Berends Hendricks Stuit celebrates 75th anniversary
Agency puts emphasis on ownership transition and staying local.
Seventy-five years is a long time to build up trust.
Berends Hendricks Stuit Insurance Agency Inc., an independent insurance company headquartered at 3055 44th St. SW, Grandville, has been serving the local community for 75 years through assessment of business and personal needs, mitigating risk, reducing costs and increasing employee satisfaction and productivity.
Most important, however, is the trust that has been established between its clients and associates.
Although the company has changed in terms of size and original ownership since its establishment in 1939, Berends Hendricks Stuit remains dedicated to staying local and fostering relationships with clients.
Specializing in the areas of business and commercial insurance, employee benefits and finances, BHS offers a variety of services for its clients and operates with a philosophy to offer comprehensive coverage to properly protect families and businesses, according to its website.
Steve Olson, director of employee benefits and partner at BHS, said one of the agency’s strengths that has led to its sustainability is placing significance on taking care of clients, from the front end of selling insurance to the back end of when there is a claim.
“I think what makes us rise to the top is the fact that we have the people in place who are passionate about taking care of their customers. So we have people that have built relationships, the trust, and then when the clients have a claim, we are there for them, we fight for them,” said Olson. “And that has helped our sustainability because people can trust us; they know that we are there for them. That’s the only way you can grow in this business is taking care of your clients.”
BHS services include a risk management division that features a comprehensive review, retirement plan consulting, business and commercial insurance quote forms, employee benefit wellness and vendor negotiations, and specialty programs. According to the BHS website, some of the programs developed and implemented in specific industry areas range from energy and construction to botanical gardens and nurseries.
Olson said much of the agency’s growth has occurred in just the last decade, including a change in ownership. Starting with 23 employees at the time of moving into the building on 44th Street and a small operation in Holland, the company now has 115 associates and additional locations in Hudsonville, Byron Center and Kalamazoo.
Although the company has grown in scope, BHS plans to keep the business local. Olson said one of the owners, Dennis Hendricks, sold stock to Jerry Niewiek and himself, while Tom Stuit is in the process of selling his stock to five other associates within BHS. Edward Berends, the third owner, passed away several years ago.
“We do have a perpetuation plan versus being bought out. A lot of agencies in this town have come to that point where they didn’t have a plan and they sell out to an investment banking company, or another big national insurance company,” said Olson. “They (Hendricks and Stuit) are still very active, but they understand that in order to perpetuate the agency, you have to sell your stock.”
As the company turns 75 this year, Olson said one of the challenges the agency has faced recently is adapting to the Affordable Care Act and the subsequent changes to the health care law.
“It has been very frustrating and labor intensive for us,” said Olson in reference to ACA. “Before, we knew all the answers to all the health insurance questions in the world, but with this new law and each interpretation of the law … you get different answers, so it is very frustrating.”
Olson said BHS has weathered the challenge by hiring lawyers and compliance officers to help clarify the health care law for clients. Another challenge the associates within the agency are handling is connected to understanding the differences each insurance carrier uses in calculating rates for various insurance plans, such as homeowners and automobile coverage.
“It’s not like you put all the information in the computer and get rates from our 20 companies,” said Olson. “We are kind of thriving in that arena because of our people.”
To commemorate its 75th anniversary, BHS plans to host a celebration for the employees in addition to holding an event for clients and community members. Olson said it all comes down to the employees and their passion for the agency that has helped sustain the company and make it what it is today.
“It’s not as easy as it used to be and there is more competition, as well. There are a lot of insurance agencies in town,” said Olson. “We like to pride ourselves in that we are local and we keep our money here in town — our profits, and we are engaged in the community in a lot of benefit-type programs. We love West Michigan and we are here to stay.”