ACUITY named Insure Forward Agency of the Month in the October, 2013 edition of the publication Infocus. Insure Forward was selected not only because it is an outstanding agency but because it is also an outstanding employer. Below is the original article published in Infocus.
Founded in 1927 in Hannaford, North Dakota, Insure Forward has agency locations in over a dozen communities throughout the state and neighboring Minnesota. A combination of organic growth and targeted purchases—including three agency acquisitions in 2007— has fueled the agency’s expansion. However, the most important component to Insure Forward’s success is a commitment to becoming an employer of choice in the community.
“You have to be a great employer to provide great customer service—it’s just that simple,” says Toby Kommer, agency President.
Insure Forward has developed a strategy for building a great workplace that incorporates several key components.
The first is involving staff in all areas of the planning process. “When we created the initiative to become an employer of choice, we started by making sure everyone was involved in establishing the procedures and policies of the company—the nuts and bolts of the operation,” Kommer says.
The second component is salary. Insure Forward extends its variable compensation plan not just to producers, but to service staff as well. “At many agencies, when business increases, the CSAs and support staff have more work, but their pay is the same,” Kommer says. “We have a plan that pays everyone based on the amount of business we write and our profitability, which is not only more fair, but gives all our staff a vested interest in the performance of the agency.”
The last component is a commitment to all aspects of employee health. “A lot of companies have ‘wellness programs’ that are little more than emails encouraging people to eat more vegetables,” Kommer says. “We focus on true wellness, including work/life balance.”
Insure Forward contracts with local fitness facilities to provide services for staff. They also encourage employees to make time for friends and family. “We don’t want anyone on our team to miss soccer games or kindergarten graduations. We don’t want people to walk out the door at night regretting what they weren’t able to do,” Kommer says.
The impact of Insure Forward’s commitment to building a corporate culture has been a high level of employee retention, customer satisfaction, and measurable results. Each of the past three years has been a record-setting revenue year for the agency, which has achieved 20 percent growth over that period as well.
Insure Forward’s book of business includes about 75 percent commercial lines and 25 percent personal lines. The agency is part of the “Forward” family of financial services companies that includes Bank Forward, Invest Forward, and Tax Forward. “Being part of the bank definitely helps from a cross-selling and resource-sharing standpoint,” says Kommer.
Insure Forward is also working on perpetuation. The agency has hired seven new producers over the past few years. “We’re starting to see those people move into succession roles,” says Kommer. “Also, we’re having more and more people approach us to join our team—we’re not knocking on doors to find people.”
Above all, Insure Forward will remain focused on being the employer of choice in the areas it does business. “We believe in creating a culture where employees are truly valued,” says Kommer. “As long as we don’t lose sight of that, everything else will fall into place.”
The original article can be found in ACUITY's Infocus October, 2013 edition.
ACUITY operates in 22 states, generates over $1 billion in revenue through 1,000 independent agencies, manages nearly $3 billion in assets, and employs over 950 people. ACUITY is rated A+ (Superior) by A.M. Best and also receives an A+ rating from Standard and Poor's.