Born in Kennestone Hospital, Bottoms is the son of an insurance agent who began his career in Cobb County in 1947.
“He was a debit life insurance agent,” said Bottoms. “He knocked on doors to collect the weekly money for the premiums. Sometimes the person didn’t have the money, so he would pay it for them so their insurance wouldn’t lapse. I’m very proud of what he did.”
Bottoms graduated from McEachern High School, then Georgia Tech in 1975. He got his first job with an Atlanta company selling life insurance. “I was engaged, so Melissa and I thought I would do that for a while … Here I am 37 years later,” he said.
He eventually worked his way up to small business and employee benefits gaining the necessary experience to start his own business.
In 1987, with three small children at home, Bottoms opened his own firm in an office on Cherokee Street in Marietta.
“It was kind of scary … but it was something I really wanted to do,” he recalls.
In the late 90s, growth necessitated the purchase and renovation of a 3,000-square-foot, two-story building, also on Cherokee Street, to become the firm’s permanent home.
Today, the company has eight employees.
“It’s a big responsibility having your adult children in the business with you,” he said. “You want them to want to be here.”
David, who heads up the benefits division for the firm, has become an expert in healthcare, regularly publishing updates to help clients navigate through the onslaught of changes in insurance costs, regulations and requirements.
“We are offering an actuarial to our clients on the impact on the healthcare reform,” said Bottoms.
Bottoms said the economic downturn did not hurt the firm’s business and 2012 was the best year to date.
“We haven’t experienced a recession,” he said. “Healthcare reform scared everybody.”
Additionally, Bottoms said changes in estate tax laws have greatly complicated life insurance.
“We have been growing because of the complexity of the current regulations,” he said. “I have never known individuals and employers feel so financially insecure — and we are in the financial securities business.”
The Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority is one of the firm’s long-term clients. Glenn Page, authority general manger, describes Bottoms as a great listener.
“I was immediately struck by his soft-spoken manner, his listening skills, and his genuine interest in how he can help people. I discovered quickly that his deep faith is the source of who Gary is — as a person, businessman and community leader,” he said.
Bottoms’ father recently passed away. He said he has just begun writing a somewhat reflective book on estate planning. “The thing about being in business for 37 years is that I have seen things that work and things that don’t,” he said. “I’ve seen people be woefully unprepared for bad things that happened … and I have learned from watching.”