It was a day that Sarah Washburn will never forget. A North Miami church was engulfed in flames, while her clients stood by her side watching their place of worship burn. The four-alarm fire had ignited on the roof around 2:30 p.m. Inside, staff and children were going about their daily routines. Fortunately, everyone was quickly evacuated. However, the fire, which was sparked during a roofing repair, was not easily extinguished. Flames were trapped between two layers of roofing, where they could not be dowsed.
“Unexpected events like this put your insurance coverage to test,” Sarah says. “You just have to hope that your insurance agency has done its job well.”
In this case, the building was a total loss, but the church’s insurance coverage performed exactly as intended, and the claim was paid without complications. Thankfully, just six months earlier, church leaders had followed Sarah’s recommendations, allowing her to adjust their coverage and increase their limits.
As the President of Wilson, Washburn and Forster (WWF) Insurance, Sarah and her team strive to deliver an exceptional level of service to every client – throughout the policy year. “With some agencies, you renew your policy and see them again next year. Not us. When we sell you a policy, our service has just started,” she says.
This focus on world class service isn’t new. In fact, it started way back in 1961 with the original founder, Walter D. Wilson. Tom Washburn joined the firm in 1989, and Richard Forster joined in 1992. It was then that the agency finally became known as Wilson, Washburn and Forster Insurance.
Doing it Right
Tom says the from the beginning, the WWF culture was built on “telling the truth, doing it right, specializing and writing it down.”
He recalls that in 1992, Hurricane Andrew was an incredible situation – yet another time when coverage was put to the test. “We worked hard to take care of our customers and in the end, virtually all of them were happy with how their claims were handled,” he says.
Over the years, the team learned together, grew together and celebrated together. The partners cultivated an environment of trust and collaboration, and many employees have stayed with the company for decades.
Martha Careaga is one of the originals. She joined WWF in 1982 as the Personal Lines Account Manager and Commercial Lines Trainee. Like many other people at WWF, she says she was drawn to the family-oriented nature of the agency. She is still with WWF today, 39 years later.
Jacob Lopez is another long-time team member who’s stayed for more than 20 years. He joined WWF in 1997, when he was still in high school, as part of a part-time work experience program. Now Jacob is an Account Executive.
Jacob loves a lot of things about WWF, especially knowing that WWF leaders are there for him. “If you have any challenges, their doors are open, and they’ll help you figure it out,” he says.
Now retired, Richard still stops by the office occasionally, and he notes that the atmosphere is just as wonderful as he remembers. “Both clients and team members stay with WWF because there’s such a strong feeling of trust,” he says.
Tom agrees. He believes that the secret to WWF’s success is its dedication to quality and service to people. “Price is important, but it isn’t the most important,” he explains. “Having the right coverage and taking care of people are the highest priorities.”
Passing the Torch
Tom’s daughter, Sarah joined the company in 2004. After finishing her education and pursuing a career elsewhere for a few years, Tom finally convinced her to come to WWF. “She was a natural. It wasn’t long until she was contributing new ideas,” Tom says.
In 2017, she became full owner and President.
“Dad was my mentor,” Sarah says. “He taught me a lot of what I know, sent me to insurance and leadership classes and guided my way.”
Tom couldn’t be prouder of his youngest daughter. “I think she’s better at this than I was and I feel wonderful about that,” he says.
Now, Sarah wants to help other succeed at WWF, and she focuses on mentorship and a positive, supportive environment to make that happen. “I’m trying to populate our industry with well-rounded, honest producers who care about the best interest of the customers,” she says.
Operations Manager, Vikki Sims sums up the personality of the agency in three words: “Innovative, dedicated and forward-thinking.”
Sarah, Vikki and others have worked together to instill their values into everything they do – from book club and morning Zoom meetings to flexible work schedules, mentorship and incentives.
Just like the leaders before them, they ensure the team has plenty of opportunities for camaraderie and fun. One of Vikki’s favorite memories is team building at the Tanah Keeta Boy Scout Camp in Jupiter a few years ago.
The agency’s culture of collaboration was evident during a recent technology upgrade. “Everyone is helping everyone else,” Maria Delgadillo says, describing how teamwork and camaraderie have made it a much more positive experience than it could have been. “We all are excited to learn and help.”
Maria started out as a receptionist in 2005. Since then, she’s worked her way up to the commercial lines team lead. “It’s wonderful to work for a place managed by women,” she says.
Camila Olivares, a Risk Management Advisor, agrees. She’s worked at WWF for about five years. “What caught my attention was that so many staff members had been there 20 to 30 years,” she says. “When more than half the staff has stayed so long, it has to be a good thing. All signs pointed to something great.”
Philip Yanan, a Producer who has worked with WWF since 2001, describes his experience at the agency as challenging, rewarding and interesting. “I wouldn’t work anywhere else. It’s the best agency in town,” he says.
Protecting Clients, the World Class Way
WWF’s “World Class Way” is a proprietary method of service that extends far beyond the typical commercial insurance transaction. “Our goal is to get clients the best return on their insurance dollar, and to do so, you have to really dig into the details, or you’ll do it wrong,” Sarah says.
She explains that a big reason clients partner with WWF is because they have an innovative way of thinking about insurance programs and a unique six-step process that involves ongoing conversations to help clients achieve best-in-class risk management.
Over the past 60 years, WWF has earned a strong reputation for doing the right thing, telling the truth and operating in the best interest of its clients. They’re the people you want on your side – the experienced team that ensures your coverage performs as intended – on those unexpected days you never forget.