Industry the March 2013 issue

Rock Star Status

Jackie Gould’s people did it with Assurance. Why can’t you?

Assurance’s foundation of success, according to Jackie Gould, the agency’s chief operating officer, is built on three pillars:

Personal connections. The agency has created an environment that’s fun to work in. It organizes wellness programs for employees, including onsite dance classes, group fitness classes, an employee appreciation day, and quarterly casino days in which employees win prizes. “Exceptional client service,” the agency says on its website, “begins with healthy, happy and stress-free employees.”

Recruiting savvy. Like others, the agency recruits industry veterans but also focuses on grabbing “smart, talented and energetic people.” Of its 151 new hires in the last three years, 71% have come from employee referrals.

Retaining Talent. Assurance concentrates on growing employees. “We focus on training and development,” Gould explains. “Growth leads to so many possibilities, creating new positions, new opportunities.” Assurance promoted 45 employees in 2012, or nearly 17% of its 270-person workforce.

The road to success wasn’t easy. After its economic projections made clear that something had to change, the agency embarked on a new strategy in 1999, built around improving employee engagement and satisfaction. Assurance officials refocused their hiring practices and began relying more heavily on technology. By 2006, however, the agency hit a wall—it was moving too quickly and piling too much work on employees. Profits dropped, employee turnover jumped, and clients left. Time to retool—again.

Assurance’s decision paid big dividends. Gould says the 51-year-old agency generated $60 million in revenue last year, nearly double its $31.3 million revenue in 2006.

Often cited in “best place to work” surveys, the agency’s “Best Places” PowerPoint presentation gives a simple reason for its success: “We’ve taken one of the un-coolest professions on the planet and given our employees true rock star status.”

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