Bill Bishop loves hand-me-downs.

Bill Bishop loves hand-me-downs.

The winner of the Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce's 2011 Business Person of the Year Award is the proud owner of a 1930 antique wooden putter that was passed down to him from his father, who received it from his father.

He's also the proud owner of a 1923 insurance agency (Elliott-Cooper-Barr) and a 1948 insurance agency (Jennings-Meredith-Tullis), companies at the heart of his Associated Insurance Agencies Inc. of Westerville.

Bishop, who received his award on Tuesday, Jan. 24, said continuity and history are an integral part of his success as a businessman.

"I'm pretty sure Elliott, Cooper and Barr were all lifelong Westerville residents," Bishop said of the insurance company he purchased in 1997 at the age of 27. "I've lived in Westerville since the fourth grade and graduated from Westerville South High School. I was fortunate to be able to purchase a company right here where I grew up.

"I work and help and deal with people I've known my whole life. I'm so lucky to be able to give back to a community that means so much to me."

Bishop attended Defiance College, where he was a member of the student senate, chair of the judicial grievance committee and lettered in both football and track. He returned to central Ohio in 1993 and worked jobs at State Savings Bank and Nationwide Insurance before purchasing Elliott-Cooper-Barr.

In 1997, he partnered with Terry Kelso and Associated Insurance Agencies Inc.

"Terry was my mentor," he said. "He was also best friends with my father, John, who is the president of Motorists Insurance. My brother, Geoff, works with me. It's an all-in-the-family type thing."

In 2003, he formed Associated Financial Services Ltd. with Scott Grotelueschen. He became the managing partner of Associated Insurance Agencies in 2007.

"We're a different kind of insurance company," said Bishop, who has guided the company from seven employees in 1997 to 38 employees in 2011. "Normally, you call an insurance agency and they give you a quote. We don't want to just give quotes. We want to be our clients' advisors."

To that end, Bishop and Grotelueschen combined with Larry Boord and Tom Wyatt to create Associated Benefits Consultants Inc. in 2011.

"You'll have an entire team of advisors at your disposal - life insurance experts, benefits experts, a stockbroker. You can get information about 401ks, disability insurance," he said, "whether you're an individual, a small business or a large business."

Chamber CEO Janet Tressler-Davis said she's pleased the 2012 Business Person of the Year is a native son.

"Bill has a growing business in Westerville and he just opened an office in Mount Vernon," she said. "He's been an active member of the chamber and a terrific networker with our state legislators."

Bishop said the thing that perhaps pleases him most about the award is a name of one of the past winners: "Terry (Kelso) was named Business Person of the Year by the Westerville chamber. To receive the same award as my mentor is such an honor."