For the founders of Tampa, Fla.-based BKS- Partners, being nominated as Insurance Journal’s Best Agency to Work For by their employees is not only an “incredible honor” but also motivation to keep improving.
“It’s such an incredible honor because to think that what we do and how we try to interact and engage with colleagues is meaningful – and it also puts a lot of pressure on us to continue to raise the bar, challenge ourselves, and to not be satisfied with the status quo,” Founding Partner Elizabeth Krystyn said. “[We] spend nights and weekends thinking of different ways that we can engage with people and help them develop their passions and interests and help them achieve their career goals.”
When the three founding partners – Krystyn, Laura Sherman and Lowry Baldwin – came together in 2006 to start BKS-Partners, creating and maintaining the right company culture was the ultimate priority, and that is still the case.
The company, which primarily focuses on employee benefits, commercial and high net worth insurance, never wavers from its internal guide deemed the “Azimuth.” Krystyn described the Azimuth as their “culture document that describes how we want to work with each other, our clients, our insurance company partners and the community.”
“We put culture front and center,” said Sherman.
Sherman said that means employees, who are referred to as “colleagues” at BKS, not only share in the successes of the whole firm, but consistently work hard to keep improving themselves and the company.
That can also include letting BKS leadership know what can be done better.
“We give them the forum to tell us when we aren’t getting it right and we are very nimble, we can adapt and we can change,” said Sherman. “I think that’s probably one of the reasons that our colleagues are not only as forgiving, but also as passionate, because they know that they are stewards of the culture as well.”
“The leaders of the agency encourage idea sharing and community as important aspects of our culture.”
“The culture and support to be your best is unparalleled! If you work hard, you will be rewarded and lifted further. If you stumble and fall, you rise as a team and grow.”
“[BKS has a] culture of success and accountability.”
“Our vivacious and embracing culture accompanied with our strong client focus is what sets us apart.”
“Our culture is supportive, collaborative, and full of positive energy.”
“[BKS-Partners has a] collegial culture that emphasizes working across company divisions.”
That commitment to culture has been a driving force behind the firm’s dramatic growth over the last 12 years, Sherman and Krystyn said. With more than 250 colleagues now working at BKS in multiple states, Sherman said as the company has grown they have made sure to add leadership who are aligned with its culture.
“It’s inevitable that I won’t be walking the floor and see everybody every single day … and we aren’t as involved in all the day-to-day decisions,” Sherman said. “[Colleagues] have definitely embraced and trust the leadership we have brought in. But it’s also about how you keep that intimacy and knowledge of everyone.”
But it’s not just about company growth at BKS – personal growth is a major focus as well.
A new career path program, PTO to do community service, and the Passion Project contest where colleagues can win money for a cause they are passionate about, are other opportunities employees love.
“The culture at Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners is a culture all organizations should strive for!” One respondent said. “The partners and all levels of leadership engage on multiple levels with all employees and the entire organization collaborates as a team on a regular basis. All employees work very hard and all are happy to do so because of the culture and appreciation received. BKS Rocks!!”