A Mutual on the Move

A Mutual on the Move

Jim Sanor is a man in perpetual motion.

The 58-year-old president of Sandy & Beaver Insurance Company in Lisbon, Ohio, is running practically from the moment he opens his eyes every morning.

“Some days the calls start at 6:30 a.m., and by the time I hit the office door at eight or nine o’clock, I've already talked to six or seven people,” he says.

For Sanor that’s just a necessary part of giving over 14,500 policyholders individualized attention while also running side-hustles in commercial real estate, development, philanthropy, and — not incidentally — getting in a round of golf nearly every day.


Community restoration 

“I don’t sit still very well,” he says. “I feel like every day I gotta get up and get after it. I walk around town and look at properties to see what’s available.”

That’s not merely because he’s acquisitive. It’s because his instinct is to preserve and serve his community. The very essence, in other words, of the mutual spirit.

Take his headquarters building, for instance. It’s one of the oldest buildings in Lisbon — a town founded in 1803.

When Sanor bought it, he went above and beyond to restore the building in a way authentic to its era. “I decided to re-create the original level of craftsmanship. Today, when you walk in, you feel like you're walking back in time. And I'm proud of that.”

Where it started

Sanor’s father, Leroy began his association with Sandy & Beaver in 1967, when, after a stint in the service, he began doing accounting work for many of the local businesspeople in and around Lisbon. The association expanded, Jim Sanor says, and Leroy stayed for 44 years.

When Jim Sanor asked his father if he could come to work at the company, he was told he’d have to work his way up from the basement — literally.

“The basement’s where we had the mail room,” Sanor says, laughing. “I sorted the mail and my brothers and I did some clerical work. I remember when the bills got printed, there would be five sheets each, a different color with carbon paper in between that we had to sort into individual piles and then stuff into envelopes to be sent out to customers! I also inspected property and took claims pictures for the company in the beginning.”

The agency’s reliance on bulging file cabinets and amateur photographers wasn't going to last long, however.

“Dad was ahead of his time,” Sanor says. “He saw that what was holding the business back more than anything was technology. So, he brought in an IBM 3600 mainframe and hired a full-time programmer.”

Strategy for success

It was the right move — a conclusion clearly supported by the firm’s subsequent growth.

“By the time he retired, Dad was writing about $9 million in premiums,” Sanor says.

Sanor has emulated his father’s strategy. Now, he says, “In terms of farm mutuals, I think we’re one of the largest companies in the state.”

Sanor says that Sandy & Beaver’s association with Grinnell Mutual has played a big part in his company’s recent successes.

“We started in ’06 with Grinnell Mutual,” he says. “As our relationship grew, we bought more services, which made us more profit overall, and made us more successful. Working with Grinnell Mutual has saved me a tremendous amount of money.”

Giving back

Despite the business’ growth to a statewide footprint, Sanor has never cut back on the service he offers his Lisbon community, and he spends a lot of time on local causes.

“We give back wherever we can,” he says. “We donate to the police, the sheriff, the Rotary, the Chamber — you name it. And if someone gets sick in our community, we donate to that, too.”

His community spirit also drives his daily involvement in one of the great loves of his life: golf.

“I belong to a little blue-collar golf club that wouldn’t function without guys like me donating their time to fix this or that,” he says. “Anything I’m involved in, I’m elbow deep.’