Best Agency to Work For – Southeast

Pride in Professionalism

Peel & Holland – Benton, Kentucky

Employees at Peel & Holland take pride in being part of a professional team and working for agency leaders who treat them like professionals.
Employees at Peel & Holland take pride in being part of a professional team and working for agency leaders who treat them like professionals.

Drivers in western Kentucky outside the college town of Murray are urged to keep their eyes peeled for the billboard that reads, “World Class In Your Hometown.”

This billboard is advertising Peel & Holland, a property/casualty and employee benefits agency based in Benton, and it captures the pride of employees at this Insurance Journal Best Agency to Work For in the Southeast for 2014.

The employees believe their agency is the best and they will tell you, proudly.

“I know that I work for the best agency in the region and one of the best in the nation. Our leadership is sincere and ethical while leading the team with knowledge and opportunity. We are encouraged to grow professionally and share our ideas,” wrote one employee, echoing what others had to say.

The employees’ pride is less about the benefits or the working conditions, although nobody is complaining about the compensation, health plan, flex-time, family atmosphere, annual fun day, community service, or other benefits. Rather these employees express more pride in being part of a professional team and working for principals who treat them like professionals.

“We are not under a magnifying glass,” says Rhonda Burks, a senior account manager who has been with the agency for 22 years. “We are empowered to make decisions and make calls on things. We are empowered because we are trained and are given the ability to enhance our knowledge and grow our capabilities.”

Lindsay Burkeen joined the agency as a high school co-op student 14 years ago and is now a senior account manager. To her, the professional culture is the key. “They trust us to do the right thing when nobody is looking,” she says. “They give us the confidence to do what we need to do and get it done.”

The agency was founded in 1924 by Dwight Peel. In the 1940s, Woodrow Holland joined. R.C. Riley joined as a partner in 1965; he retired in 2005 after 40 years.

Today’s senior management includes R.C. Riley’s sons — Roy Riley, president, and Keith Riley, senior vice president for property/casualty — and Greg Carlton, senior vice president for employee benefits.

The agency writes personal and commercial lines including programs for contractors, nonprofits and schools, as well as employee benefits. It is a member of Keystone Insurers Group.

At the top of employees’ list of things that make it such a great place to work is the series of quarterly “state of the agency” meetings during which senior managers share the agency’s goals and how it is doing.

“Even during the recession, we were encouraged by the numbers our agency produced and everyone knew where we were financially because of these meetings. This also an opportunity to communicate strategic goals and plans for the agency but more importantly, create team synergy,” one employee wrote.

“Peel & Holland lives the teamwork approach every single day. Very transparent organization with shared goals and financial results. Outstanding leadership that filters down throughout the organization,” said another.

PEEL_HOLLAND_NEWThe 50-plus employee agency’s teamwork ethic has been disaster-tested. In 2009, western Kentucky suffered an ice storm that knocked out power everywhere. The agency was serving customers again within 48 hours. In July, the agency’s Murray office had to be closed following a fire in adjacent buildings. “Disaster recovery is something we hit head-on with our clients, so it is something we have planned and prepared for extensively ourselves,” Roy Riley said.

Employees are also proud of the agency’s role in the community. It actually has a committee devoted to community service. This year for its 90th anniversary, the agency is giving each employee $90 to contribute a charity of choice.

It all adds up to very high job satisfaction ratings by employees.

“They’re not paying me to say this. I love coming to work every day,” says Burkeen.