Starkweather & Shepley growing fast, looking out for clients’ best interests

Business Excellence Awards 2018
Excellence at a large company: Starkweather & Shepley Insurance Brokerage Inc.

In January, Starkweather & Shepley Insurance Brokerage Inc. will celebrate 140 years of developing a standard of performance that combines tradition with a growing platform to offer insurance, risk management and related services in a global economy.

“The fundamentals of everyone here include three traits: passion, commitment and competency,” said CEO Larry Keefe. “By maintaining those values, we can be thought leaders on behalf of our clients. … Employers today need a resource partner when making business decisions.”

From a small office in 1879 to 14 offices across four states, Starkweather & Shepley is one of the fastest-growing brokerage companies in the area. From 2015 to present, the company has reported more than 10 percent revenue increases each year, while the industry average is closer to 5 percent, according to Keefe, the result being annual revenue of $55 million.

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“Our growth is consistent,” he said. “It’s nearly double over our peers and the largest in Rhode Island. We are ranked nationally, now the 61st-largest broker in 2017.”

Keefe said the ability to offer a hyper-diversified menu of 60 carriers and access to 200 options gives the company an advantage. Pair that with 242 employees dedicated to serving client needs and a network of 26 unit managers who meet consistently, and the opportunity for success is profound.

“I tend to see it as a middle-up-and-out type of approach to leadership,” explained Keefe. “I may not have all the great ideas, but I know a great idea when I see one.”

At the forefront of company strategy is providing customers with more than a guarantee of insurance coverage. Stefan Petrella, director of corporate communications and media, said the East Providence agency hosts several conferences each year for clients and other business leaders, most recently a seminar addressing workplace violence, bringing together a panel of law enforcement representatives, medical professionals, human resources talent and attorneys for 200 attendees.

“We are cognizant that as we grow and learn, our clients do as well,” said Petrella. “We want to adapt to the landscape and take care of clients in their best interests.”

Events such as that one are in line with the company’s – and its staff’s – commitment to the community, which in many cases takes the form of philanthropy. This year, for instance, employees have helped raise more than $50,000 for various organizations.

Petrella and Keefe say the company culture is team-oriented, stemming from the fact that the private company is held in trust for the benefit of the associates and stakeholders. It’s essential that all voices are listened to and new ideas considered.

For instance, within the last few years the company has seen a focus on employee satisfaction transitioning from accrued paid-time-off to what is called “beneficial time-off,” a responsibly used, unlimited paid vacation plan.

“We are all adults and responsible,” said Keefe. “As long as you get business done and in a thoughtful manner, take as much time as you need. If you have to take a child or your mother or father to the doctor’s, we provide that flexibility.”

The company also abides by a “Dress for Your Day” policy that allows employees to dress for either corporate meetings or a day at the desk.

Starkweather & Shepley recently held an annual outing at which all the employees traveled to Newport Vineyards for a day of lawn games, rest and relaxation.

“It’s a way of getting to know each other so we feel more like family,” said Keefe. “And it’s a chance to take a breath.”