Originally from Brooklyn, NY, Leslie Saland, founder and co-owner of A. L. Saland Insurance Solutions, moved to Florida in 1986. After two years at the University of Buffalo, Saland took three years to regroup. He re-enrolled at Broward Community College and graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a degree in Computer Information Systems. For the next eleven years, Saland worked in the IT industry. The Y2K craze brought with it a tremendous amount of business, but also an uncertain aftermath that left many in the industry searching for new opportunities.
"I worked for Pinnacle Hospitality Systems," Saland said. "Pinnacle was a software integrator and hardware distributor of Point of Sale solutions for the hospitality industry. When Y2K hit, businesses blew through their budgets replacing computer equipment. That combined with the shrinking margins on hardware such as printers and monitors, that we originally supplied, really altered our revenue streams. It became more of a service related industry. Management didn't really have a place. I was a project manager in my 40s with a wife, kids and a mortgage. It was difficult to keep up with the credentials of the 20 somethings."
At the time, Saland's wife, April, who he originally met in 1993 at a baseball tournament in Tampa, worked as an Office Administrator for an Aflac Office. The office was aware of Saland's situation and recruited him to work as a sales representative. In April of 2003, Saland got his insurance license and officially started the next chapter of his life. For the next two years, Saland grew his book of business and learned all about the insurance industry. On April 29th, 2005, one day after Saland's birthday, Saland and his wife founded A. L. Saland Insurance Solutions. At the time, he was a career agent for Aflac, but several years later, that would change.
"I took a step back and thought about where I saw the agency five years from that point," he said. "I wanted to be more of a complete solutions provider. Business accounts would approach us and existing brokers were reaching out to us with problems they were having with their clients. We slowly picked up additional cases and eventually became a benefits broker, writing for more carriers than just Aflac. We focused on core employee benefit packages and the business continued grow. The Affordable Care Act was rolled out in 2009 and soon after, I was asked to be part of a panel discussion in Tampa. It was an accountant, an attorney and I. A lot of people had questions. We were the ones with the answers. Once that happened, we were asked to speak elsewhere. When the ACA mandates hit, and everyone was required to have health insurance, a lot of our business shifted to the individual side. Business was good for a couple years, but then carriers began withdrawing from the Marketplace and eventually stopped paying commission on individual business. I got concerned and decided to bring together a group of colleagues to discuss the situation."
From that informal round-table discussion, Saland's colleagues encouraged him to start offering auto and homeowner's insurance. They suggested he utilize the rock solid relationships he'd built with his health insurance clients to offer them other forms of personal insurance. He took their suggestions to heart and proceeded accordingly. Today, A. L. Saland Insurance Solutions offers a wide range of products designed to protect individuals, businesses and employees. Whether it's Key Man, Workers Comp, Liability, Group Health, Auto or Home Insurance, Saland and his team of dedicated employees are committed to offering a full range of coverage and, above all, doing the right thing for their customers and giving back to the community.
"Giving back to the community is something that really sets us apart," Saland said. "If you look at other successful companies, not just insurance agencies, you'll see that they're all heavily involved in their communities. I've modeled our agency after that. On a personal level, I believe in helping others and solving problems before people even realize there's a problem to be solved. For me, it's all about how much we can help our customers and those in the community."
Saland's ultimate goal is to be able to manage his agency from the golf course. That will be his form of "retirement", allowing him to still be involved as he manages things from a high level. In the interim, Saland is focused on growth, sharing that he recently had a breakthrough moment of sorts. "I woke up and saw where we're going and where we're supposed to be," he said. "I could finally see the forest through the trees and where we're going is very well lit. Things are starting to align and the meaning of it all is becoming more obvious. Going forward, I can help more people by hiring people that have the same belief I do. They can then help others in similar ways. In general, I believe the pendulum is swinging back to the value proposition. People are tired of buying something and then having to replace it. The significance of the value that we bring to the table is coming back in a big way."
According to Saland, those searching for more than just a nine to five should find something they love to do and then figure out how to make money doing it. He stresses that being an entrepreneur is extremely rewarding, but that it's not an eight hour per day job. You have to love it, breathe it and do it to the best of your abilities.