Best Agency to Work For – Southeast

By | September 19, 2011

Ocala, Fla.

Holder Insurance Agency

The day Holder Insurance Agency employees found out its firm was named Southeast winner of Insurance Journal’s annual Best Agencies to Work For award, they were whispering and conspiring. That’s because they nominated the agency without telling their boss — owner Diana Holder. Sheryl Holland, the agency’s office manager, explained in hushed tones that the office was thrilled with the award, so much so that they were going to announce the award to their boss as a team.

The covert activities culminated in a surprise gathering in the office later that Friday afternoon telling Holder of the award, one she and her staff earned together. A chocolate cake and a round of drinks later, the shock is still with Holder. “I’m humbled,” she says. “I was short on words, which was surprising to them.” Holder laughs, then adds more seriously, “I was in complete shock that they would take the time to do that.”

Listening to both Holder and her employees, it’s easy to see what it is that differentiates Holder Insurance Agency, based in Ocala, Fla., from other nominees — teamwork. Everyone from the employees to Holder herself is part of the whole, and all work toward the common goal.

That team has been with Holder for a long time with little turnover. Their dedication to the agency shows in the comments they included on the nomination form. One of the agency’s employees said this about the agency: “There is never a time we are made to feel bad for being out of the office for any reason. It’s a wonderful environment.”

Holder’s agency opened its doors in 1994. Prior to that, Holder managed a benefits book of business since 1991. Now in its 17th year, the benefits agency has built a benefits business of over $40 million.

With just nine employees including Holder herself, the agency has also increased its property/casualty business to an impressive $5 million. The agency portfolio includes small and mid-sized businesses, contractors, retailers, professionals, and healthcare clients.

Holder is no stranger to managing or running a business effectively. She managed an agency in 1991 and then became owner in 1994. Her agency now offers health insurance advice and consultation, which she says has become much more challenging amid the national healthcare reform legislation.

The company has not had any significant mergers or acquisitions, so all growth has been organic. Holder says the growth came mainly from cross-selling opportunities, plus there’s been plenty of growth thanks to referral business, which is “nicer than people just shopping premium.”

“We trying to focus on keeping our clients happy and developing solid relationships.”

As personalities go, Diana Holder couldn’t be more outgoing and good natured. She sings her way into the office in the morning and treats her staff like family.

“It’s really important to me to make sure to support one another and be there for each other,” Holder says.

Having a family of her own has made Holder appreciate the tough choices employees have to make in order to be a dedicated spouse and a parent as well as a reliable employee. As she says, things happen that are out of one’s control, and what’s needed are fewer restrictions on employees and more understanding of real-life situations.

“I’ve tried for years to provide an environment where people understand I can relate to their personal circumstances and their needs with their families. I’ve been a working mom my whole life. My family is number one,” Holder says.

Not every day has been stellar, as Holder herself admits.

The agency is prone to the same stresses and business issues of any other office. Lately, with customers trimming budgets and healthcare reform to unravel, Holder says there’s more stress on the agency to perform, stay up-to-date, and remain positive for both employees and customers.

“I wouldn’t be able to accomplish what I do if I weren’t surrounded by a great group of people,” she says. “They’re all working super hard, especially in this environment we’re in right now.”

When asked what the award means to her, Holder says “It’s recognition for hard work and for providing a team environment. It means a lot from the standpoint that it’s recognition that we’re working so well together and we’re working hard as a team. It says a lot about the group as a whole, not just me. I feel really blessed to have them on my team and be a part of that.”

She’s just as excited for her team. “It gave them a huge reward to know that what they had to say meant something.”

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From This Issue

Insurance Journal West September 19, 2011
September 19, 2011
Insurance Journal West Magazine

Professional Liability Directory, The Best Insurance Agencies to Work For, Employment/HR Issue