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A dozen reasons ASI keeps rating as a top place to work in Tampa Bay

American Strategic Insurance founder and CEO John Auer, in the lobby of the St. Petersburg headquarters, says success starts with the right employees.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

American Strategic Insurance founder and CEO John Auer, in the lobby of the St. Petersburg headquarters, says success starts with the right employees.

American Strategic Insurance founder and CEO John Auer can rattle off numerous reasons his company surfaces as a perennial top workplace in Tampa Bay. But everything the company does is secondary, he says, to starting with the right employees. Everything hinges on hiring people who are predisposed to have a happy attitude. "There is no shortage of insurance companies out there. We just thought if we had happy people who had a good attitude then (customers) would prefer to deal with them," Auer said. "And it's more fun for all of us to be around a positive, happy group." His strategy is paying off. This marks the third time out of the last five years that employee surveys have elevated the St. Petersburg property insurer to No. 1 in the midsize category.

Other companies looking to emulate that kind of success, take note. Here are a dozen things that help make ASI stand out as a happy environment:

• Every worker receives a monthly bonus up to $240 when departments meet performance and efficiency goals.

• ASI covers 100 percent of employee medical insurance.

• Its 401(k) plan includes a 6 percent company match.

• The new headquarters includes a weight center and gym accessible seven days a week to employees and their families.

• The second building on its new campus — which will house sister company and fellow top workplace e-Ins — will have a day care center on the first floor when it opens Memorial Day weekend.

• To promote interaction, Auer eschewed architect recommendations and built out rather than building up. Each floor is 50,000 square feet, with an open flow to encourage cooperation. Many cubicle walls are low so people can interact more easily.

• Among office events this year: an Olympics-style contest with competition in categories like curling (rolling somebody in an office chair) and ribbon twirling. Auer credits his employees: "There are a lot of creative people around here who think of ways to have fun and break up the monotony."

• When agents from around the country visit ASI's office during an annual gathering, each department puts on a skit, with the winning skit getting rewarded.

• No favored parking based on executive titles. Instead, seniority rules when it comes to choice spots.

• ASI shows it cares about the bigger picture, from supporting organizations like the American Red Cross to the effort to go paperless most of the time in an industry known for pumping out an abundance of paperwork.

• An internal training program helps employees focus on skills they want to learn or improve upon.

• The Christmas holiday party — the one time a year everyone dresses up — is a mainstay. But the location keeps moving to bigger venues as the company grows. For next season, ASI booked St. Petersburg's Vinoy hotel.

I love my job because

… In a time when many companies laid people off and/or cut benefits, ASI continued giving benefits and even gave more.

… ASI is a fun place to work and the people care and want to know you as a person not just an employee.

… . Never have I felt as appreciated as I do at ASI. ASI values embrace attitude, speed, and innovation. I am loyal to these values and, in return, I am continually delighted at the appreciation and respect that is reciprocated to me.

… I have the freedom to speak my mind to my superiors even if I disagree with them. I am given the opportunity to grow and develop.

… Everyone is very enthusiastic and positive and it makes me feel good to work here.

…I get to help people through a tough time in their lives.

FROM A VETERAN

Darlene Johnson

Title: IT project director and quality control manager

Age: 48

Tenure with ASI: 13 years.

"I was fortunate to be hired as one of the first underwriters when they brought the underwriting team in-house (so) I've basically grown up with the company.

"What makes it special? I'd say number one is the fact you do get to wear so many hats and learn so much about the business. You get to see the whole picture. We have an internal trainer whose programs are open to everyone. I think I've worked harder on this job than any other job in my career, but we also play hard. There are great programs for team building inside and outside of the office. Evenings and weekends, there's always opportunities to build friendships."

FRESH PERSPECTIVE

Johnathan Donald

Title: Underwriter for West Coast states

Age: 41

Tenure with ASI: Seven months

"This place is a breath of fresh air. It's a little bit smaller than (my last job). But if you have some concerns … you can go to your lead manager and they're very receptive. What's cool here is the cubicles are lower than most. I can see my co-workers. It's way more interactive. … If you're on a phone call and not sure and want to get someone else's opinion, you can. And no one is very upset about it. We're all a great team."



1. American Strategic Insurance Corp.

2. Dimmitt Automotive Group

3. Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa

4. Century 21 Beggins Enterprises

5. Hyatt Hotels and Resorts - Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay

COMPANY BIO

American Strategic Insurance Corp.

Founded in 1997, American Strategic Insurance (known as ASI) offers property and casualty insurance products in 26 states. It has about 400 employees — hiring 100 people over the past year alone — and it recently moved into new headquarters in St. Petersburg.

A dozen reasons ASI keeps rating as a top place to work in Tampa Bay 04/11/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 11, 2014 2:25pm]

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