Ron Ebert is the president of the Madison Risk Group, a construction insurance brokerage in the Philadelphia area. Established in 2013, MRG provides mid-market construction firms (contractors with annual revenues of up to $250–300 million) with cost-effective and flexible risk management services underpinned by industry expertise. The brokerage stands out not only for its unwavering industry focus, but also for its unique MRG Blueprint program, which offers clients hands-on support and education.
EDWIN WARFIELD: How did MRG come about?
RON EBERT: Madison Risk Group came about in 2013 when we were forming the company. I was at home talking to my family about what the name should be and I really didn’t want to use my last name. I wanted to show what we were—a larger broker. I felt like [using my last name] was going to give us a small feel I wasn’t looking for. My daughters, who at that time were 7 and 8 years old, started coming up with suggestions. Each wanted to name it after themselves—”Ashley Risk Group” and “Tori Risk Group.”
Finally they said, “What about Maddie?” We had a beagle named Madison that had just passed away. I pooh-poohed it right away, and then I said: You know what? Madison has a financial ring to it. It has a strength to it. Let’s not split hairs here—let’s go with it. That’s how this Madison Risk Group came about.
I had started my insurance career right out of college working directly for an insurance carrier called Century Insurance and joined EH&D, which was a very strong top 100 brokerage based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. EH&D was what you’d call a “generalist broker,” meaning they would sell insurance to any different industry out there. They also sold personal loans and homeowners, automobile, bonding, health insurance—basically just a full service brokerage. I tended to specialize in the construction area—that’s where I gravitated to because they had a lot of resources that led themselves to insuring contractors.
Bill Burke and Zina Clayman were key members of my team at EH&D. Bill specializes and has a degree in safety from Millersville University. His role was to go out and work with our clients to make sure that their safety plans and programs were in place, ensure compliance with the contractors and general contractors and owners they’re working for, and also ensure the employees are operating safely, whether it be their vehicles or out on the job site tying off. The goal is “we want everybody going home safe at night.”
Zina Clayman is what you would call a high-level account executive. She is the brains behind the accounts. Once we bring a client in, I’m still involved as a producer—as any of our producers are—but the account executives are running the account and making sure the clients are getting everything we promise in our proposal.
In about 2000, after I’d been in the EH&D for two years, I was calling on mostly construction but all different industries, just trying to grow my book. A mentor of mine talked to me about specialization. He said, “this is a good way to distinguish yourself.” I had a lot of support from EH&D and I decided to focus just in that area and it really paid off. It gave me more opportunities with clients.
When they realize you’re a specialist, you distinguish yourself from the competition. I often use this analogy: if you had a family member who had a severe injury and it was a head injury, would your first reaction be “quick, get them to a generalist?” It’s “no, let’s get them the best specialist out there.” My goal with Madison Risk Group was becoming the best specialist in the construction space and that means building the team and the company philosophy and the product offering—a service offering to service middle market construction firms.
Our organization actually started out with four employees at first, in claims and risk control. We were very focused on providing claims and risk control, that is what distinguishes us in the manner in which we do it from our competition. So we started out with claims, risk control, sales, and account management. Today our organization has 21 employees.
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