Beyond the Boardroom: James Barham of Barham Benefit Group | Entrepreneurs

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James Barham in his Champagne office.




The only thing in this world JAMES BARHAM just can’t live without it?

“My therapist,” he said, referring, of course, to his 36-pound Trex mountain bike.

When not at work, it’s a safe bet that the owner of Champaign’s Barham Benefit Group is on his bike – pedaling 32 miles to Sidney and Philo and back, a three to four hour ride, according to wind.

“So far this year I have ridden 4,000 miles,” he says, including countless visits to his favorite cycling spot – Homer Lake.

The art lover, who last year received a Hearts of Gold award from the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, took the time to answer questions from Editor Jeff D’Alessio in the 92nd installment of our weekly quick read highlighting leaders of organizations large and small.


My business model is … Jerry Ramshaw. I watched him start his business with two houses and an old Jeep. He used to plow snow for extra income.

He has lent his ear to me throughout my career and has been invaluable to me when I decided to start my business. He is a precious mentor, even during the times when he gives me hard love.

My philosophy on meetings is … I have always tried to manage as a team. We don’t have formal meetings, but we sit down regularly and share ideas and make sure our customers are served.

I’m thrifty in there … I always bring extra packets of Taco Bell sauce home and use it as my main condiment.

The hardest thing about being a leader is … learn to navigate.

When it comes to my one favorite moment of all time at this job … I know what we do really affects people’s lives at times when it is most difficult.

I take great pride in helping people with all aspects of the insurance process and try to make their lives less stressful.






James barham

James Barham outside the Barham Benefit Group.




The hardest part of college was … registering at Parkland when I was 21 because I was afraid to go because I couldn’t spell. I took night school because I was uncomfortable being older than I expected for an average student.

My breakthrough came when Connie Hosier took me into the Learning Lab and found an individual tutor. They found out that I was dyslexic.

In this case, the labels worked because then I realized that I had the ability to overcome my learning disability. It gave me the confidence to find my way.

My only unbreakable rule in the workplace is … the customer comes first. We focus on providing services to make life easier for our customers. We become a trusted arm of their HR department.

The biggest business risk I ever took was … go into business for myself. It was a difficult decision. The idea of ​​doing everything on my own without a team made me very nervous, but I took the first step and never looked back.

The last luxury I indulged in was … skydiving. I’m about to take my eighth jump. When I am in free fall, it is the purest form of freedom I have ever felt.

I’m up and up to them every day … at 10 o’clock. I’m a night owl, which works well because the rest of my team are morning people.

The worst job I ever had was … shell corn at age 14. They would pick us up from Kmart, we would all stand in the back of a farm truck and take us to the fields.

That year it rained and we had to walk. It was hot, muddy, humid and miserable.

On a scale of 1 to 10, the impact of the pandemic has been a … 7. The hardest part was my concern for our customers. Many have gone through extremely difficult times, but it looks like they will all be okay with it.

In this way, we are extremely blessed.


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