Budish Insurance Services:  Our Business Partner of the Month

Jim Budish walks into the Starbucks in shorts, flip flops and a UCLA baseball cap.  It’s 3:30 on a Wednesday afternoon, a time when most people in his line of work are wearing suits and shiny shoes.  That he gets to dress like a surfer instead is just one of the many perks of self-employment in Mill Valley.

Budish is an insurance broker, sole proprietor of his own brokerage, Budish Insurance Services.  It’s a profession he’s been in for over twenty-four years, loves, and is very good at, but that he wandered into mostly by accident.

A former collegiate soccer player (at Colgate), he started working in operations for the fledgling Major Indoor Soccer League in 1981.  For several years in the 1980s, indoor soccer was a big thing.  “It was almost a very big thing,” Budish says.  “It just missed.”  When it did miss, and the league folded, he did what any young, unencumbered, and out of work young man would:  he travelled the world, cheaply and at will, for over a year, not thinking very much about the next job at all.

Eventually, though, he wound up married and in Mill Valley, and it was time to find gainful employment again.  One day his wife showed him a job listing by a legal malpractice insurance company.  “Insurance?”  He said.  “I’m not selling insurance!”  But his father pointed out that the insurance business could be both lucrative and a great outlet for a person with Budish’s considerable social skills, so he went to the interview, and got the job.

As his father predicted, the insurance business was a natural fit for him.  For the next several years he worked his way up, learning the ropes, until his company was bought by a much larger company and Budish decided to strike out on his own.  “My wife was pregnant, and I decided that was the ideal time to quit my job and start my own business,” he says with a laugh.  For a man who deals in minimizing risk for others, Budish is not averse to taking a few gambles of his own – and this was one that paid off handsomely.

Fifteen years later, he has a thriving business that serves hundreds of clients throughout the western states.  He works at home, and his wife now works with him.  The upsides of self-employment are many:  “I can take my kids to school, attend their functions, go to their games.  I can spend a lot of time in the community, which I love.”  His oldest son attends UCLA (hence the hat), and he can pop down there for a visit whenever he wants – taking a client or two out to lunch while he’s there.  And, of course, he can meet you for coffee at the Starbucks on a Wednesday afternoon in shorts and flip flops.

He also loves the work that he found so improbable all those years ago.   It’s very people-oriented, and for a friendly, outgoing guy like him, it’s especially so.  “I have a lot of clients, and I want to have a personal relationship with all of them.  I want to know about their kids, their lives.  I want them to feel that they are a person, not a number.”  He’s always available to them, even when on vacation, at all hours of the day or night.

But, as he says, “Insurance is a funny business.  Most people don’t like writing those checks.  You’re buying a promise that if you run into trouble, the insurance company will make you whole again.  But it’s a promise you never want to have to collect on.”  If one of his clients is faced with a malpractice claim, that’s where Budish really shines.  From helping the client get acceptable defense counsel to finding insurance coverage after a claim is settled, “this is where I feel I’m most successful at what I do.”  Much as he loves interacting with all of his clients and matching them up with the best product for them, it’s the problem-solving — for a client who’s really in a pinch — that is the most rewarding part of his work.

As he sits in the Starbucks on this Wednesday, his daughter is sitting in her class at Tam, across the street.  Budish is a big supporter of public education, and he’s been thrilled with both of his kids’ experiences there.  When asked why, this man who prizes personal relationships so highly in his business gives an answer that is not at all surprising:  “It’s the teachers.  It’s the way they talk to the kids like adults, and treat them with such respect.  They don’t coddle them; they ask a lot of them, but they give them opportunities so that they can succeed, and become who they want to be.  Whatever that is.  They push them along, without getting in the way.”

Supporting the Tam Foundation is, he believes, a very effective way to support those teachers as they strive to bring innovation and motivation to the classroom.  The Foundation greatly appreciates his support, and is proud to honor Budish Insurance Services as its Business of the Month.

Budish Insurance Services is located at 508 Browning Court in Mill Valley, and can be reached at (415) 762-2100.