Best Places to Work 2021: Reliance Partners moved quickly to respond to coronavirus

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / COO Laura Ann "L.A." Howell, left, CEO Andrew Ladebauche and President Chad Eichelberger are at the Reliance Partners office at Liberty Tower in downtown Chattanooga.

The Reliance Partners team responded quickly to rapid workplace changes in the wake of the coronavirus, moving the entire team to telework within 72 hours, according to the company.

Throughout 2020, the Chattanooga-based company that has grown into one of the nation's biggest insurance agencies serving the trucking and logistics industries maintained a remote work across the entire business, says Laura Ann Howell, Reliance Partners chief operating officer.

"We have begun to gradually bring a small percentage of our team back into the office with enhanced safety protocols in place," she says.

Howell says that from weekly team check-ins to virtual happy hours, daily company-wide updates, enhanced employee benefits for mental health, employee recognition programs, and ongoing career advancement opportunities, the company established a new, and remote, version of normal to engage its teleworking team.

"We leaned into our responsibility as an employer to ensure that we maintained a safe, healthy, and engaged workforce," she says.

Howell says that 2020 was a year of uncertainty and disruption, and the company faced new opportunities daily to redefine its role as an employer to protect the health and the well-being of the team.

Reliance Partners

* Founded: 2009*Employees: 175*Why this is a Best Place to Work: Reliance Partners brings young, energetic startup culture to an old-school industry—a competitive advantage in an evolving market. Building upon this foundation, Reliance places considerable effort into stitching together a workplace that is both challenging and supportive where people come to celebrate work every day.* Online:

The COO said that with so many unknowns, the Reliance Partners role as a team-centric employer was to manage the challenges and change at speed and keep the team informed on how to continue to be successful within the organization.

With 2020 in the rearview mirror, the company plans to move forward with new perspectives on workplace structure, Howell says.

"As employers, it is our top priority to ensure team members feel valued and heard," she says. "The new version of normal will include more workplace flexibility, enhanced remote working opportunities, and an emphasis on work-life balance to ensure continuous professional and personal growth of Reliance team members."

photo Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / CEO Andrew Ladebauche is located in the Reliance Partners office inside Liberty Tower in downtown Chattanooga.

Reliance Partners is one of the fastest-growing commercial insurance agencies in the country.

The business was founded in 2009 by Andrew Ladebauche and a group of Chattanooga logistics entrepreneurs focused on the trucking industry. Reliance expanded to offer warehousing and other commercial lines of insurance in 2010 in the transportation and logistics industries.

The company has about 175 employees at locations in Chattanooga, Chicago, Milwaukee, Tampa, Birmingham, Sacramento and Austin.

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