Anna Maria Viti-Welch planned to be a schoolteacher, but after doing it for a year and then working in her family’s business that summer, her father made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. “He said, ‘Just quit and come work for me,’” she recalls. That was 37 years ago.
The VITI Companies is a customized insurance and financial solutions company based out of Highwood, Illinois. Anna Maria’s grandfather founded it in 1938, and her father joined him in the 1960s. That makes Anna Maria, who is now president, the third generation to run this family business and “We’re now grooming my brother’s son to become the fourth generation,” she says.
The company, which celebrates its 85th anniversary in 2023, is licensed in most states and serves individuals, businesses and other organizations with a broad range of high-quality insurance products, including business, home and auto, individual, life, employee benefits, disability, long-term care, Medicare and supplemental plans.
As the oldest of six children, Anna Maria was involved in the business from a very early age. She remembers helping to file old policies marked “dead” in the office basement during high school and college. “I didn’t like it, but I was doing my father a favor and making money,” she laughs.
Anna Maria’s attitude had changed by the time she made the career shift. She focused on personal lines of insurance, like home and auto, before expanding her expertise to business insurance. She stepped into the role of president 20 years ago. Around the same time, a younger sister joined the business, too, on the employee benefits side.
Since Anna Maria has been involved in The VITI Companies, she’s seen tremendous growth. At first, they were a team of six and now they are at 22 and still growing. Some are remote in states like Florida, Louisiana and Wisconsin. They also expanded from selling home, auto and business insurance (as Guy Viti Insurance Agency) into a full-service agency that also offers financial services related to employee benefits (Viti Financial Services).
She credits this growth to the hiring of fresh talent, including one team member who was trained in life and health insurance and really helped to grow that department. Technology also played an important role. “When I first came here, we had one computer for everyone,” she recalls. “We were still using typewriters. My dad, who doesn’t even use a computer, had the foresight to beef it up and use an agency management system.”
For the past 20 years, they have been fully automated. “Anyone can go in and see what’s going on,” Anna Maria explains. “We have a great follow-up system in the computer, too, so we don’t miss a beat.”
Anna Maria is excited about the years to come as well. For one, her nephew has been working for The VITI Companies since he finished two years at a community college and then COVID hit as he was looking to transfer to a university. He didn’t want to attend remotely, so came to work for the business for two years before returning to in-person learning as a business major. During this time, he trained on the agency management system and helped out with a little bit of everything, even accounting.
Additionally, Anna Maria says she’d like to continue growing the company. “I don’t want to be huge,” she says. “I want to be able to still service our clients in the same manner as we do today. Also, we have a great staff and morale, so I want to keep that. What’s next is I’d like to get another producer and groom them since I’m only doing business development now.”
One of the ways The VITI Companies will continue to set itself apart is through the personal attention it provides. Every client has their own account manager who knows them personally—and if that manager is on vacation, for instance, there’s always someone else to step in. “Even if they call me,” says Anna Maria, “I’ll help them personally or get them to the right person.”
The VITI Companies is also unique in that it has a business start-up division, since owners of start-up companies have very different needs than those who are farther along in their business journeys. The account managers for these clients reach out every several months to check in and make any adjustments since many of the policies are based on sales and payroll.
And, of course, there’s that 85th anniversary. Anna Maria plans to celebrate it with her team in July at a restaurant down the street that’s owned by her brother. It will be a wonderful reminder of just how far she’s come from her basement filing days to the leader of a business that continues to thrive from generation to generation to generation.
Anna Maria Viti-Welch wasn’t much of a networker 20 years ago, but she met a woman who took her under her wing and introduced her to NAWBO Chicago. The woman served on a chapter committee and once a month, took Anna Maria and several others who lived in the suburbs to meet with other committee members who were in the city.
“It just evolved from there,” says Anna Maria, who later joined the corporate sponsorship committee. In the years leading up to the pandemic, she was part of a business roundtable started by a local corporate partner for 10-15 members with $1 million and up businesses. “NAWBO was a real game-changer for my business because I got involved. It will always have a special place in my heart.”