It was a personal connection that led to his first role in insurance, as he got to know a director at Swinton Insurance through a mutual interest in horses which, in turn, led to a role at the business when he left school. From there, he moved to the AA and later on to running a branch for a provincial insurance broker. It was then that he realised that running his own business was something he was more than capable of doing, Booth said, and so, at the tender age of 24, he and a friend decided to set up their own firm.
“We had nothing,” he said. “We only had £5,000 each, but we had bags of determination and drive and enthusiasm. So, we took the plunge and started Premier and that was 31 years ago… We thought we could take on the world, so we just went for it. And it’s probably different the older you get because you have more to risk – but when you’re young and single, there’s not a lot to lose and you don’t want to live your life with regrets.”
There are no regrets necessary for Booth as though the business started without a client to its name, Premier quickly developed a niche specialism in the concrete industry. That too came about through the development of a strong personal connection, he said, as not long after the firm started, he was recommended to a client who invited him out to assess his business’s volumetric batching unit.
“Well, it’s not an offer you get every day, so I went out to take a look,” he said. “I got on really well with the guy, who’s actually still in the business some 30 odd years later and I decided to help him because he was struggling with his insurance. So, I looked at what he needed, took it away and broke it all down and put it together in a slightly different way.
“And he absolutely loved it – it was better coverage and miles cheaper, but it was more the fact that I’d taken the time to understand what he wanted. He became a massive fan, and he would tell anyone who would listen that they needed to go and see Premier, that we were the specialists in this. That’s really what started our specialism because it ignited an interest and a passion in me for this sector.”
That has remained with him, Booth said – bolstered by the opportunities that working in this niche area have given him to see the industry from every angle and rub shoulders with the lively characters that make it up. It’s great to have a chance to be out with the operators in their trucks, to explore the unique challenges they face and to determine the unique requirements they have for protection.
“Having that specialism is great because people really value that meeting of minds,” he said. “You both tend to respect each other’s unique skill set a little bit more. And they appreciate what you do and the fact that you can talk the talk with them and that you understand their world a little bit. I think that there’s a lot of comfort in that.”
Personal relationships have been the touchstone of every step along Booth’s insurance journey and he noted it is the people he has met along the way that have kept his enthusiasm for the profession alive. He paid credit to the team at Premier and their professionalism and comradeship.
“We’ve built this from nothing and provided employment for people and seen people’s careers develop, and mentored and nurtured people along the way,” he said. “I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be capable of doing that. And I love my clients, I love meeting them and hearing their stories and seeing how their businesses have been created, and the unique challenges that they face. It makes you realise that, at the end of the day, we’re all facing the same challenges and there are so many parallels between every business and the issues they face on a day-to-day basis.”
Last, but certainly not least, Booth said, he really appreciates the relationships he has been able to foster with underwriters throughout his career, particularly when that has meant going out to meet them and having a chat in person, something that has become more difficult in recent times.
It was this emphasis on partnerships and strong relationships that also led to Premier’s recent acquisition, which saw it become part of the Aston Lark family, he said. The deal came about almost by accident as the Premier team had fielded many requests to sell over the years – but before the request came in from Aston Lark, Booth had always ignored them. However, when he spoke to Peter Blanc, he was struck by the difference in the group’s approach to acquisition and the opportunities that the partnership would bring.
“I remember coming off the phone after talking to Peter, who’s such a great guy,” Booth said. “And he just spoke so passionately about his business and his company and its ethos, and how he treated his staff and his clients, and you couldn’t help but get swept up in that.
“And then when I started to look into them a little bit further, I realised that, ‘Wow, this is a collection of brokers that have all got a niche, that have all got individual specialisms’ and something just felt so right about it, it felt like home. So, I just went with my gut instinct, and it couldn’t have been any better, it couldn’t have gone any better. It has been a fabulous process to go through.”