By expanding into two new markets in Bolivar and Branson in the span of three years and transforming from a transactional model to a consultative model, Ollis/Akers/Arney has positioned itself as the area’s largest independent insurance agency, according to Springfield Business Journal list research. Currently, the company works with more than 5,000 clients on risk and safety consulting.
However, it’s also one of the oldest businesses in Springfield. In 1885, Richard A. Ollis started the business with his two brothers. His great-grandson and namesake, Richard Ollis, is the CEO and chairman of the company today.
Ollis says over the years, the company has had to adapt to the everchanging business climate to focus on new needs.
“Back in the late 1800s when we were founded, people would come to us and normally buy property insurance policies,” he says. “Fast forward to where we are today, and that is just a very small portion of what people are concerned about. Today, liability is likely the No. 1 issue, with litigation and all sorts of employee-related risks and liability associated with the use of computers.”
According to Ollis, becoming a 100% employee-owned company in 2008 marked another landmark change with a long-term impact on employee satisfaction and business success. Previously, the insurance agency became an early adopter of the employee stock ownership plan in the 1980s.
“We focus a lot on what we call the employee-owner experience,” Ollis says. “We not only desire, but just short of demand their involvement, engagement and input into what we’re doing as a company. We are exceptionally transparent, which means we share financial information. We also share strategic plans.”
Ollis believes it is important for employees to be engaged not only in the business but also in the community. He serves on Springfield City Council, and six employees are past chairpersons of either the Springfield, Bolivar or Branson chambers of commerce. In fact, Ollis’ previous business partner, Edd Akers, had to resign so he could serve as the mayor of Branson.
In 2015, Ollis doubled the company’s number of employees through a business merger with Akers & Arney in Branson. In 2018, the company merged its operations once again with the Paul Long Agency in Bolivar.
Now, with just 60 employees but $124 million in 2019 managed premiums, the company has learned to encourage efficiency by providing more flexibility.
Recently, Ollis says the company has significantly enhanced its paid time off policies and remote work arrangements. Although he says they were already testing out remote working before the COVID-19 pandemic, the event sped up the process.
“There are a lot of good things remote work brought us, and one was better and more effective teamwork,” Ollis says. “Secondly, even though we are very transparent, we have learned how to become that much more communicative with both our staff and our clients.”
Whataburger launched its second local store; Branson shop Revive Juice and Coffee Bar LLC moved; and a new Monett branch of the Barry-Lawrence Regional Library District opened.