Agent Spotlight: Higginbotham
CEO, RUSTY REID, BELIEVES HIS FIRM’S SUCCESS IS A DIRECT RESULT OF ITS EMPLOYEES’ HARD WORK AND THEIR UNIQUE OWNERSHIP MODEL
Higginbotham isn’t your run-of-the-mill, everyday insurance firm. Unlike most firms, Higginbotham offers and encourages stock ownership among its employees, even going so far as to offer programs to earn stock for just doing one’s job. Because of that encouragement, today almost 100 percent of the employees are shareholders or HIG Unit stockholders. This unique business model is what Rusty Reid, chairman and CEO of Higginbotham, attributes to the firm’s competitive advantage and the drive to do great things.
Reid assumed leadership of the firm in 1989 when there were only 22 employees in one location. Through organic market growth and a number of acquisitions, Reid used his leadership abilities and strong community partnerships to grow the insurance agency to become full-service and include nearly 1,000 employees with 27 locations in Texas and Oklahoma City. Even after all of this expansion, Reid holds that each Higginbotham branch is fully integrated in every aspect.
That kind of growth is impressive, but Reid wasn’t planning to enter the insurance field. After a particularly difficult pre-med class at the University of North Texas, Reid realized he may have been in the wrong field. He decided to speak to his college dean about a change in major and that dean encouraged Reid to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and his father and try out insurance. Reid found an internship and while working every day after class, fell in love with the industry. After college, Reid began his career in the field and loves it to this day. “If you can wake up every day without having to set your alarm clock, you are probably in the right line of work,” he said.
In his early days at Higginbotham, Reid developed an initiative called “Single Source” that enabled businesses to buy all of their P&C insurance and employee benefit plans through one broker, Higginbotham. According to Reid, clients appreciated working with a single agent and they felt the level of service improved. “We must have been doing something right at the time because we had a 97 percent retention rate,” said Reid.
In addition to an impressive retention rate, Higginbotham has been affirmed as an “Elite Agency” by Insurance Business America magazine for four years in a row. Just last year, Reid was also named “CEO of the Year” by Insurance Business America magazine. He believes the great success of the firm is due to its employees’ hard work that’s driven by its unique employee ownership. “The glue that holds us together is that we are all workers and owners,” said Reid. “Everyone has a part to play and we play it to the best of our abilities.”
Reid, a humble man, treats his success and accolades as something he owes to the efforts of those around him. He likes to joke that because Higginbotham is employee-owned its employees could remove him at any time. “I hate to use the word ‘affirmation’ because I don’t expect anything for coming to work every day and doing my job,” said Reid. However, when asked about his firm’s four-time Elite Agency status he laughed, “But when it’s Higginbotham that gets an award, I brag about that all day!”
“What we try to do every day is exceed the expectations of everyone we interact with: clients, employees, carriers, communities, and shareholders,” said Reid. This desire to be the best is why Higginbotham offers LUBA Workers’ Comp as a carrier for workers’ compensation coverage. Reid believes that it is important for their partners to approach business in a similar way to Higginbotham: To be a steady and dependable provider, which is something they have in common with LUBA. “In this industry, you are going to have claims,” said Reid. “We want our clients to trust and depend on us to take care of them and LUBA enables us to do that.”
“In this industry, you are going to have claims,” said Reid. “We want our clients to trust and depend on us to take care of them and LUBA enables us to do that.”
Higginbotham also has a robust community outreach program that allows employees to help fund charitable causes of their choosing through the Higginbotham Community Fund, established in 2011. The only requirement is that anyone requesting grants must give to the fund first, be it a little or a lot. “This all helps us to fulfill our vision of being the best community member that we can be,” said Reid. To date, the Higginbotham Community Fund has raised a total of $1,694,218 and granted $1,129,555.
Reid is also personally involved in community development, lending his time and efforts to numerous nonprofit organizations since the early 1990s when a colleague appointed him to the board of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. “I got to see firsthand that doing good work for an organization like that can really improve your life and the lives of those you help,” said Reid. “We wanted to be a company that doesn’t just take from the community, but one that really gives back and tries to make things better for everyone.”