Nothing More Important than Culture

By | October 5, 2020

I LOVE working for this business. I look forward to working each day!!!”

It’s not every day that you hear an employee of any given business say that, but it’s exactly what one respondent to Insurance Journal’s 2020 Best Agencies to Work For survey said about working at The Starr Group in Greenfield, Wisc.

That employee was not alone in expressing admiration for their agency. The overwhelmingly positive responses to the IJ survey have propelled The Starr Group — which has 34 employees and generates between $5 million and $10 million of revenue annually — to win the designation of Gold Best Agency to Work For — Midwest.

CEO Tim Starr said it is “quite amazing to know” that the employees nominated the agency and participated in the survey without management’s knowledge.

“The fact that they were not asked to nominate us but rather felt compelled to nominate our agency … speaks volumes,” he said in an email to IJ.

Tim Starr said for him, what makes the agency a great place to work is: “Culture, culture and culture! This is defined via numerous variables but as Mary Starr would share, ‘Culture by design, not default.’ As our Cultural Officer, she has been the creator, maintainer and polisher of this.”

In their survey response, an employee praised Mary Starr, The Starr Group’s executive vice president, for continually looking at ways for the agency to “do better” and ensuring employees know they are valued and important to the organization.

The Starr Group knows how to have fun! Above, agency team members and their
families enjoy the annual family picnic in 2019.

“We have a management team that seeks out your greatness, harnesses it, and uses it to make you feel highly engaged in your job. The owners actively talk with all employees to identify problem areas and asks our opinions on how to fix them,” another employee wrote.

Tim Starr admitted he was not initially convinced of the importance of culture on a company’s success. “I needed to be educated into how critical culture is. When I started witnessing the changes and in particular how one, new people we interviewed would reference it, and two, that it was the number one reason employees stay with us I knew I had just learned there is NOTHING more important in an organization than culture.

Culture is vague and big.”

Ethics and integrity are a big part of that culture, employees say, and it’s something they clearly appreciate.

“I have been with the organization for over 20 years and every day feels like a new day. The agency is a very strong values-based organization and strength-based organization. We focus on the strengths of individuals and know that differences are needed and accepted,” wrote one employee.

“Ethics is a big part of the culture, and it’s not only ‘doing ethical business’ but it is always doing the right thing when in the office or not,” said another.

“Regarding insurance, they always take the high road and do what is right for the client. We do not sell on price, we build solid coverage and risk management programs, and then negotiate for the best value. It is a fundamental difference compared to many of our competitors,” another employee noted.

Starr said the agency recognized the coronavirus pandemic had the potential to challenge the company’s culture and took steps to protect not only employees, but customers as well.

“Our number one priority was the safety of our teammates and our clients. Ongoing, transparent communication was critical during this time. We invited our team back to our physical offices in June and the majority have gladly returned with enhanced Work from Home options. It was imperative that we not allow the culture we had worked so hard to build to deteriorate during these changing and challenging times,” he said.

“We have noticed a self-proclaimed improvement in both emotional and mental wellbeing with this return to an in-person and ‘back to normal’ work setting. Instead of becoming paralyzed with fear and uncertainty our team has flourished during these unprecedented times,” Starr added.

Topics Leadership

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Insurance Journal West October 5, 2020
October 5, 2020
Insurance Journal West Magazine

Best Insurance Agencies to Work For; Top Workers’ Comp Writers; Markets: Hotels & Motels