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Best Places to Work in Insurance 2014: Sahouri Insurance & Financial

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When job candidates are interviewed to work at Sahouri Insurance & Financial, Michael Sahouri, vice president of operations, uses the question-and-answer sessions as a way to do market research on what other companies are doing wrong so Sahouri can become better.

“When we interview, we try to identify why people are leaving their former jobs to look for more opportunities,” he said. “We look at the complaints. We often hear no growth, too much bureaucracy and no future. We take that information to help us with our own practice.”

Sahouri is a full-service broker providing an array of products in both the personal and commercial lines, including protection for governmental and diplomatic missionaries and international embassy employees. It also specializes in cyber insurance. The team of 31 employees works out of the firm's McLean, Virginia, office and is credited with Sahouri getting recognition as one of Business Insurance's Best Places to Work in Insurance for 2014, Mr. Sahouri said.

“For us it comes down to choosing the right people who show us how to do things better,” he said.

Alan Hudson, assistant vice president for commercial lines, likes the horizontal structure of Sahouri's organization vs. the traditional hierarchy of supervisors who set the status quo.

“One redeeming quality that sets us apart from a cultural prospective is the management style of approachability,” Mr. Hudson said. “There is no employee who feels they can't voice their concerns and questions. Everyone here feels like they have the opportunity to be a leader.”

Another area that stands out is compensation, Mr. Hudson said. Sahouri is one of the few companies that offer commissions to non-sales workers of up to 10 % of an individual's salary.

That doesn't include Christmas bonuses, said Sophia Sahouri, human resources director, adding that the bonuses motivate everyone. Other perks include gym memberships, monetary rewards for going to the gym, happy hours, catered lunch meetings, retirement plans and more.

Ms. Sahouri said it goes back to her parents, who started the agency 44 years ago.

“Why we decided on this culture? It comes down to how we were raised to be very independent thinkers,” she said. “It makes us feel like we could make our own decisions, and we are comfortable in this environment to do so. The employees see this open-door policy and appreciate it.”

One place where improvement was requested was in the workday schedule.

Mr. Hudson said living in the Washington metro area translates into constant traffic, a problem Sahouri's management team solved with a few tweaks. “My 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. workday means the difference of hours in a commute,” he said. “This flexibility started the day I was hired.”

Mr. Sahouri said the company will continue to help solve problems for their employees in the same way they find solutions for clients.

“People know they can grow here, and we encourage ideas,” he said. “We listen to what's out there, and we see how we can be different and set ourselves apart from the competition.”