By Ryan Hager, Assistant Vice President – Commercial Lines
It was your typical Florida morning in the month of August. It was so hot and humid that when you left the safety of the air-conditioned car, the heat hit you like a wall. It was only 7 a.m., and that was not a good sign of what the weather had in store for the rest of the day. For two weeks every August, I would have this daily battle with Mother Nature as I attended camp at the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance. For the entire year leading up to it, I would look forward to the golf camp. Just as important, was getting to stay the two weeks with my grandparents and spending quality time together.
Just like we had every morning, my grandfather was driving me up I-95 to Port St. Lucie where I had eight hours of working on my golf game ahead of me. My grandfather always preached the importance of being early, no matter what. This meant that we left every morning around 7:10 a.m. to drive to a facility twenty minutes away for a camp that didn’t start until 8 a.m. If you tried telling him that this was a little over-the-top, then he would leave a whopping five minutes later. Like every other sixteen-year-old, I would struggle getting up in the morning and wanted to wait until the very last millisecond to get up and leave. This morning was no different than any other morning, I was half asleep in the car ride to camp; what I didn’t realize was that I was about to have a conversation that would change my entire life.
At this point in my life, I lived and breathed golf. I was the first one on the course and the last one off. During the frigid Jersey winters, I would set up a net in my garage and hit at least 300 balls a day. As a result of my passion for the game, I was interested in seeking a career in the golf industry as a teaching professional. It may not have been the most stable career choice, or one that would have provided me with the best quality of life, but nevertheless it was the path I was set on taking.
We had just turned onto I-95 when my grandfather looked over at me and asked that I promise him one thing: give JGS a shot. After all, he began his role as President of JGS in 1962 where he stayed for over 34 years! My grandfather spent a career pitching JGS to clients and industry professionals, and on this summer day, he was now making the pitch to his grandson. He discussed the ability to work with my family, the endless opportunities, and the chance to be a part of something great. The request was simple. I didn’t have to force myself into a career that made me miserable; rather, just work at my family’s business for a summer and consider it as a viable career path. One thing was made clear from the beginning: no matter what decision I made, I would always have his support behind me. Eight months later, I walked into JGS for the first time as a summer intern. Much has changed since my grandfather was President; JGS has grown from a handful of employees to over eighty; we have been recognized by our peers as a top-100 brokerage in the country; and we continue to innovate our practices. However, there are some things that have not changed at JGS. We are still a family-owned business in an industry that has been dominated by the big guys acquiring the independent voice.
This year I will mark my fifth year at JGS, and even though my grandfather is no longer with us, I still feel his influence every single day. I am honored to be able to work with one of his former clients, a client for whom he and my father traveled to Maryland every summer to present their insurance renewal. Last year’s annual drive was different, for the first time it was myself and my father driving down to Maryland to present that long-time client’s insurance renewal. When I think back to that day I can’t help but think about that one sunny day in August with my grandfather that changed my life.