2017 Best Places to Work: Brown & Brown of Baton Rouge is top-ranked large company

Brown & Brown of Baton Rouge was judged to be the best large company. (Photo by Brian Baiamonte)

Brown & Brown focuses on attracting and retaining younger employees by actually getting to know them.

Creating a workplace culture that fosters retention and helps recruit younger employees has been a big priority for the Baton Rouge branch of the national insurance brokerage firm, Brown & Brown, this year’s Best Places to Work large company winner

“Across the insurance industry, depending on what publication you read, the average age for an agent or producer is between 55 and 57,” says Bryan Fontenot, Brown & Brown Baton Rouge executive vice president. “We knew we needed to establish a strong and supportive culture here to help bring in new talent, and that’s not just young talent, but also talent from other industries.”

Based in Daytona Beach, Florida, Brown & Brown is the sixth largest insurance intermediary in the country. Branches situated across the U.S. operate in a decentralized fashion with local directors given a wide berth in decision-making. The company provides personal and business insurance, employee benefits and other products and services.

Fontenot, 33, stumbled into the industry through the parent of a childhood friend, and has worked in several aspects of it, from adjusting to producing. Notwithstanding his personal enthusiasm, Fontenot acknowledges that selling the industry as a career to new recruits isn’t always easy.

“There’s this existing perception that you sometimes have to get past,” he says. “I ask people all the time, ‘Tell me what you think when you hear the word ‘insurance?’ You’d laugh at their responses.”

Consequently, Fontenot has been intent on building a strong company identity and corporate culture where producers and support staff are fired up about common goals and have the tools they need to get the job done.

“First thing, we’re about building a transparent culture, so when we hire someone, we want to know who you are as a person,” Fontenot says. “We want to know what’s important to you in life, whether that’s being able to spend more time with your family or to support a particular community issue, so that we can align with those goals.”

With a small team of 16 whose ages range from 26 to 73, Fontenot says a key management objective is to foster team relationships and ensure each person gets what they need to be successful. It starts during the onboarding process.

Regular coffee meetings allow Fontenot to glean information as simple as what snacks and beverages a staff member can’t live without, to more serious discussions about training needs and personality profile results. Moreover, he makes sure new hires are clear on their job roles and responsibilities regularly.

“Reviewing the job role sounds so simple,” Fontenot says, “but you would not believe how often this overlooked. It’s so important to make sure expectations are clear.”

Everyone on staff has the benefit of ongoing training opportunities to help them meet identified personal, professional and performance goals. Many of these take place through Brown & Brown’s corporate training programs.

“What you’ll find is, no matter where someone is in their career, everyone wants to grow and develop,” says Fontenot.

The team is comprised of agents who work primarily in the field, and support staff, who work mostly in the office. Everyone has access to flex time to address personal issues, says Fontenot. Compensation is generous and includes performance incentives.

To build cohesion, the Baton Rouge teams works together at the Food Bank and on other community projects and gathers for office birthdays and regular social events.

But what makes the agency a great place to work, says Fontenot, is something intangible.

“Trust,” he says. “We trust that an individual’s worst’s decision will not ruin the collective goals of the organization and team. I would trust anyone in this organization to make any sort of high level decision.”

Brown & Brown of Baton Rouge

6300 Corporate Blvd. Suite 250    bblouisiana.com

Products and services: A full-scale insurance brokerage firm specializing in a wide range of risk management solutions and value-added services. These solutions include, but are not limited to, commercial insurance, employee benefits insurance, personal insurance and life insurance. Brown & Brown, founded in Florida in 1939, is the sixth largest insurance intermediary in the country and has seven offices throughout Louisiana, including one in Baton Rouge.

Total employees: 8,001  

Standout bonus or benefit: The leadership team is awarded an annual bonus tied to the profitability of the office; service team members receive incentives based on client retention, compliance and quality of service; and sales team members are awarded incentives for new business and client retention.

What employees love: Opportunities to participate in community events, company holiday parties, flexible work hours, an insurance reimbursement plan, they can wear jeans on Fridays and the Top Cat competition.

—Annie Ourso Landry

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