AIA HONORS AGENTS
by Brad A. Greenberg
World War II was over and George Stahlman Sr. needed a job. Glasser Bros. hired him to sweep their Los Angeles bail bonds office, but he was unsatisfied with $25 weekly paycheck and wanted a piece of the action. So in 1947 he became an agent and five years later Stahlman opened his own office in Oceanside, Calif. He signed a contract with Associated Bond and hasn’t looked back.
Stahlman is 83 now and known in the bail industry as “The King.” He owns six bail offices in San Diego County and still shows up for work six days a week, not quite ready to fully abdicate the throne to his son, George Jr.
Allegheny Casualty, International Fidelity and Associated Bond (collectively known as AIA) honored Stahlman at the Western Region Agents Conference for 58 years of writing bail for the surety company. Thirty-three other bail agents and families were recognized at the two-day conference in Santa Monica, Calif., for being with AIA for 30 years or more.
During the past six decades, Stahlman has written thousands of bond reports and worked well over 100,000 hours, posting bail for the likes of mobsters Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen. So many years later, Stahlman has a simple answer to why he’s written all that bail with AIA: “They’re the best company there is.
AIA President & CEO Brian Nairin likes to hear that. It’s something he and his crew work hard to ensure. “Success in business is largely attributed to relationships. You could have the best finance people and the best marketing people, but if you don’t have relationships and you can’t build loyalty, people won’t stay around,” Brian said. “It is something we train for here and will continue to foster. We teach our staff to respect the relationships, to go out of their way in the kind of service they provide to our agents – and it seems to work.”
During a workshop for AIA employees before the Western Region Agents Conference on April 28-29, 2006, Brian talked to his staff about the difference between staying at the Four Seasons and shacking up at Best Western. Not only are the rooms nicer at the Four Seasons, he noted, but the employees are taught to go out of their way for customers. “If you ask a person in a high-quality service business where something is, people will not only stop (and help), but they will walk you to where you need to go,” Nairin said. “We will take the time to walk our agents to where they need to go.”
Marco LiMandri, owner of Big Marco Bail Bonds in San Diego, has always been happy with the service at AIA. And he knows the best agents are too. In the past other surety companies have approached him about being their general agent for a new California operation, but such an uphill battle doesn’t interest LiMandri. “All the best agents in California have paper through AIA. I would have had to go for the secondary agents – and I didn’t want to do that,” LiMandri said.
In 53 years with AIA, Dick Smith, owner of Dick Smith Bail Bonds in Fresno, Calif., has had an enduring relationship with AIA,” Smith said of AIA. “I’ve never anticipated leaving this company. … They’re good people, good people you can rely on, you can trust.”
AIA’s legacy in the surety business began with the formation of International Fidelity in 1904. Allegheny Casualty and Associated Bond joined the scene in 1936, and in 2003 the three companies formed their alliance as industry leaders. Many clients have been with Allegheny, International or Associated for two or three generations. And AIA isn’t a company that will take every bail agent. There is a high standard that needs to be met for an agent to call themselves an AIA-man or –woman.
“Our agents nationwide are the cream of the crop,” Nairin said. “We do a very comprehensive screening of any agent before they do business with us. We don’t want to do business with any agent – we only want to do business with the best agents. We look for experience, maturity, and of course, financial solvency. We look for someone who is entrepreneurial and has a desire to be successful in their marketplace. The most important thing we are always looking is for people with a long-term view beyond making a quick buck. Our company tries to build long-term relationships and sustain them. We value loyalty and we are going to do our part to make it work.”