Juffer Inc. agency

Family Man

A glance at the website for Juffer Inc. — run by Gerrit Juffer (right) and his brother Jeff out of the company’s headquarters in Wagner, S.D. — sums up the business simply: “Insurance, Investments, Real Estate.” If you talk to Gerrit Juffer, though, that leaves out an important thing: providing opportunity for his team.

“When I first talk to one of our associates, I tell them: ‘If you want to grow, you’ve got to have goals.’ I invite them to think about what their goals might be, then write them down on a piece of paper. Then I sign it. To me, that’s a contract,” Juffer said. “If you’re willing to work hard to achieve those goals, I’ll help you get there.”

Juffer Inc.’s more than 70 associates are spread among fourteen offices (Huron, Irene, Madison, Mitchell, Parkston, Sioux Falls, Tea, Wagner, and Woonsocket, S. D.; and Atkinson, Blair, O’Neill, Sargent, and Thedford, Neb.). That’s a lot of handwritten contracts. But Juffer takes all of them seriously.

Small-town connections

Gerrit Juffer developed his business philosophy over a long and varied career, during which he never lost contact with his small-town roots. After a stint in banking and then moving to real estate and investments, Juffer’s brother Jeff joined Gerrit in the business and they expanded into insurance because they both had families to support. To get started with a book of business, they decided to acquire agencies.

The Juffer brothers knew that in the small towns where their newly acquired agencies were mostly located, business was often founded on carefully nurtured relationships. Riding into town and rebranding the agencies could interfere with those relationships, so they left the agency names and personnel mostly in place.

“The way I look at it, I’m the janitor,” Gerrit said. “We try to take care of the icky stuff in the Wagner office and let people in the other locations do the sales and services. I try to visit every one of our agencies once a month, if not more.”

Here, too, his system of handwritten contracts stands him in good stead.

“If they have an issue, whatever it is, I tell them to write it down. Then I sign it. That piece of paper means you can hold my feet to the fire.”

Rooted in relationships

Juffer says this hands-off-but-still-involved way of doing things builds trust and loyalty. “Most people stay with us a long time,” he said. “Some of the people who’ve sold their agencies to us, when they retire, maybe they have family who they want to take over. So, we make it possible for those folks to maintain continuity.”

Juffer sees his company’s relationship with Grinnell Mutual as another of the high-touch relationships that are so important to Jeff and him.

“Grinnell Mutual is hugely important to us,” he said. “They’ve always stuck with us, and they didn’t walk away, ever. We’re very thankful for them. The company has been a true partner from the top down.”