Eighty years is a long time to be in business. If you ask Unland Companies President Patrick Taphorn, eight decades of community support has been a tremendous asset to the company’s success.
“We’ve been extremely blessed to be in communities that really value supporting local businesses,” Taphorn said. “We’ve been the recipient of that, and in turn, we’ve provided a very good, value-added service to our customers. To all those communities, thank you very much for your support and for trusting us to provide insurance coverage for you all these years.”
This year, Unland Companies celebrates 80 years of service to Central Illinois. Founded by J. Logan Unland in 1941, the company has grown from a single location with three employees to five locations with nearly 40 employees.
The more things change…
Of course, the insurance industry has changed a lot since 1941 when Mr. Unland himself was selling Aetna life insurance door-to-door. One of the biggest changes has been the evolution of technology in the industry. Although technology has normalized digital communication in the office, Taphorn said the Unland Team still prioritizes knowing individual customers personally and understanding their specific concerns.
“Technology has been a big change,” Taphorn said. “It’s a huge part of what we do and how we continue to be efficient and timely in service to our customers, but we still have that personal touch. Insurance is a relationship business, and we need to do everything we can to maintain and grow our relationships.”
Even though we started in the days of pen and paper, we have adopted a wide variety of tools to support our customers. Platforms such as Ease, for example, provide an interface that makes benefits enrollment easier for employees, employers, and agents.
“We invested in that platform a number of years ago and it’s really benefitted us as a company,” Taphorn said. “Business owners wear many hats and taking employees through the enrollment process for health insurance, dental, life, and other benefits programs can be a challenge many are not prepared for – they don’t want to mess with stacks of paperwork, sending it out to employees, waiting on them to send it back, and often chasing people down. That platform has really helped our customers. We’re growing rapidly in that area because of Ease.”
Although technology has made enrolling easier for both Unland and its customers, the increasing reliance on consumer tech solutions isn’t without its drawbacks.
“You would have never thought 15 or 20 years ago that you’d sell a cyber liability policy and that people would be asking for it,” Taphorn said. “That’s been a big change in the recent past.”
“Property & Casualty policies used to just include basic coverage such as fire, lightning, wind, hail, etc. The contracts now can integrate electronic data processing equipment, business interruption, mine subsidence, water backup of sewers and drains, identity theft, cyber liability, protection for mobile devices and even coverage for your pets,” Taphorn said. “Auto coverage has evolved from its initial intent of including physical damage and liability to now incorporating towing, roadside assistance, rental reimbursement, loss of use and many other options.”
The more they stay the same
One thing that’s remained the same, however, is the Unland Team’s commitment to putting its customers first. Taphorn said fostering a culture that stresses the importance of serving the customer has allowed Unland to provide the best top-notch coverage for eight decades.
“We’ve got really, really good people working here and have an expectation of how we service our customers,” Taphorn said. “People who work here know that serving our customers is a part of our culture. We’re selling a service and we can shine at a time when they need it the most.”
At the same time, Taphorn said Unland also works hard to be an employer of choice, ensuring the company hires charismatic, amiable employees.
“We try to make our offices a good place to interact. We do different activities throughout the week or month to break it up a little bit and we’ll have outings here and there,” Taphorn said. “We keep in mind while we’re trying to generate growth, efficiencies and best practices, we still have to remember that these people need to have a good time with it as well.”
While the company continues to expand — Unland added its fifth location in January 2020 in Metamora — Taphorn said the Unland Team recognizes this growth couldn’t be possible without the support of the community. So, Unland stresses the importance of giving back by supporting area organizations such as EP!C, the American Cancer Society, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Goodwill, Children’s Hospital of Illinois, TAPS, Union Mission, Boys & Girls Club, UnityPoint Pekin Hospital Foundation, and various chambers of commerce throughout Central Illinois.
Looking ahead, Taphorn said the future for Unland Companies is bright. Two new acquisitions in recent months have served to grow the company’s footprint in the area. In 2020, the company came off its best year ever, ending with $46 million in premiums. That recent growth, Taphorn said, is an indicator of Unland’s promising future and many more celebrations.