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50 Most Admired Companies of The Year 2018

An Interview with Joe Haney, Sterling Insurance Group’s Principal and President: ‘We Strive to Provide a True, Concierge Client Experience which is Unique in the Insurance Industry’


“Sterling Insurance Group offers comprehensive insurance solutions throughout the United States, from Southeast Michigan.”

When arranging insurance, many people take shortcuts without seeking proper advice, understanding the fine print or considering whether they are getting value for money. An insurance broker can help you determine the level of coverage that is required so you can ensure you are properly protected and are able to make a well-informed decision.

Sterling Insurance Group is a one-stop, full-service agency offering robust Personal Insurance, Business Insurance and Employee Benefits services across the USA. Since its inception, Sterling has been one of the fastest growing independent insurance agencies in the country. Currently, it’s a top 200 independent insurance brokerage out of 37,000 nationwide. The company has relationships with more than 100 national insurance carriers to provide clients instant access to the most competitive insurance markets in the business.

Sterling was incorporated in 1996 and is headquartered in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

Joe Haney, Sterling Insurance Group Principal/President, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.

Q. Why was the company set up? And how did you expand your company and its offerings over the years? 

Sterling Insurance Group was started because I saw a need to provide customers with good affordable automobile coverage at the time of vehicle purchase. Our personal insurance business grew to include homeowners, renters, condo, boat insurance and more to save our customers even more money by being able to provide them with multi-policy discounts. We grew from there into providing business insurance to companies needing Property & Casualty, General Liability, Workers Compensation, and a host of other risk protections. And finally, we added an Employee Benefits department to help those same companies provide insurance benefits (medical, dental, disability, & life) to their most valued assets, their employees. We partner with our business insurance clients to help them minimize and even prevent risks by reviewing their business practices and providing solutions to problems before they occur. When a claim does occur for any of our clients, be they personal insurance, business insurance or employee benefits, we are there for them every step of the way.

Q. What kind of responses have you received from your consumers over the years? How have they motivated you to shape your offerings/grow the company?

People sometimes have preconceived ideas about insurance in general, which are not always positive. That has motivated us to educate our prospective clients and current clients to show them that we are partners in protecting what is most valuable to them, be it their home, their business and/or their employees. We educate our business clients by taking a deep dive into their business and identifying ways they can prevent risk as well as provide them with the best coverage at the best price. We educate our personal insurance clients by getting to know them and working with them to obtain as many applicable cost savings as possible, while providing them with the coverage they need. By taking this approach, we have grown our business and created loyal customers as well.

Q. What do you feel are the reasons behind your company’s reputation?

We have created a simple passion statement that we preach internally and that our employees know and take seriously: ‘Our passion is providing peace of mind to clients through our unique approach while creating raving fans.’ We believe living this passion statement has contributed to our positive overall reputation.

We also do a lot in the community and a lot for our employees. In just the last year, the City of Sterling Heights named Sterling Insurance Group its Community Partner of the Year for our investment in the community and work we do with local chambers. MarshBerry – the authority in business insurance – gave Sterling its inaugural MAX Performer Award for 2017 based on our financial performance, investment in technology and company culture. We show compassion for our people and the communities we serve in many ways throughout the year, and I think that’s something people take note of.

Outside of that, we like to look at ourselves as the purple cow in a field of normal cows. Our approach to insurance and our methods to RETHINK business insurance and employee benefits strategies are remarkable. A Purple Cow, as introduced by bestselling author Seth Godin, is something or someone phenomenal, counter-intuitive, exciting and flat-out unbelievable. As a member of the Beyond Insurance Global Network (BIGN), we’ve embraced this thinking from the top down.

Q. What is the biggest asset to your organization, and why? 

Our people! Our group of more than 90 people now is arguably our largest asset. We treasure our employees and try to reward and incentivize them as often as we can. They do a great job representing both the Sterling and Lappan Agency (our sister branch in Northern Michigan) names. Other ways we show employees we care include our investment in individual employee professional development, which can range from sending employees to educational conferences, to providing safe, reliable transportation for employees to take to offsite meetings, to hosting team Happy Hours at work throughout the year. We expect a lot from employees on our team, and they know that. But they also know management is watching and is more than willing to recognize and reward a hard job well done. 

Q. Where do you see your company a couple of years from now?

We plan to double in size in the next few years. In the last year alone, we went from 70 employees to more than 90, we opened a long-anticipated office in Downtown Detroit at the GM World Headquarters – the Renaissance Center, and we merged forces with our sister branch, Lappan Agency in Alpena, Michigan. There’s no end in sight for this rapid growth. We plan on expanding our Marketing, Business Insurance, Accounting and Personal Insurance departments, as well as others, two-fold. Currently, Sterling is a top 200 independent insurance agency out of 37,000 nationwide, and there appears to be nothing stopping us from climbing this list higher.

Joe Haney, a Dynamic Leader: In His Own Words

I am the Principal and President of Sterling Insurance Group. I founded the company in 1996 with one employee. A few years after Sterling’s inception, my lifelong friend and business partner, Paul Mattes, came on board as our Co-Principal and Co-Owner. Celebrating 22 years of business ownership and growth, I believe in continuous improvement as evidenced by my earned designations as a Certified Risk Advisor, Certified Benefit Wellness Advisor and Certified Authority on Workers Compensation. I work with a variety of clients in both Risk Management and Employee Benefits. I am involved in several industry-related groups and philanthropic organizations as well.

“Currently, Sterling is a top 200 independent insurance agency out of 37,000 nationwide, and there appears to be nothing stopping us from climbing this list higher.”