PURSUING EXCELLENCE: Brown & Brown continues in its quest to be “all to some and not some to all” as it again tops the large company rankings. (Photo by Collin Richie)
Immediately after Business Report handed five Brown & Brown Insurance employees the award for the top-ranked large company in the Capital Region during a 2017 Best Places to Work event, the coworkers asked each other: “How do we get better?”
It’s that kind of grit that characterizes the 17-person team at the insurance agency’s Baton Rouge office, says executive vice president Bryan Fontenot.
“We are a group that wakes up and strives for a relentless pursuit of excellence,” says Fontenot, who stepped into his role three-and-a-half years ago. “Typically, we gravitate toward folks that have that kind of culture in their being.”
As the sixth-largest insurance intermediary in the country, Brown & Brown provides personal and business insurance, employee benefits, and other products and services. Its branches operate in a decentralized fashion, with local directors given a significant level of autonomy.
Internally, Fontenot says the company’s culture—while by its sales-driven nature, competitive—is equally as supportive.
Pop in on any given day and Fontenot, a self-styled “animated and active” manager, walks through the halls of the second-floor office suite with employees, engaging them in strategic conversations, asking for updates and celebrating their sales in between saying hello to every person he sees in their cubicle. Look at the conference room walls and you’ll see awards dripping with accolades that recognize regional power rankings or employees who produce more than $250,000 in net new annual commissions.
Or come in near the end of each year, when the company holds a “Good Riddance Day” where employees throw away all the documents and other items they want to say “good riddance” to for the next year. Last year, when a team member lost his battle with cancer, each employee wrote “good riddance to cancer” on separate pieces of paper. Over the years, they’ve also discarded “2016 flood waters” and “multiple sclerosis,” the latter in tribute to a coworker whose daughter suffers from the disease.
After bidding these trials farewell, the company keeps moving forward. This September, they’re already eyeing a long-term goal: Growing in the Baton Rouge market, with an aim to move up a corporate tier level tied to staff size.
But more important than increasing the agency’s volume, Fontenot says, is the quality of its growth, aided by a sharper focus on retention efforts highlighted in last year’s Best Places to Work feature.
“We want to be all to some and not some to all,” he says. “We want to focus our efforts and energy on helping those where we can make the most impact. It’s not about quantity of work; it’s about quality of work.”
That begins with the company’s hiring process, in which the interview period for one employee lasted six months. Fontenot says he wanted to make sure he had the right person for the “keystone” position, no matter how long it took to get her.
The philosophy also extends to the on-boarding process, where Fontenot grabs coffee with a new hire at the end of each quarter and asks them for feedback. Last month, he got lunch with a brand-new hire and another employee who had just finished one year with the company, getting feedback from one to improve the other’s transition.
Brown & Brown’s constant willingness to double- and triple-check itself permeates throughout its workplace culture, where Fontenot says the good days always outweigh the bad.
“It’s sort of this acknowledgment and acceptance we have,” he says, “that, if things are going well, we still have this desire to never be satisfied.”