You don't turn to a stranger for financial advice. You turn to someone you can trust. Someone like Ben Little of Allied Business Services in DeSoto, Texas.
"This is a relationship business," says Ben's son, Todd, a vice president in the family-held company. "Historically, people have looked to respected business men for insurance products and financial services."
Ben has long been recognized as a respected businessman, living and working in Ellis County, Texas for some 30 years.
"I began in the financial service business back in 1961, one year before I could hold a license," Ben recalls. "I worked on a temporary license for nine months, and I had to renew it three times before I could sit for my state exams."
One of seven children born to an Iowa minister, Ben struck out on his own at the age of 18, wet behind the ears to be sure, but ready to make his way in the world.
It was really God that directed me here to Texas," says Ben, a man of deep-running faith. "I was looking for something different, wanting to leave that Iowa farming community."
So he headed south and enrolled in Southwestern Assemblies of God College – a junior college at the time, now grown to a full-fledged university. After completing the school's two-year course of study, Ben transferred to North Texas State University, where he majored in psychology and economics.
"As I grew in my knowledge, education and experience of the financial and business risks of families and small businesses, I found it is more and more difficult to retain wealth," Ben says. "As our society has become more and more litigious, everyone tries to take from you what you have earned and accumulated."
This significant realization lead Ben to specialize in wealth preservation, not only from the perspective of analyzing investment risks, but from the perspective of shielding wealth from potential legal risks, including often innocent mistakes in wills and trust documents.
"Money is an earthly treasure, but in reality all of the money stays here when you're gone," explains Todd. "You leave it all right here. The handling of that money from generation to generation is a lot of what we do. The Bible says a man that fails to provide for his family is worse than an infidel, but that a man is blessed when he gives to his grandchildren. If every grandparent were to take care of his grandchildren, all would be taken care of in two generations."
Through the years, as the business has evolved from the Ben Little Agency, to Little and Associates Financial Services, and finally to Allied Business Services, the clientele has also evolved, expanding from primarily families and family businesses to include professionals and other closely held businesses.
"For example, physicians," says Ben. "I work with many doctors in helping them to protect that which they have accumulated. Many physicians today are discontinuing practice as they realize more significantly how their personal assets are at risk when trying to practice a good and wholesome service."
As a planner, adviser and counselor, Ben is conservative and careful.
"I have very specific feelings regarding the ownership of assets and specifications for investments," he says. "Investments should first be guaranteed, second provide liquidity, third return a reasonable profit, and fourth be tax efficient."
In today's murky financial waters, those are lofty goals, but possible.
"That's the way I try to structure the portfolios," Ben concludes. "But I have found in our company it's been very difficult to find, or attract, young people – other business associates of like mindedness. So many of the young financial advisers want to get rich quick."
With patience, however, Ben has added to the company's professional ranks, from certified public accountants to planners to file clerks and administrative assistants – a small but efficient group of eight individuals, including son Todd.
"From high school and all through college, I planned to be in my father's business," says Todd, a Baylor University grad who started as a summer intern at the agency during his high-school years. "I find that Dad and I are definitely on parallel tracks – if you can't respect your dad, who can you respect?"
Ben looks to Todd for detail work – in-the-trenches nitty-gritty that has to be done and has to be done right – and day-to-day face time with clients and potential clients. As mayor of Red Oak, Texas, Todd finds the client contact easy and rewarding.
"One of my assets in the business is continuing to contact our customers," he says. "What good is an agent that doesn't contact you? Not only before the sale will I be there, but after the sale."
That's the kind of service both Ben and Todd believe their customers deserve – the kind of service their customers have gotten since 1961.
"When you provide that kind of service, you don't have to make cold calls," Todd says. "Referrals are the future of our business."
The future of this company -- which both father and son say is based on the principles of God, family, and Christ-like values – looks to be as strong as its heritage.
Author: Diana Buckley