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Empowered Employees, Powerful Brokerages
Jeff Toth, Marketing & Communications Specialist, IBAO
Locke Insurance Brokers and Oracle RMS are two very different brokerages that represent two distinct visions for success in the broker channel. What they share is an approach that empowers their staff to succeed on their own terms.
Both brokerages were finalists for the 2019 Awards of Excellence for
Brokerage of the Year—10 and Under Licensed Brokers
Brokerage of the Year—Over 10 Licensed Brokers
, respectively. Locke is a long-standing family brokerage, with deep roots in the community of St. Thomas. “This is our 90th year in operation,” said David Locke, Principal Broker. “My grandfather opened it in 1929, at the height of the Great Depression.” His daughter Sarah, General Manager, is the latest addition to their leadership team. “I’m the first female, but the fourth generation to work in the family business.” Oracle RMS began as a small boutique brokerage in Concord in 2011 but has grown into much more. “We were motivated to create a positive environment,” said Michael DiNardo, President. “At first it was just four of us,” said John Ferraro, CEO. “Things started to go well. We began expanding and hiring Producers. Today we’re 120 plus people.” Despite the brokerages’ differences, many of the values they share drive both Locke’s longevity and Oracle’s expansion by harnessing the collective strength of their teams.
Creating Openness
A welcoming and transparent atmosphere promotes communication and the exchange of ideas.
“Our doors are always open. We collaborate a lot, partially due to our size, but it’s also the employees we have,” said Sarah. “We aim to be consistent, honest and fair to staff,” said David. “That builds a lot of trust.” “It’s an open concept office,” said John. “The environment is conducive to having people collaborate—they’re sitting at each other’s desks, discussing files.”
Generational gaps are beneficial because you get different ways of approaching things. It’s nice to see.
Fostering Equality
Rather than enforcing structure, treating employees like peers gives them a sense of ownership in the business.
“We try to tear down any kind of hierarchy that appears here,” said John. “Yeah, we do have managers, CSRs and TSRs, but the goal is trying to make every position feel as important as the other one.” “I’m a Producer and Manager here. I’m not a huge fan of titles though,” said Sarah. “I do a little bit of everything. You wear a lot of hats in a small brokerage.” “We do wear many hats,” David agreed. “It gives employees a personal investment in the interests of our clients.”
Making Space for Different Approaches
Just as biodiversity makes an ecosystem robust, a diverse set of ideas and methods can add to a brokerages’ resilience.
“We realized early on that Producers are independent businesspeople. Producers at Oracle operate their own business within our business,” said Michael. “We give them parameters on what we need, the direction we’re going. But everyone has their own way of doing things and we try to encourage that.” “The staff is really very innovative and progressive and I try to support that best I can,” said David. “Generational gaps are beneficial because you get different ways of approaching things. It’s nice to see.”
Being Receptive to New Ideas
Using suggestions from employees can make them feel more engaged and invested. Additionally, they can have really good ideas.
“If they have any ideas or suggestions, they know they can bounce it off of us,” said John. “We just implemented a suggestion from an employee. We gave the CSRs authority to spend up to $200 to do what they feel is necessary to retain the client, for example waving an NSF charge. Before they’d have to go to management, and we’d have to approve it. Now they have the authority themselves.” “When I joined the brokerage in 2014, there was no Facebook page and we didn’t have any customer reviews. My background being in journalism and media, I jumped on that,” said Sarah. “We’ve gone out and asked clients to leave a review. We have a YouTube channel, a Facebook page and Instagram. Google Review is huge for us. My dad’s been extremely supportive of all our social media efforts.”
Facilitating Contributions to the Community
Most brokerages are active in their community but allowing employees to contribute in their own way can help build a personal connection to work.
“We give flex time to our employees if they have a passion they want to pursue in the community,” said Sarah. “I’m on a number of boards. We have other staff members who are on boards or teams that take a lot of time during the day. If they need to come in late or leave work early to do that, they can. It’s a benefit to the brokerage to be involved in our community.” “We do fundraising initiatives including our annual sponsorship of the Autism Walk,” said John. “This year we’re putting together a few beach volleyball teams for a SickKids tournament. That was a suggestion from an employee and we ended up entering five or six teams.”
What Recent Hires Say
“It’s exciting to work somewhere that you have opportunity to learn. And I have learned a ton being here. They’re willing to look at someone’s strength and abilities. They want to foster learning in whatever way helps the person best.”
Rachel, Office Assistant, Locke
"They’ve shown that they trust me. They give me more roles and responsibilities outside my job title that I’ve shown I’m capable of. They want their employees to move forward."
Desiree TSR, Oracle
Hiring for the Future
When bringing new people onto the team, there’s an opportunity to fill a role today, but the right person can expand into new roles tomorrow.
“We’re training from within a lot and that seems to be working really well,” said Sarah. “When we’re hiring, our job posts indicate that we want to see you grow. You may start out as an Administrative Assistant and stay that if you want to, but we’re encouraging you to go further and we’ve done that in this brokerage numerous times.” “We’re looking for people that want to make insurance their career,” said Michael. “The industry is changing at a breakneck pace. We need people who are young and ambitious and looking to embrace change.”
Focusing on Education
An investment in an employee’s education is an investment in the business itself.
“There’s a lot of support whenever it’s education related,” said Sarah. “The brokerage is encouraging all our staff members. That extends to YBC, Convention—anything that’s going to better that broker. I just finished my CAIB.” “We encourage education. Everyone knows if they want to increase their knowledge in a certain field or get a designation or license, we pay for it,” said John. “Our biggest success is bringing young people out of school
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