We’re back in the Lone Star State this issue, spotlighting a Texas-headquartered agency celebrating a big milestone!
Since its beginnings in 1948, Higginbotham has grown from a single office in Fort Worth to become one of the largest insurance brokers in the nation, with more than 2,700 employees in 16 states!
In celebration of their 75th anniversary this year, we asked Chairman and CEO Rusty Reid about the secrets to their smart growth, and how Higginbotham continues to adapt to the changing industry.
When was Higginbotham founded? And, how has the agency evolved over the past 75 years?
Paul C. Higginbotham founded a personal insurance agency in his Fort Worth, Texas, neighborhood in 1940. By 1943, with World War II raging, he was called to service and sold the agency. After returning from service, he started anew in 1948, operating the firm as a sole proprietorship from a single office in Fort Worth for four decades. Ownership changed in the early 1960s when Paul’s nephew, Bill Stroud, purchased the firm, which he managed until 1989 when I assumed leadership and implemented a broad-based employee ownership structure that continues today. At the time, I was Higginbotham’s 12th employee and 27 years old.
In 2009, we started expanding Higginbotham’s footprint by seeking partner agencies with sterling reputations in their local markets, strong service commitments and deep cultural affinities. Today, Higginbotham is a single source solution for insurance, financial and HR services with a wide range of risk management and employee benefits consultation and administration. Higginbotham has grown to become one of the largest independent insurance brokers in the nation, with more than 2,700 employees in 16 states.
What do you attribute Higginbotham’s longevity and success to?
Many years ago, one of our board members coined what we call the “Thanksgiving test” when we bring in new people. Simply put, we want to work with people whose company we’d enjoy at Thanksgiving dinner – people who share our values, and feel like family. We look for people who embody those values because when you join Higginbotham, you become family.
It’s a family that’s been going strong for 75 years, and we’re growing every year. We share the benefits of that growth with every employee through ownership in our firm. They receive incentive grants that appreciate with the value of our firm’s common equity grants.
How has Higginbotham adapted to the changing industry and the challenges of the current climate? And how are you setting the agency up for the next 75 years?
The insurance industry is an old industry that’s getting older, except Higginbotham is getting younger. We’ve intentionally brought in young talent to perpetuate and invigorate our firm. Through our HIGG U program, young professionals spend their first three years at Higginbotham studying to earn insurance licenses, learning sales fundamentals, understanding our unique value proposition and practicing under a mentor. Seeing their enthusiasm and exuberance makes me excited to come to work every morning.
Higginbotham Chairman and CEO Rusty Reid speaks at the agency’s annual Higginbotham Leadership Conference.
What lessons have you learned over the years that will carry you into the future?
Throughout my career, I’ve been most inspired by people who don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk. I try to be a model of Higginbotham’s core values for our employees, especially the young professionals coming up in the insurance industry. Employees not only know our four core values; they live them. They’re about putting people first and giving back whenever you can. Leading by this example will inspire others to do the same for a better community all around.
What makes your employees great?
This is an easy answer – our values-driven culture. One of our four core values is to be “family to our employees,” and it’s a key driver of our award-winning culture. Helping our employees be healthier and happier contributes to their job and life satisfaction and in turn boosts their ability to perform their best for our clients so we keep growing. And when our employees are personally fulfilled, they’re in the best position to pay it forward. Another of our values is to be “generous to our communities.” We created the Higginbotham Community Fund in 2011 to provide grants to nonprofits operating in the markets we serve. It is 100% funded by employee contributions, and those who donate may request grants for nonprofits near and dear to them. The fund has raised over $8 million to date. Hands-down, our values-based culture is what attracts talent to our team and agencies to join our firm.
What aspect/accomplishment are you most proud of at your agency?
Of the many honors and awards Higginbotham has received over the years, the ones I’m most proud of are those that recognize Higginbotham as an employer of choice, because it means we’re living out our core value that promises to be family to our employees. This year alone, we were named a Best Company to Work for in Insurance by Business Insurance and a Best Agency to Work For, Bronze Regional Award – South Central by Insurance Journal. In surveys for these awards, our employees overwhelmingly cited Higginbotham’s commitment to the community as a main factor in their job satisfaction. Our people’s generosity is another major source of pride for me.
What’s a fun fact/interesting tidbit that we wouldn’t know about your agency, or one of your employees?
The City of Fort Worth proclaimed April 27, 2023, as Higginbotham’s Volunteer Extravaganza Day to commemorate our 75th anniversary, and Mayor Mattie Parker addressed our team to kick off the event. Hundreds of our employees came together to give back to Higginbotham’s hometown by volunteering at nine Fort Worth area nonprofits during our annual Higginbotham Leadership Conference.
What advice do you have for other insurance professionals?
Take care of your business and it will take care of you.