered with over 29 insurers to help better suit the needs of clients.
“If you want to do business with us, we meet with you face to face. We grew up in a smaller town, which is why we continue to make a presence in our rural communities. We are all about community and supporting them is one of our cherished values,” Scott said.
“If they have a question, they can come see us. We hold on to the bricks and mortar in this digital age. Because without the bricks and mortar, there would be no community.”
It’s the bricks and mortar left by their parents that the brothers continue to build on.
“We’ve had support from each other and from the Centre for Family Businesses. Having a family business is complicated, but in the end, it’s what carries you through,” Scott said.
Steve says that everyone in the family has a role to play and everyone has a voice.
“And these roles continue with each new challenge,” he says.
His mother Rose couldn’t agree more.
“We may not always have a consensus, but we always get through it. There’s always tough times, but sometimes, you just have to laugh,” she said.
Scott and Steve have often witnessed their parents going out of their way for clients.
“We worked late through bad storms and stayed because of limited service during these events,” Don says.
“And during the tornado in Goderich, we stayed and tried calling all of our clients to make sure they were ok,” Rose adds.
The company takes pride in being able to personally handle all of it’s client’s claims, 24/7.
“One of our people will always answer; a real person, not some computer voice” Don says.
“It’s about taking time and effort to support the people we are here to serve.”
And for Steve, it’s very much about learning how to continue to better serve them.
“We are always trying to be innovative in how we serve and it’s challenging times right now. It’s not easy for anyone as companies battle for coverage.”
The company has a history of innovation from being one of the first brokerages to have a computer, to being one of the first businesses in New Hamburg to utilize fibre optics.
Last year, Josslin Insurance won IBAQ Innovator of the Year by offering clients a consumer app which provides them with options such as proof of coverage, policy change requests and submitting claims, all at their fingertips.
Despite all the challenges, family is key and it is what continues to keep the brokerage, “real”.
“We start the day everyday with open eyes and ears. We learn from our mistakes and continue what’s good. This has been an opportunity for us, with a common goal in mind. It’s about keeping one foot in front of the other at all times,” Scott said.
His father too has seen the value of forward thinking.
“It’s like riding a bicycle. You are either moving ahead or you fall. This is the reality of the times. You have to move forward and that can be challenging,” Don said.
Steve sees a bright future ahead.
“Despite the challenges we have always tried to differentiate ourselves. But even in a digital era, it’s always been about the people. People look for people they can trust,” he says.
For the brothers, the roots run deep and it’s what has helped the business branch out into what it is today.
“Through the years it’s been the optimism and caring attitude that makes a real difference for our customer,” Scott said.
“And this is what matters to all of us.”