Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:32 pm
Thousands of Wisconsin businesses grapple every year with a perpetual business
conundrum. Should they limit their focus to their core business, or should they explore new opportunities in other industries to maximize their revenue potential? Certainly, one answer does not fit all. In the case of Mike and John Ansay, they are going for it.
The easiest option would be for the Ansay brothers to restrict their focus on running A.N. Ansay & Associates Inc., the family-owned insurance business they bought from their father, Adolph Nicholas Ansay, in the early 1980s.
After all, keeping up with the growth of the insurance company is enough of a challenge, as the firm has blossomed from a small agency in 1946 to an enterprise with annual premiums of more than $70 million and 90 employees today.
"Our goal is, every five to seven years, to double our operations," said Mike Ansay, president of A.N. Ansay & Associates. "We want to have a statewide distribution network, that’s the vision. In the last five years, we’ve more than doubled (our revenues). We’ve had a consistent (annual) growth rate of 15 to 16 percent."
However, the Ansays aren’t standing pat.
In addition to A.N. Ansay & Associates, the Ansay brothers have launched four other companies: A.N. Ansay Real Estate; TRA, a 401(k) administration company; Health Data Services, a health discount networking company; and Pinnacle Fitness, a wellness and fitness company.
"We’re going to continue to diversify and find other opportunities (to start more companies)," said John Ansay, the vice president of the flagship insurance firm who also serves as the president and chief executive officer of the TRA and Health Data Services businesses. "Once you start developing these other companies, they open you up to other avenues."
The insurance business remains the focal point, around which the other companies revolve.
A.N. Ansay & Associates is an independent insurance agency that offers insurance solutions for consumers and businesses, including commercial property and casualty insurance, employee benefits, personal insurance and workers compensation. A.N. Ansay represents dozens of insurance companies and tries to match up its clients with the services that will best suit their needs.
"We’ve aligned ourselves with key relationships with our insurance carriers," Mike Ansay said. "We represent many different companies, and sell their products. Those key relationships bring us more opportunities in the sense of product development and ideas."
The firm also offers business solutions services for its clients, including consulting services, business seminars, a preferred vendors program and a safety and loss control program.
A.N. Ansay created an online product to help clients with human resources issues such as hiring, firing and discrimination.
"They always say ignorance (is no excuse for not obeying) the law, that no matter what you do, you are responsible as a businessperson," Mike Ansay said. "But the problem is as a small businessperson, or a mid-size or whatever, you don’t necessarily have that wealth of knowledge (about the law). So when you get into issues and concerns, you call key people. You call your banker or your lawyer or your insurance professional. We want to elevate our service in a way that we are considered to be called first when you have a problem. That’s where the concept of relationships that work comes from. When you really need help, that’s the true test of a business relationship."
John Ansay said the brothers’ work in the insurance business has educated them about additional business opportunities.
Because the health insurance industry is rife with inefficiencies, John Ansay is determined to find opportunities to create more products and new companies that will improve efficiencies and reduce costs.
"We continue to pay higher and higher health insurance costs," he said. "There are some efficiencies that can drive down those costs for everybody. It’s an amazing thing. There’s so many middle men involved. It’s amazing what can be done. It’s just a matter of improving efficiency and getting the right people in the right place."
"The insurance business has been and still is our No. 1 business," Mike Ansay said. "Our goal is to grow it. We’re one of the top 10 percent in size (in the nation). So we’re not a little player, we’re a big player. By revenue we’re one of the top ones in the region."
The Port Washington-based insurance company also has offices in Green Bay, Campbellsport and West Bend. Most of the firm’s customers are in Wisconsin, especially in the southeast portion of the state.
Mike Ansay plans to grow the business and increase its market share in the state.
"We opened the Green Bay office two years ago and it has been very successful," he said. "The people up there are doing a wonderful job. Our West Bend office has done very well. We are looking to go to different locations throughout the state."
Recently, A.N. Ansay & Associates added a new program called Health Solutions Ltd., a wellness program to help clients improve the health of their employees. More businesses are investing in wellness in hopes that their employees will become healthier and go to the doctor less often, thereby reducing health insurance claims and costs.
Under the Health Solutions program, A.N. Ansay performs a confidential health assessment evaluation of the health risks of each employee. The program provides coaching on how employees can lead healthier lifestyles. The business owners are then encouraged to use deductibles, health savings accounts and other approaches that provide incentives for their employees to stay healthy and avoid going to the doctor.
A.N. Ansay has had success in using employee wellness initiatives to keep its own health care costs down.
About two years ago, the Ansay brothers created Pinnacle Fitness to provide a facility its employees can use to exercise and improve their health in downtown Port Washington.
"We did that investment two years ago, and we’ve made great strides," Ansay said. "Right now, I think our (employee) participation is somewhere around 80 percent. Since we’ve implemented this, we’ve noticed our health care costs are a lot more manageable."
Meanwhile, the Ansays are doing more than just dabbling in real estate. They own sprawling parcels of farmland and several buildings in Ozaukee County.
"My father always said the best investment in the world was owning land in Ozaukee County," Mike Ansay said. "With the success we’ve had, we’ve been able to purchase land and hold it. The opportunities that have presented themselves in development have just started to show up more and more in the last 10 years. Growth pressure is coming this way."
The Ansays were anchors in Ozaukee County long before urban sprawl. The Ansay family emigrated to the United States in the 1800s from Luxembourg.
"My grandfather settled here farming. So, there’s really a tie to the land," Mike Ansay said.
The Ansay brothers are proud of their Luxembourg heritage. So proud, in fact, that A.N. Ansay is partnering with the nation of Luxembourg to build a 15,000- to 20,000-square-foot museum in Ozaukee County to celebrate the heritage of Americans whose families emigrated from the small European country.
Luxembourg has committed 200,000 Euro toward the $3 million project. The museum will open in 2007 to coincide with a year-long European celebration of immigration. The museum will be attached to an old barn, which will be relocated to the as-yet-to-be-determined museum site.
"We’re the developer that is going to help make it a reality," Ansay said. "We’re still working on the site selection. It will either be in Belgium or Port Washington."
The museum will educate people about the heritage of Americans from Luxembourg. Like their businesses, the Ansays hope the museum will build relationships and commerce for Ozaukee County.
"It’s all about these relationships that can turn into travel," Mike Ansay said. "It’s about business relationships. It’s that connectivity. It’s about people."
OWNERS: President Mike Ansay and vice president John Ansay
Product: Insurance services
Headquarters: 101 E. Grand Ave., Port Washington
Number of employees: 90
Web page: www.ansay.com
Other businesses: A.N. Ansay Real Estate; TRA, a 401(k) administration provider; Health Data Services, a health discount networking firm; Pinnacle Fitness.
The Ansay real estate portfolio
A.N. Ansay Real Estate is working on several development projects in Ozaukee County, including:
¥ Blank’s Crossing, a residential project in the Town of Grafton being co-developed with Waukesha-based The Redmond Co. The 157-acre property at Highway L and Falls Road, will have 48 home sites. About 90 acres of the property will be preserved as open space, including the Ulao Creek watershed.
¥ A residential and commercial development on the west side of Saukville on Highway 33. The 187-acre property will have 140 single-family homes, 18 duplexes and six commercial lots.
¥ A conservation subdivision with 63 single family home sites, senior housing, 13 to 14 duplexes and a 13.7-acre business park on Highway LL on the northeast side of Port Washington.
¥ An industrial park in Belgium, called Team Belgium Business Park. In an effort to stimulate economic development in the small village, the land in the business park is donated to businesses who move into it. The Ansays say they are providing the land as a way to help improve their hometown, and a community where they do business and have developed other properties.
"The concept is that by doing this, long term we are going to create an industrial base for the community that’s going to help manage taxes," said Mike Ansay. "It also helps bring jobs to the community, so that we have a total opportunity for the people that live in Belgium to be employed there."
¥ A corporate office park east of Interstate 43 in Saukville. The office park could include a future home for A.N. Ansay’s headquarters. However, construction of the office park is being held up by some "development issues," Ansay said.
¥ A.N. Ansay also developed the mixed-use Harbor Square development in downtown Port Washington. The firm’s offices are located in the building, along with condominiums and some retail space. The A.N. Ansay office features a deck with a view of Lake Michigan.
Not all of the Ansays’ land is being developed. They still farm some of it, raising crops such as wheat and soybeans.
"We were raised around that," Ansay said. "My dad farmed the land also, even when he ran a bank (the Belgium branch of Port Washington State Bank) and had an insurance company."
December 10, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI