Long-Term Thinking Builds Winning Culture at Deland, Gibson

November 6, 2023 by

When Chip and Ted Gibson got the keys to Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in 2020, the brothers took over what Chip described as “a great shop.” Three generations of their family members had guided the independent agency since its doors opened in 1900.

It was then Chip and Ted’s turn to steer the organization into the future.

Three years later, Deland, Gibson has been named one of Insurance Journal’s Best Agencies to Work For.

The agency earned the Bronze Regional Award for the East region in the magazine’s annual Best Agencies to Work For competition. Deland, Gibson won the award based on employee responses to the annual Insurance Journal survey.

“This is kind of the result of many years of work,” said Chip, the agency’s owner and CEO. “It’s not like something you can instantly turn on and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got a great culture and we’re doing a lot of good things.’ It takes time to actually accomplish things, to implement things and make it work.”

The Massachusetts-based agency employs 77 people. Many of them praised Deland, Gibson’s positive work environment, fair management and far-reaching charitable giving in their survey responses. They also emphasized the focus on caring for clients and deepening relationships.

“The culture here is incredible,” wrote one respondent. “We live by our core values, there is a sense of collaboration and community. We help each other, work hard and do great things.”

Most of Deland, Gibson’s business is split between personal and commercial policies. The agency has a specialized high net worth division, and on the commercial side, employees have expertise in various areas. About 10% of the company’s business is employee benefits.

Long-term thinking is integral to the company’s strategy. In an industry with stiff competition, continuously evolving and improving are key focus areas for the Deland, Gibson team.

“We want to be an independent agency that’s prepared and thriving,” Chip explained. “Not one that’s reactive and has outside pressures make it do something they may not want to do.”

After Chip and Ted took over, the agency underwent a rigorous outside review by the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents that objectively highlighted Deland, Gibson’s strengths and weaknesses. In the process, Deland, Gibson received a five-star designation — and a perspective that reshaped its internal approach.

The big takeaway: Communication could be improved.

They established a client experience committee to hear holistic advice from employees.

As strategic planning became a bigger focus, a sheet outlining the agency’s core values and actionable goals hung on the wall at each Deland, Gibson location.

Honest conversations led to big internal improvements. Notably, after staff members took Kolbe tests — an assessment like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator — optimal communication styles were identified and shared to enhance interactions and strengthen connections.

In their responses, employees spoke highly of their company across the board.

As one respondent put it, expectations are clear, education is encouraged and pay is fair. Another said the staff lives by its core values and noted there is a sense of collaboration and community among employees.

“This agency is very family oriented, considerate to employees’ needs, and management works with you and not against you,” reads a survey response.

“They have clients’ best interest in mind and make us very comfortable in our positions so we can feel good about our clients and their needs as well.”

Chip believes it all boils down to genuinely caring. His advice to other agency owners?

Improving an agency doesn’t happen overnight. It takes consistent effort.