For all his business acumen, perhaps Paul Hering's greatest attribute is his ability to make work fun. Work that involves selling insurance, no less.
Hering, chief executive officer for the San Diego insurance brokerage Barney & Barney, has placed a premium on creating an enjoyable environment for both firm associates and its clients -- ideals on which the 99-year-old company was founded.
"I look forward to coming to work," said Hal Dunning, Barney & Barney's chief financial officer and chief operating officer.
"Whether you're actively working on (corporate) culture or not, you're working on culture," he said. "(Hering) does a great job of making sure our culture is protected. It takes 99 years to create it, and it can take 99 minutes to destroy it. Growth is important, but the culture is more important."
Another facet of the agency's thriving corporate culture -- and a reason for its business success -- is a commitment to private ownership. A unique business model for the insurance industry, it is how Barney & Barney attracts and retains top talent, according to Hering.
The company's top executive admits he's very protective of the corporate culture.
"We're also big believers in just having a great corporate environment ... a fun place to work," he said. "We want to have good balance in our lives."
Barney & Barney officials have another reason to smile around the office.
The company has tripled its revenues in the past seven years, reaching $52 million in 2007. Hering said the goal is to become a $100 million company by 2014, but it is already two years ahead of schedule.
"I think it's phenomenal that we can take a company that's almost 100 years old and kind of sleepy, and triple the size of it over the last seven years," Dunning said. "And the last three years since Paul's been CEO ... he's just taken it to a different level."
Barney & Barney is the eighth oldest continuously operating company in San Diego County.
Eighteen months ago, the company also expanded geographically for the first time, opening an office in Orange County, and it is now the 55th largest insurance brokerage firm in the country.
"We're a major player in the country," Hering said. "We're enjoying great notoriety and success not only here but on a national and international basis." "It's been another terrific year for Barney & Barney, and I feel the same for me personally. The business is enjoying incredible success. We continue to grow our revenues."
In 2006, Barney & Barney was named "Commercial Agency of the Year" by National Underwriter and was recognized as a finalist in the Better Business Bureau's Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics.
"We're ahead of where we'd like to be in terms of a total revenue standpoint and from a profitability standpoint," Hering added. "The key metric also is revenue per employee, and we're ahead of schedule in terms of that important stat."
Hering has been with Barney & Barney since 1985.
"He really believes in life balance -- you work to live, not live to work," Dunning said of Hering, quickly adding, "but we work real hard.
"He leads through those values, and it shows up in all the organizations he shows up in, too."