June 8, 2009 | last updated March 24, 2012 1:50 pm

All's Fair At Fair & Yeager | Family Business Honoree | Category: Fewer than 25 employees

Photo/Edd Cote
Fair & Yeager, 10 Main Street, Natick 01760 Pictured from left to right are: Michael J. Fair, David G. Fair and Arthur B. Fair III.

A bum knee, rather than a fixation with actuarial tables, was what motivated Arthur B. "Artie" Fair III to work at Fair & Yeager, the family insurance business that has operated in Natick since 1898.

"I got a C in insurance," he said of his inauspicious academic introduction to the industry at Providence College. "But after I graduated, I had knee surgery and was sitting around all summer with nothing going on, except I was reading all the insurance books around the house." He decided to take the licensing exam, passed it, and found that he had an affinity for the profession.

"I love the interaction with people, and I love the business."

Solidly Insured

Artie, now 51 and on the board of directors of the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents (MAIA), joined Fair & Yeager in 1979 and has served as president since 1995. He works alongside his brother David, 52, who previously was employed by Sun Life and now heads up the agency's life and health divisions, and his brother Michael, 41, a sales executive who entered the firm in 2003. Their father, Arthur B. Fair Jr., 82, is still actively involved in the business as chairman.

Three generations of Fairs have sold insurance on Main Street in Natick, beginning in 1914, when paterfamilias Arthur B. Fair was a senior at Natick High School and started working part-time at F.E. Yeager & Co.

He eventually became a partner in the business and spent part of his working hours there and part at his other job as a bank president. Arthur Jr. and his brother Robert joined the firm in the 1950s, and during the following decade the company acquired three other insurance agencies.

The firm moved to the current Main Street location in 1962, and opened a South Natick branch in 2007. (John Yeager, the founder's son, sold his interest in the firm in 1978, but the Fairs retained the Yeager name.)

Natick has been good to the Fair family, and the family and its employees have been good to Natick by giving the town countless hours of service and significant financial contributions.

Most Natick residents likely are aware of Fair & Yeager's high profile in town, whether it's as a team participant in the Relay for Life or as the sponsor of a Little League team, or as a benefactor for the MetroWest YMCA, the Natick Center of Performing Arts, the Natick Service Council, and the town's summer concert series, to name just a few organizations that have benefited from the agency's largesse.

To celebrate its centennial in 1998, the agency gave a $500 grant to each school in the town. The Natick Education Foundation recognized Fair & Yeager in 2008 with its Shining Light Award for support of public education.

"The Fair family has been enthusiastic and supportive of their community for generations," said Natick Selectman Josh Ostroff. "As volunteers, donors, sponsors and leaders they set a great example of corporate citizenship."

Michael explained that it's all very well to achieve such 21st-century goals as a paperless office, but, he noted, "We attract loyal customers through being involved with a ton of stuff in the community, like Gramp was." He went on to say that employee loyalty is a key to their success.

Loyalists

Several employees have worked at the agency for 30 years or more. David added that a loyal customer base means that the children and in-laws of those customers are apt to be loyal, too.

For the Fairs, who are a close-knit crew who get together frequently, the challenges of running a family-owned company come from outside the family, not within. Insurance is about managing risk, and ever-changing laws and trends dictate that the agency's employees keep up through classes and certifications, which the firm pays for.

The independent agency sells all types of policies, and they make a point of maintaining an expertise in all fields of insurance. The current value of premiums the office writes exceeds $15 million.

Most of their customers prefer to remain uninformed about the details of their policies.

"It's a family business, and that's great, but you've got to do the dance day to day," said Artie. "Customers are looking for us to advise them. John and Joan public don't want to think about insurance. They buy it, but they don't want to know about it."

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