Jimmy Brebner was stopped in his tracks when he learned that five of his key employees planned to rescue his company from bankruptcy with their retirement bonuses. "Today, you just don't expect people to think of the company instead of themselves," he said.
A severe business downturn in late slashed sales 50 percent at Bonne Brae, Brebner's garment dyeing and finishing facility in Lynchburg, Virginia. "After the NAFTA rulings, a lot of our customers headed for the border," said Brebner. "Textile-related businesses like ours were thrown to the wolves."
For a harrowing nine-month period, average sales volume plummeted from $30,000-$35,000 a week to between $15,000 and $20,000. Suppliers were demanding payment and customers wanted more time to pay for services. The future looked bleak for Brebner and his 25 employees.
That's when Bonne Brae controller Sharon Saunders called George Caylor, CLU, ChFC, the company's MassMutual life insurance agent. "The five of us met to discuss how we could save Bonne Brae," she said. "We have a plan. How much cash is in our split-dollar life insurance policies?"
"Tens of thousands of dollars," George said. "But that money is your retirement bonus. Are you sure you want to use it now?"
"If Bonne Brae goes down," Sharon replied, "we won't have a retirement." George sprang into action and had the checks express-mailed to Sharon. Bonne Brae met its payroll, paid its suppliers and got a new lease on life.
"Now we're positioned to get into some niche markets and build a more secure future," Brebner said, noting that Bonne Brae has some $3 million worth of specialized equipment poised to exploit these new markets.
Jimmy Brebner's rescue by life insurance bolstered his belief in the importance of working with a professional agent. "By ourselves, we could never pick the instrument that's just right for our needs," he said. "It all comes down to that relationship with the agent. And in George's case, it's long-term and built on genuine caring. I know him, and I trust him."