Before the duck, there were brothers
Published 10:47 pm Tuesday, August 11, 2015
There is a very iconic company founded in Alabama that has made state, southern, national and international history. It is an insurance corporation known as Aflac.
Aflac is one of the greatest success stories in American business lore. Although it is headquartered on Alabama’s border in Columbus, Ga., we in Alabama claim it as our own because its origins are in Coffee County, Ala. Indeed, Alabama has always had the highest number of policyholders per capita within the tremendous Aflac clientele base.
Growing up in Alabama it seemed that everyone I knew owned an American Family Life Cancer policy. From the beginning of the company they had a reputation for paying their claims like Roscoe. Their remarkable reputation for paying claims instantly and without reservation spread by word of mouth throughout the state and region. Word of mouth is still the best form of advertising, even if you have an iconic duck.
Aflac truly enjoyed a stellar reputation in the Heart of Dixie. That reputation of superlative claim service still prevails with the company. I saw this legendary claim service first hand when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She had numerous American Family Cancer policies. A lady named Maggie Allen had sold everybody in Pike County a policy or two. It seemed like my mother received a check a day for years without ever filling out a claim form.
Aflac was founded 60 years ago in Enterprise. The founding fathers were three brothers with the last name of Amos. The oldest brother, John Amos, formed the insurance company in 1955. He was a lawyer and a visionary. He is responsible for expanding the company and turning it into the major insurer in Japan.
Bill Amos was the middle brother. He was the nuts and bolts inside man. He was the operations guy who knew how to keep company costs down even while growing exponentially.
Paul Amos was the younger brother. Paul was the salesman. He pioneered a unique selling technique. While most insurers sold policies individually, Paul improvised the idea of cluster selling at worksites. Instead of making presentations to individuals, the Aflac sales representatives went to companies and made sales pitches to groups of employees. Today most of Aflac’s United States policies are bought through payroll deductions.
In 1964, the company changed their official name to the American Family Life Assurance Company and in 1969 it adopted the acronym Aflac. A few years later they went to one of the top advertising agencies in New York to make a significant national ad buy. They came up with the duck that quacks the word “Aflac.” It has become the company’s famous and humorous symbol. It has made Aflac one of, if not the best known insurance companies in the world.
Paul Amos started his career as the sales manager for Alabama. Aflac has continued this practice of making an Amos the director of sales for Alabama and the panhandle of Florida. It has become a tradition that an Amos ancestor will eventually rise to the top of the ladder at the company. However, their first job is as a salesman in Alabama.
Paul Amos passed away last year at 88. His son, Dan Amos, is Aflac’s chairman and CEO. Dan Amos has been at the helm of Aflac for over two decades. He has overseen remarkable growth and profitability. He has moved Aflac into a worldwide leader in the insurance industry. Aflac today has grown into a giant that insures more than 50 million people and has $121 billion in assets. It has 185,000 agents nationwide.
That is not bad for a trio of good old far-reaching and big-thinking Alabama boys. Even as big as John Amos dreamed, it is doubtful that even he could have imagined the magnitude of what he and his brothers, Bill and Paul, started 60 years ago in Enterprise, Ala.
If the Amos brothers were alive today, they would be proud of their company and also proud that an Amos still runs their company – quite admirably by the way.
Steve Flowers is a former state representative. His column appears in a number of Alabama newspapers.