A winning business model, a corporate culture focused on employee ownership and a commitment to "doing things right" in their communities helped earn Denver-based IMA Financial Group this year's overall "Commercial Agency of the Year" award.
In addition, IMA was given two specific category awards--for sales and marketing, as well as customer service (see sidebars)--as part of the 2010 Commercial Agency Awards for Excellence program, run jointly for the first time by National Underwriter and American Agent & Broker.
IMA began in Wichita, founded in 1973 through the merger of three family-owned businesses with deep roots in the region. It was the eighth-largest broker in the city, its growth spurred by a business model emphasizing risk control and value-added services--now considered agency musts, but at the time revolutionary, since carriers historically handed such services.
IMA primarily grew in Wichita until the 1980s, when the principals determined that the agency's successful business plan could be transplanted to other locations.
Of course, the current hard times have hobbled some of that growth--both premium volume and commercial lines income were down in 2009--but down doesn't mean out.
"The economy is a challenge no matter what shape you're in, but it doesn't have to be a death blow," Mr. Cohen said. "People talk about flat being the new good, but when you're used to growing, it's hard to get excited about flat or marginal growth."