May 29, 2017
SHOP TALK

Insurance agency logs 100 years, all on Worcester's Main Street

PHOTO/BRAD KANE
Ross Dik, president, Knight-Dik Insurance Agency, Inc.

VIEW: Insurance agency logs 100 years, all on Worcester's Main Street

Since it was founded as the Thomas Babb Insurance Agnecy in 1917, the Knight-Dik Insurance Agency has seen plenty of changes in both its industry and Worcester over those 100 years, all of which have been spent in various offices along Main Street.

How did you know this was your 100th year?

We knew roughly how old we were, but we didn't know until the fall of last year exactly how old we were, believe it or not. Unless a business owned property back in that day, it is very hard to find records. We kind of lucked out.

We found records through a business journal of Thomas Babb, when he was a financial planner and when he showed up in that diary to show when he became an insurance broker.

Then we were able to find an advertisement on eBay from 1917 to prove the date. It is interesting; someone just searched for Thomas Babb and found this caricature that was in a book. Finding something like that is just absurd. From there we tracked the Babb Agency's whereabouts. It moved a couple of times, but it was all downtown.

We found that out in November, so we had a month and a half before we realized we were entering into our 100th year.

How did you end up joining the firm?

It was my grandfather, Harold Knight, who bought the Babb Agency in 1948. He ran it as the Harold Knight Agency until my father came in, and they ran it for a couple of years before they incorporated it in 1962 as the Knight-Dik Agency.

I came aboard in May of 1981, as the third generation. My son, Chris, came in 2012 as the fourth generation.

How has Main Street changed?

I've been through a handful of attempted revitalizations of downtown and have seen more of them almost get there but get knocked back by a recession or a real estate bust.

I don't honestly think I've seen anything near as successful as what we are going through now. To me, it is the outside interest in Worcester, it is the outside interest in downtown, it is the number of restaurants, it is the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences bringing people downtown, people walking downtown early and late turning this into an 18-hour city; and then the really heavy investment like The Grid District; the breakthrough to Shrewsbury Street, which really opened up downtown; and finally having a hotel – actually two hotels – downtown because the fact that we were a city without a downtown hotel really spoke to something.

I've never seen downtown more alive. I am glad we are here and glad we are part of it.

How has the agency changed since 1981?

Geographically we are serving clients who are much further away from our base, which makes our footprint much larger. We are serving clients in a number of states.

The next change is how we do business; our technology has finally impacted our business in a positive way. Our industry is really slow in taking advantage of technology. For the longest time, we were a paper-based industry, and then we became a digital-image and a paper-based industry – not giving up one for the other – because the basis of the industry is antiquated. It took a long time for us to move past some of those requirements.

Technology initially was a downside, as we didn't get any efficiency from it because we had to do more things. It was a long, long process for that to be an advantage. Now, we can communicate faster, we can serve customers better, and we can serve customers where they are instead of being this slow, antiquated, paper-based industry that we always have been.

What will the next 100 years bring?

The future is really what we are putting a lot of focus on. Like any other business, things are changing very rapidly.

We are very comfortable with who we were and our position in the insurance industry. That has changed. We are a firm believer that growth is critical, and we need to grow bigger faster. There is a real relevance in doing that in order to access for products and services for our customers.

We are in a pretty aggressive plan to grow fast. That is exciting.

Why must you grow?

Our industry is constricting. There are a lot of buyouts, and there are fewer and fewer agencies. As that continues to happen, we know we need to be a larger player and continue to work on our uniqueness to make sure we really fit within our space in the industry.

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