Mission Matters | Eric Stolly

The insurance industry might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about family legacies and traditions, but for Eric Stolly and his family, it’s a deeply ingrained part of their history and identity. Eric Stolly, a 2010 graduate of Defiance College, is a fifth-generation insurance professional with a strong commitment to his family’s agency, Stolly Insurance Group. With over a century of experience and a tradition of excellence, this family-owned agency serves a wide range of clients, providing property and casualty insurance and life and health programs that prioritize transparency, reliability, and consistency. 

Eric’s journey into the family business was not a foregone conclusion but his generation was told by the previous that if they had an interest in learning about the industry, the door was open. His great-great-grandfather, A.A. Stolly, founded the agency back in 1904 in the back of a butcher’s shop. Today, Stolly Insurance Group operates in five locations across Ohio, and they’ve transitioned through five generations, thriving as a family-owned and operated business. This lineage of insurance professionals is truly remarkable and reflects a unique commitment to the industry. 

What does it mean to be part of such a legacy? With approximately 15 Stolly sons, brothers, cousins, and second cousins actively involved in the agency, maintaining family dynamics while running a successful business can be a delicate balancing act. Eric says the family considers the agency as another family member, a metaphorical “big brother” to whom they remain accountable. This helps ensure fairness and accountability in their decision-making processes. They ask themselves the question, “If big brother is looking down on this, would he be okay with it?” This guiding principle is the baseline for how they want to do things.  

As with any family business, there are challenges too. The expansion of Stolly Insurance Group and the inclusion of more family members necessitates making ever more numerous decisions. The threat of souring family dynamics is always present, and they are very conscientious about maintaining strong family bonds outside of the agency. Eric shares that the family “leaves work at work,” and try not to talk business during family time. The Stollys acknowledge the importance of maintaining fairness and transparency as the agency grows. 

Apart from the significant presence of Stolly family members in the company, the agency has been fortunate to have a considerable number of outstanding, dedicated staff who have remained with the organization for an extended period. This includes several generations of non-Stollys, all of whom have made valuable contributions to the company’s sustained success. Among them is Jon Wade, a longtime Partner, whose mother and grandmother worked in the company before him, and Julie Jordan, who has dedicated over four decades to the agency, following in the footsteps of her mother. Many more employees have left a lasting imprint on the organization, helping to establish the family-like work culture. 

Eric’s journey into the insurance industry is one of gradual evolution. He always knew he would be involved in the insurance business in some capacity, having started working at the family agency at a young age. He was cutting grass at the office at 10 years old and worked as the janitor as a teen, emptying trash and washing dishes. While in college, he majored in Business Administration. His internships provided the doorway to the insurance world, and he gained hands-on experience in various aspects of the business, from personal and commercial lines to claims, marketing, HR, and accounting. 

After college, Eric continued his journey with Motorists Insurance Group, where he worked as a lead commercial underwriter and an inside claims adjuster. This experience gave him valuable insights into the intricacies of insurance coverage, claims handling, and underwriting, which continue to serve him well in his role as an independent insurance agent and advisor. 

After spending four years with Motorists, content with his work and life in Columbus, he was presented with an opportunity. The turning point arrived when the owners of Grafmiller & Davis Insurance sought retirement. Proactively, the Stolly uncles and Eric’s father approached Eric and brother, Pat, about buying the agency and launching a Stolly branch in Westerville. It was a bold leap into the unknown, marked by uncertainty. While they had the support, resources, strong carrier relationships, and a great team from the established Lima agency, the Stolly name was unfamiliar in central Ohio. This endeavor presented an opportunity to create something from the ground up. Eric’s primary task was to cultivate a client base seeking an agency that truly delivered on its promises. The foundation provided by the existing agency proved invaluable, and for a while, agents from Grafmiller & Davis remained on board, with cousins Joel and Austin also joining the journey. 

The risk paid off. Today, Eric’s focus is on helping a diverse range of clients, from companies seeking property and casualty insurance programs to individuals and families in need of coverage. His extensive experience as a claims adjuster and commercial underwriter sets him apart, equipping him with a unique knowledge of various industry segments and insurance coverages. 

When asked for advice for the next generation of independent agents, Eric Stolly reflects on his own journey. He notes that he’s transitioning from being the “next generation” himself and has learned invaluable lessons along the way. To guide newer agents, he recommends a multi-pronged approach. First, he emphasizes the importance of self-investment, suggesting that they take on challenging courses to enhance their knowledge and skills, both professionally and personally. Secondly, Eric advises aspiring agents to seek wisdom from experienced industry professionals, those they admire and aim to emulate. This, he points out, requires proactively putting themselves in the right environments to build such relationships. Finally, Eric underscores the normality of making mistakes, emphasizing that nobody is perfect and mistakes are an opportunity for growth. He encourages young agents to manage their emotions and expectations, maintaining a steady course and trusting in their long-term vision, even when faced with setbacks, in order to stay motivated and maintain a positive perspective. This mix of education, mentorship, and resilience is a recipe for success in the insurance industry. 

In a fast-paced world, Eric Stolly wants his clients, both current and potential, to know one essential thing about him and his agency: their commitment to top-notch service. Eric understands the frustration that comes with poor service, where clients feel like just another number, struggling to get in touch or receiving inadequate responses. He believes in exceeding expectations when it comes to providing outstanding service. The Stolly Insurance Group’s dedication to going the extra mile is a fundamental principle. Eric points out that even when there might be seemingly more competitive products or solutions available, the real cost can be hidden in the lack of service. This emphasizes the agency’s unwavering focus on ensuring clients get the service they deserve for their hard-earned money. 

Eric has been an active volunteer, including serving on OIA’s Finance & Budget committee since 2022 and the Governance Committee for several years prior to that. “Volunteering with the OIA keeps me rejuvenated and optimistic about our industry as a whole.” His tenure has afforded him opportunities to network with the best in the business, exchange ideas, and mutually improve, all with the ultimate aim of ensuring that, when the day is done, clients are more informed, enjoy enhanced protection, and receive superior service compared to alternative distribution channels. He highlights the importance of educating the public about what an independent agent can offer. “Insurance is such a massive, largely complex, and polarizing industry and it can be perceived way differently than what reality is by the normal person.”  

He’s also currently serving on the Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce board of trustees. “Our local chamber has allowed me to dive headfirst into our local area as a volunteer leader.” Eric appreciates the opportunity to establish connections and build relationships, but says, “at the end of the day the more important thing is that the community in which we live and work is better off because of the people that volunteer and give back within it.”   

Stolly Insurance Group upholds a set of eight core values that they aim to live by each day. These values include Education, Professionalism, Ethics, Service, Humility, Hard Work, a Family-like Culture, and Fun. Among these values, Eric resonates most with Ethics, Hard Work, and Education. He believes Ethics often doesn’t receive the attention it deserves in the industry, emphasizing its importance for conducting business with integrity, building trust, and making the right decisions in any situation. Eric also places significant value on a strong work ethic, as he sooner or later your customer will see the lack of effort and will find someone else to work with. Additionally, he advocates education as a distinct edge in the industry. “I’ve always thought about this as a competitive advantage in our field. Education allows you to become a better version of yourself every time you acquire useful knowledge that you can then share with others. It also builds confidence in finding better solutions and making recommendations as a professional.”

Away from the agency, Eric enjoys an active life. He and his wife, Katie, will celebrate their 10th anniversary next summer, having met in college. They established a home in New Albany in 2015 and their time together is what he treasures most. Eric and Katie, who works at Ohio State University, love living in the Columbus area and enjoy frequent get-togethers with friends, dining out, and exploring various cities for quick getaways. Eric has a passion for sports and played basketball all four years during his college days. His former teammates have transitioned into coaching high school or Division III teams and he catches those games whenever possible. You’ll also find him on the golf course and more recently, the bowling alley. He’s also a staunch supporter of the Cleveland Browns and Ohio State. 

Eric’s mom hails from Bogota, Colombia – she crossed paths with Eric’s dad during their college days here in the US. Initially, they contemplated returning to Colombia before starting a family, but a twist of fate intervened. Eric’s grandfather invited his father to return to Lima to work at the agency, and they decided to make it their home. In a stroke of excellent timing, in February 2020, just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, they had the chance to reconnect with family in Colombia. Those family ties are deeply important to Eric and his wife, and with numerous nieces and nephews, they relish their roles as Aunt Katie and Uncle Eric.  

Eric Stolly’s path in the insurance world, rooted in family heritage and strong core values, highlights how being ethical, putting in the effort, and keeping the learning curve steep can take you far. It’s about far more than just business for Eric – he’s all about giving back to his community and cherishing his family, making his story a real-life example of how insurance success is about principles, hard work, and a true love for serving people, both clients and the community. 

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