Remaining in business for 100 years is no easy feat. But Hierl Insurance in Fond du Lac seems to have found the recipe for success. The family business hasn’t just survived since starting back in 1919, it has thrived.
The business focuses on two major product lines — property and casualty insurance as well as employee benefits, says Mike Hierl, president, CEO and owner of Hierl Insurance.
“We’re a little different because we just deal with businesses. We don’t handle individual insurance,” he says.
A business that spans a century and three generations is undoubtedly impressive, but Hierl admits he never had any intention of stepping into the family business. He worked for a bank in the Milwaukee area when his boss said an opportunity was available in Fond du Lac. While he was hesitant to move back to his hometown, Hierl took a chance.
“Not only was I helping other businesses with loans and helping them from a banking perspective, but I got to learn about their businesses and really what it took to run a business,” Hierl says. “At that point, my dad’s business intrigued me.”
When his father was ready to hand over the reins, Hierl stepped in.
Hierl says community has driven the company’s longevity.
“Going all the way back to my grandfather, there’s this thought that we’re only here because of the community that supports us,” he says. “From the early stages, getting involved in the community is something that has been a big deal for us.”
One of many examples is the company’s “Hierl Has Heart” campaign. Each quarter, Hierl Insurance picks a nonprofit, and an employee is tasked with spearheading the effort to support that organization.
“We go in and say, ‘What can we do to help you?’ Not necessarily in dollars, but in time and energy,” Hierl says.
He’s quick to add that dedication to the community is key to the company’s success. “It helps us learn about the community, what the needs are and how we can best help,” Hierl says. “In turn, it kind of takes care of itself. If you’re helping the community, the community is helping you.”
That emphasis on service and kindness is deeply ingrained in the Hierl culture, and it’s something that has extended to how the company treats its own employees. Hierl is big on a “family always comes first” philosophy and never wants employees to miss an important family event — whether it’s a child’s sporting event or caring for a sick relative — for work. As a result, the company has enjoyed an impressive retention rate, with many of its 14 employees sticking around for upward of 30 years.
Hierl knows the business has quite a legacy to be proud of, but he isn’t resting on that. He has one eye on the future, always thinking about what will come next. For example, two years ago, Hierl rebranded itself and added a new tagline — “Strength, Heart and Results.”
He adds the company is always looking to acquire other agencies and is also intensely focused on recruiting younger talent.
Right now, much of his attention is focused on the company’s 100-year anniversary campaign, which will culminate with a large party on the office grounds this summer.
“It really gives me an opportunity to take a look back on the legacy here — the 100 years — and really honor my grandfather, and my dad, and the employees for what has been accomplished here,” Hierl says. “Because it’s true — it really isn’t all that common to be around for 100 years.”