Dennis Johnson, President and CEO
When he's not riding his motorcycle through the mountains, Dennis Johnson is steering a rapidly growing insurance company from his office in Meridian, Idaho, just west of Boise. In his view, low turnover--something he attributes to the company's location in the Boise Valley--has been critical to the success of United Heritage.
“Our quality of life makes this a place where our employees want to live, where they want to raise a family. But for us it’s important as a business because it’s a place where our employes want to stay. They don’t want to leave. It really lowers our attrition and creates a stable workforce," he says.
It's also the reason he chose to stay in the valley despite several offers to live elsewhere.
“When I was done with law school, my wife and I said, ‘We can move anywhere we want.’ We considered all of our job options. But we wanted to live in the Boise Valley. We have been committed to living here for all of the lifestyle reasons. It’s a great place for commitment to community and commitment to business. It’s a wonderful place to raise a family and that’s what we’ve done,” he says.
A Boise Valley-based company since its founding nearly 80 years ago, United Heritage Financial Group has grown into a major insurance provider with more than $4 billion of policies in force, and today offers life insurance, annuities, and group life and disability income insurance in 36 states, with plans to expand its reach into an additional 10 states over the next several years.
Headquartered in a state-of-the-art facility in Meridian, the company employs 140 people to execute back office and shared services functions like accounting and customer service. United Heritage’s products are offered by more than 1,700 independent agents around the country.
President and CEO Dennis Johnson attributes much of the company’s growth and success over the last 20 years to the area’s pro-business climate.
“For one, the relationship between government and business is really strong. It’s as good as any place I’ve ever seen. Whether that’s permitting for businesses to build a new building or the regulatory environment. In a business like ours that’s so highly regulated, that public/private partnership is really important.”
On the Boise Valley workforce:
"Our workforce is educated, and they’re also people who want to work. A lot of the people we work who have an ag background somewhere in their family histories. These are people who know how to work and we know we can count on them. It takes a long time to learn the intricacies of the insurance business, so we need long-term employees. We can find them here.”
On the local transportation infrastructure:
“We could probably be located in various places. We do a lot of business all over the United States and we have an awfully good airport infrastructure. We can get from our office to the airport within 12 minutes. From there, we can go anywhere in the United States and indeed anywhere in the world. The security lines at the airport take a fraction of the time that they do in a major city. We have great access to many, many hub cities from Boise.
"It’s also important to us is the ability to have our employees get to us easily from all over the valley. The freeway corridor that goes right through the middle of the Boise Valley is a great artery. They can get to work and get home without a long commute, so we don’t get resistance from our employees that it’s too far to drive here."
On the communications infrastructure:
“Boise is a great place from a communications standpoint. We videoconference with our company in Oregon all the time. We have all the infrastructure we need to do that—a fiber optic cable to the building and to every computer. We can do business as quickly from here as anyone can do from anywhere in the world.”
On the significance of the Boise Valley’s quality of life:
“We like to talk about quality of life here. But I’m not just talking about great mountain biking or skiing or hiking or fly fishing opportunities you have here—all of which exist. It has to do with how much time you’re going to be spending in traffic. It has to do with the weather and how much time you’ll get to spend outdoors. The Boise Valley has great transportation, great governmental services, great private industry, great shopping, great schools—they all contribute to the great quality of life here. It’s not just the recreational opportunities.
On the business climate:
“It’s a pro-business state. It’s a state where we balance our budget. We are disciplined in what we do and that’s positive for business. We don’t have any legacy problems or legacy debt that are going to be a problem for our businesses or our children in the future.”
On attracting talent to the Boise Valley:
“We find that when we’re recruiting outside this area, people want to escape the large cities where they’re commuting two hours every day. They want to come to a place like this where you still have a city and an urban atmosphere but with a feeling that people still care about each other. When we give people an opportunity to come here, we find they jump at it.
“Sometimes we in Idaho take all of this for granted, the outdoor opportunities for skiing, four-wheeling and flyfishing. But when people come here from other parts of the United States, they absolutely love that. We have regional directors from all over the United States who we bring here once a year. Their favorite activity is steelhead fishing on the Salmon
On the back office/shared services industry:
“One of the types of businesses we have a lot of here are call centers. One of the reasons is that companies believe that people around here have no accent. Businesses like that because there’s no objection, no “you’re not from around here” syndrome. Our customer service and claims service are all handled here from Idaho. It’s a real plus for a business like ours.”
On the climate and people:
“One of the key about this area is the sunshine. This a place where you get four season and you get sunshine in all of them. I also think the Boise Valley has some of the friendliest people in the world. We’re pretty informal. That’s what makes it fun to be here—the people.”
To learn more about back office/shared services in the Boise Valley, click here.