Best Agency to Work For – West

By | October 6, 2014

Aloha Bolton Best in West


Bolton & Co. – Pasadena, California


Bolton & Co.'s Julie Bowman, chief financial officer, Steve Brockmeyer, president and Mike Morey, chief operating officer.
Bolton & Co.’s Julie Bowman, chief financial officer, Steve Brockmeyer, president and Mike Morey, chief operating officer.

Say aloha for the best agency in the Western U.S. to work for.

A skeptic might say that Pasadena, Calif.-based Bolton & Co. essentially bribed its employees to love the firm, but that’s not the way the story really goes. It turns out that executives were just making good on a big promise when they took everyone to Hawaii earlier this year.

boltonIt was back in 2007 when Bolton’s top brass announced their goal of hitting $30 million in revenue by 2011 — a goal that was set with the hopes it would put them beyond a $20-million mark, where the firm had languished for quite some time, said Mike Morey, Bolton’s chief operating officer.

A paid trip to Hawaii was promised to all employees if the goal was reached. It was a bad timing — though few could foresee the Great Recession right around the corner.

“The market got ugly, times got tough,” Morey said.

Bolton executives made some tough business decisions to sustain the firm, but the 2011 goal was pushed out of reach.

When the recession clouds cleared and Bolton began to add customers and small agencies to its rolls, revenue again grew at a steady pace.

“We were sitting in a meeting in September 2013 and we were like ‘This is exactly where we wanted to be as an organization, we’re just two years behind schedule,'” Morey said. “So we decided to honor our commitment.”

That meant paying for airfare, a stay at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel on the Big Island and a luau for 123 employees who could go — along with their guests.

“We had a total of 245 go,” Morey said.

He wouldn’t divulge the exact cost of paying out on the promise.

“It was definitely six figures I can tell you that,” Morey said. “It was probably just north of 10 percent of our profit.”

To pull off the March excursion they had to divide the firm and make two trips to remain open for business.

The trip was noted by several employees as one example of why their agency is the best to work for.

One employee who started shortly after the promise was made said that after the recession hit, as did the soft market, belts were tightened and a vacation to Hawaii seemed unlikely to ever occur.

“No raises were given and the quarterly bonuses that were paid pretty regularly disappeared. There were layoffs and lost business,” the employee said.

Eventually the firm started to hire producers hungry to bring in new business, it adapted to the changing times and started to acquire smaller agencies, then made good on the promise, the employee noted.

“It rewarded the long-term employees who had worked hard to reach the goal as well as newer employees,” the employee said. “The company could have used the profits for executive compensation or bonuses, however it chose to share the profits with the people who were the backbone of the company.”

Not all of the employee comments in the poll were just focused on the free trip to Hawaii.

“As a Hispanic single mother, Bolton has offered incredible educational opportunities in our industry. Three designations and a very expensive communication certification supported my efforts to succeed and be promoted several times during my tenure,” stated one employee. “They have allowed me to experience success and failure and learn from both.”

The firm recently announced a new goal and promise: $40 million in revenues equals another trip.

“We’re closing in on it quicker than I thought we would,” Morey said.

It may be worth noting that there is no deadline date for this goal.

“I’ve learned my lesson,” Morey said, then quickly added an afterthought. “I’ll bet we can get there in 2016.”

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Insurance Journal West October 6, 2014
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