Every year the Hartford Business Journal names the top 25 "Best Places to Work in Connecticut." This year, Bearingstar Insurance, , was ranked fourth in the small and medium size business category. This was the first time Bearingstar, a division of the Arbella Insurance Group, made the list.
Marcia Millard serves as the team manager for Suffield's office, located on Mountain Road. She oversees a staff of nine employees, some with twenty years or more experience at the location. Four years ago, Bearingstar acquired the personal insurance lines businesses of Ahrens, Fuller, St. John's, and Vincent Insurance.
With eleven offices in Connecticut and the backing of regional carrier Arbella, the Suffield Bearingstar office is able to offer the benefits of a large agency but the personal touch and customer service of a local shop.
“Its like the best of both worlds for all of us,” Millard said, citing all the support received from the other offices in Connecticut and the home office of Arbella Insurance Group in Quincy, MA.The Quincy office maintains a staff of 600 to 700 employees.
Most of the employees at the Suffield office live in close proximity, cited by Millard as another reason why it is a great place to work. They suffer none of the pains of commuting to a big city, avoiding traffic, parking and other issues.
“We don't have to drive through Hartford,” Millard enthusiastically said.
Originally from Vermont, Millard feels very much at home in the small town environment.
Bearingstar offers a great deal of training and development for its employees. Preparing employees is an area where it the company “spares no expense,” according to Millard. The Connecticut offices participate in a series of workshops called chief global training several times a year, where employees can meet and exchange ideas with their counterparts from other branches.
Leadership training is also provided for managers, often at the Quincy headquarters. Training is a top priority for Bearingstar because the changing marketplace for insurance requires the constant updating of skills.
“The minute you start thinking you know everything is the minute you should check out,” Millard explained.
Another aspect of the Bearingstar model responsible for its selection to the Best Places to Work list was its commitment to charity and community involvement. Each office receives an allocation of funds from the Arbella Charitable Foundation to distribute to local causes and charities selected by employees.
Last year, the Suffield office donated to Suffield Emergency Aid Association, hospice programs, and the Safe Home in Enfield for victims of domestic abuse. The company matches donations that employees make to charities of their own choosing as well as donates to any walks or fund-raising drives of employees.
“You want your job [to be] more than a paycheck,” Millard said.
Bearingstar plans to bring its traveling simulator for raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving known as “Distractology 101” for demonstrations in Connecticut later this year. Launched in 2010, Distractology 101 is an effort of the Arbella Insurance Group Charitable Foundation. Distracted driving, including cell phone and text messaging while behind the wheel, has been cited as the cause of an increasing number of traffic accidents in recent years.
Testament to the success of the Bearingstar work environment are the numbers of employees choosing to stay with the company through to retirement. In the five years Millard has been employed, she has seen three long-time employees retire.
“This is not a place you move through in your career,” she said, “this is a place you retire with.”
Millard said plans to celebrate the honor of being named one of Connecticut's best places to work are so far a secret, but past years have seen company-wide cruises on the Connecticut River and other outings.
Balancing their offering of comprehensive products and services at competitive prices to their customer base with providing a great work environment and enrichment of its employees is the chief aim of the company, according to Millard.
“Happy employees equal happy customers,” Millard said with pride.