Whoever said "there's no substitute for experience" never worked at The Graham Company in Center City.

Rather than recruiting people with years of experience in the industry, this property and casualty insurance and employee benefits broker has been building their own experts since 1950.

Their hard work hasn't gone unrecognized, as The Graham Company enjoys its eighth consecutive year among our Top Workplaces. This year, Graham is our No. 1 midsize company in the Philadelphia area.

How do they do it? Recruitment and training are the centerpieces of The Graham Company's philosophy. "We hire people from all backgrounds," explained Karen Boyle, Assistant Vice President–Human Resources, "and we basically give them a PhD in insurance."

Most of the time, this is in spite of the new hire having no experience in insurance. "Other than our claims and Employee Benefits department, we don't hire many people [with insurance experience]," explained Boyle.

Rather, The Graham Company is interested in finding the best and brightest in any particular field, and building them into insurance experts through a comprehensive six-month, classroom-based training program.

"Our leadership wants us to be successful, Boyle said, "and they'll equip us with anything necessary to accomplish that success."

New hires are taught by professionals in the eight-person technical training department, who function primarily as resources for those new to the company.

"That's been [CEO] Bill Graham's philosophy: to hire kind, smart, courteous people with good business acumen, then teach them what they need to know about insurance."

It certainly seems to be working.

Over Graham's 55-year tenure – the past 45 years spent as CEO – he has grown the company from six employees with revenues of $300,000 in 1972 to today's levels of over 170 employees and annual revenues that total over $52 million. Equally important, they enjoy a 98 percent client retention rate, a testament to Graham's 24/7 service and proactive approach to risk management.

Graham has built a level of employee loyalty that's almost unrivaled in today's business climate. Karen Boyle joined The Graham Company out of college, and has been there for nine years. And she's nowhere close to the top of the tenure totem pole.

"Lucille Carey was the seventh employee hired, and she's our Vice President of Human Resources & Operations," said Boyle. "She's retiring this year after 43 years with the company. Our average employee tenure is 14 years."

Asked what keeps everyone at Graham, Boyle cited the talent and personalities of co-workers.

"We have a Vice President who works here – he has two patents, and has his hands in all kinds of projects – but the other day, he took the time to show one of our assistants how to help her daughter with physics homework," Boyle said. "People always have time to help one another."

Boyle says The Graham Company looks for motivated self-starters with a natural drive for excellence. She cited former military members, college athletes, lawyers and engineers as groups that have been particularly successful.

But that doesn't mean people from all walks of life can't apply. After all, you don't even need any experience.