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“Our culture is what we call One TrueNorth,” said Jason Smith, CEO of the Cedar Rapids-based risk-management and insurance brokerage company that’s 2022’s Coolest Place to Work in the Large Business category. “It’s really about the understanding of clients, colleagues and communities. We all want to be part of something that resonates with us, that feels special, that is beyond what any one of us could do on a personal level.” A product of TrueNorth culture over the company’s first two decades, Mr. Smith helps shape it for the future. He joined one of TrueNorth’s predecessor firms upon his graduation from the University of Iowa, three years before the 2001 merger of three smaller insurance firms formed TrueNorth. “I’m a great example,” he said. “I started when I was between my freshman and sophomore years at Iowa, worked part-time through (college years at) Iowa, graduated on a Saturday in May of 1998 and showed up as an entry-level sales person that Monday. So, 24 years full-time, 27 years total, and now I’m CEO of the company. Our president (Trent Tillman), I hired him right out of the University of Northern Iowa almost 20 years ago. We want this to be a career destination.” That includes TrueNorth’s ownership. The closely-held firm announced 13 new owners in March, bringing to 67 the longtime employees – colleagues, at TrueNorth – who hold equity. Colleagues become owners based on tenure and performance. “We’re building the company to be a legacy company,” Mr. Smith said. “We’re building the company for succession from within. We’re vehemently committed to staying closely held, privately held.” From $9 million in revenue its first year with 96 employees, TrueNorth earned $113.9 million in 2022. The firm now counts about 550 colleagues in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Ames, Denver and Chicago, with account managers, sales and claims staff working remotely across 23 states.