Family Heritage Life Insurance Co. of America got its start when Howard Lewis left his high-paying corporate position to work on fulfilling his long-time dream of owning a business.
He was not alone, either, having convinced a few others to join him on his quest to find the financial resources necessary to make his vision a reality.
We sort of jumped out of the airplane, says Lewis, company president. We went from a senior corporate executive position with all the perks that go with that sort of career, and suddenly we were paying the bills, and if it got done, we had to do it.
Lewis and a handful of other managers banded together to build the new business. The biggest factors in his decision to invest his time and resources in a start-up were his desire to have an equity position in a company and his desire to provide that same opportunity for all of his employees.
We were at a company where we didnt have an equity position, explains Lewis. We were building the business and we were well paid, but we didnt have an equity position. Our dream was to create a business where everybody would have an opportunity to own stock in the company and be part of what they were building.
The Southwestern Co. supplied Lewis with $3 million and extended a line of credit of $14 million to get Family Heritage off the ground. However, that show of support did not come before more than 18 months of due diligence on the part of Southwestern. Ten years later, Family Heritage boasts assets approaching $75 million and cumulative net profits in excess of $21 million.
Lewis recalls the companys early days, which often entailed 100 hour work weeks, an entrepreneurs basic training, of sorts.
Its kind of like, you wouldnt take a million for the experience, but they couldnt give you a million dollars to do it again, jokes Lewis. Youre looking at a lot of 100 hour weeks, but the joy of the business is the opportunity it offers for the people who affiliate with us.
Lewis believes the main driver of the companys success has been his ability to give ordinary people the responsibility and stake in the company that push them to create extraordinary results. He says it is one of his favorite things about being an entrepreneur.
We believe we are a company where a persons true potential will rise to the top and they can be everything that they can be. Man, woman, without regard to religion, race or creed, says Lewis.
When you see people come in here who were making $20,000 to $25,000 a year, who are now making in excess of $100,000 a year and have a significant shareholder stake there is a joy and an excitement in that. How to reach: Family heritage Life Insurance Co. of America, (216) 520-2800
Jim Vickers (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an associate editor at SBN Cleveland.