Community-based and employee-driven. In the simplest of words, that is the image Winton-Ireland, Strom & Green Insurance Agency exudes to residents of the Turlock, California, area. And that is exactly the culture carried out daily within the walls of one of the largest independently owned insurance agencies in the Central Valley.
Walking into Winton-Ireland feels a bit like visiting family. Need to speak to the CEO? Of course you can; go right up to his office or find him in the cafeteria at lunchtime like everyone else. Employees are constantly shown they are appreciated through picnics, a Thanksgiving luncheon, and holiday parties for spouses, significant others, and their kids. Roses are handed out on Administrative Professionals Day.
The owners, all of whom work for the company, also know how to show their employees they care. Doctors come in to host monthly wellness workshops and contests are held for employees who complete fitness challenges. Management usually surprise their workforce by bringing in the newest crop, like sweet potatoes, which are well appreciated in a community focused on agriculture. “Those are things you just don’t expect anymore,” says Rick Adams, chief operating officer.
What is one word to describe the culture of Winton-Ireland, Strom & Green Insurance Agency?
Construction Specialist, Account Manager
“Conscientious. Our company’s primary concern is our client’s needs. We utilize all resources to best meet our customer’s insurance needs and provide them with quality products. If we don’t have the answer, we have the resources to find them that answer.”
Benefits Account Manager
“Integrity. I have learned working here that this company is very honest and very reliable along with representing high moral principles. I feel we represent that to each of our clients and to all of the employees here at Winton-Ireland.”
“Family. Our business has grown from its humble roots as a family-operated and owned agency into a multifaceted and experienced agency. Through its growth it has retained the same core values.”
The benefits of these positive reinforcements speak for themselves. Winton-Ireland’s retention rate is extremely high. It is a business employees are proud to be part of and willing to stay a part of for a very long time. “Most of the people who are coming here, the majority are through referral. There’s not a lot of times we look and recruit,” Adams says. “There’s a sense of being appreciated [here].”
Unlike many insurance agencies that merge and become clusters and networks of agencies, Winton-Ireland is committed to growing on its own. The company, nearing its 100-year anniversary in 2013, has five offices and 136 employees throughout the cities of Modesto, Livingston, Fresno, and Oakhurst in California, with its main office in Turlock. Throughout each of those offices, the philosophy on getting the job done is to treat all clients with the same level of service. Winton-Ireland’s size and scope of practice, although it insures nationwide, has not stopped it from delivering the best client relations, no matter how large or small. “Some agencies say they can’t be bothered with small accounts. We’ve really stayed away from that; we won’t put our clients through to a 1-800 center,” Adams says.
Because they are a community-based company, they want to keep their approach to business the same way. A good portion of their business is right in the local area, so it becomes a personal commitment for all employees to do their best. “Most of these people are our neighbors and we know them. We may insure their homes, businesses, schools, and even their hospitals,” Adams says.
Grounding itself and expanding from within has made the company one of the most recognized local employers of the Central Valley, and well respected in an economically challenged area. With that growth, it has also become a longtime steward of the community, giving back to schools, charities, the arts, and high school boosters. Adams himself enjoys attending high school basketball games and can be spotted among the fans on any given night.
Nearing its 100-year anniversary, the owners are also focusing on another key to its success: investing in its young workers. While the ages of employees vary across the board, young employees are especially nurtured through an informal mentoring program. College students who work at Winton-Ireland during their summer breaks are also given first consideration for future openings.
The company’s culture of a caring and giving workforce would not be possible without its employees. But, even more so, Winton-Ireland would not be able to command the respect it gets in the community, if it were not for its top-notch staff.
In addition to the company contributing dollars to the community, employees themselves vote on a charity to donate to every couple of months. “The reason they give of themselves is because if you come from a family that gives, you tend to take on those characteristics,” Adams says.