Four Core Values and the ‘Thanksgiving Test’

October 4, 2021 by

“We are family to our employees, accountable to our clients, teammates to our carriers and generous to our communities. Those values inform all our decisions,” said Higginbotham CEO Rusty Reid, describing the four core values that drive the company’s operational spirit. “Our employees not only know them, they live them. So we put considerable effort into hiring people who fit Higginbotham’s culture. It’s what we call the ‘Thanksgiving test’ — we only hire people with whom we would enjoy sharing a Thanksgiving meal. By sticking with this guiding principle, Higginbotham feels like family.”

Fort Worth-based Higginbotham earned Insurance Journal’s Gold Best Agency to Work For in the South Central region on the strength of the firm’s employees’ enthusiasm for their workplace — revealed in their responses to IJ’s Best Agencies to Work For survey. Through the online nomination process, employees rank their agency’s performance in various categories and comment on what makes their workplace the best.

It’s quite a feat for an independent agency to feel like family when it has more than 1,500 employees and revenues of $318,638,000 in 2020. But Higginbotham clearly is doing things right. The firm has received numerous awards for its achievements, including having been selected as IJ’s overall Gold Best Agency to Work For in 2019.

For Reid, honors “based on employee satisfaction are my proudest professional achievements. Higginbotham is a people-first firm, and I’ve always said that our greatest assets ride up and down our elevator every day. So I’m beyond happy that they feel valued as teammates.”

The employer-employee admiration clearly goes both ways. Said one employee in the comments section of IJ’s survey: “Rusty Reid is an amazing CEO! He’s humble and so giving. I had the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to Africa with some amazing coworkers (that I had never met before). Our company took part in a program that assisted young children that were the head of households for their families because their parents were out of the picture. The program teaches them how to become entrepreneurs and provide for their family. Being able to be a part of that experience was life changing and I never would have been able to do that if it wasn’t for Rusty and his giving heart!”

The high regard Higginbotham employees have for the company’s leadership doesn’t stop with Reid. One respondent praised the firm’s “wonderful managers,” while another said: “If we drop the ball, we own it and make it right with clients. Our leadership supports us and has our back as long as we do the right thing for people.”

One commented: “Like many agencies and brokerage houses across the country, Higginbotham had a hiring freeze in place during the early months of the pandemic.” However, the agency’s leadership “saw the opportunity to make strategic hires in support and servicing roles early on. We grew during the pandemic and we needed people to support the new business … good people. Higginbotham senior management wisely saw this and allowed us to bring good people in.”

When it comes to adding people, Reid recognized while the insurance industry as a whole is getting older, “Higginbotham is getting younger. We’ve intentionally brought in young talent to perpetuate and invigorate our firm. Seeing their enthusiasm and exuberance makes me excited to come to work every morning.”

Giving Back

Higginbotham employees widely praised the firm’s Higginbotham Community Fund, which is “funded voluntarily by employee contributions and contributes directly to communities where our offices are located. Recipients are determined by employee nomination and review by a committee,” one respondent said.

“I’m proud to work for a company [that] cares for its community as much as its bottom line. Employees are encouraged to contribute to the Higginbotham Community Fund, the money is then granted to charities nominated by employees,” said another.

For Reid, the way to build a company that people want to be a part of is fairly simple.

“Take care of your people, and they’ll take care of your business. When you have broad-based employee ownership like we do at Higginbotham, it’s a win-win for everyone.”