TrueNorth Companies: Best Insurance Agency and Best Investment Services Firm/Team

TrueNorth in Cedar Rapids has a lofty goal.

The company plans to double its revenue and increase the number of employees by 2020, said Duane Smith, TrueNorth’s president. During the past year, TrueNorth grew from $260 million to $400 million in sales.

“Last year we grew over 30 percent as a result of our unique entrepreneurial platform,” Mr. Smith said.

TrueNorth is also focused on building that platform for business owners, where they bring in entrepreneurs who specialize in specific areas to work with clients. The entrepreneurs are offered the opportunity to partner and be a part of the ownership of the company.

TrueNorth expanded its financial strategies division by introducing TrueNorth Wealth Management this year, which helped make it stand out as an investment services firm. This is the first time TrueNorth was voted as the best investment services firm.

During the past two years, TrueNorth has grown from 140 to 220 employees. The goal is to grow that to 450 employees by 2020, Mr. Smith said. That growth is expected to be equally split between Iowa and remote locations.

“That was a result of our continued effort to provide best-in-class integrated solutions within our financial strategies network,” Mr. Smith said.

In November 2011, TrueNorth moved into a renovated building in downtown Cedar Rapids, 500 First St. SE, the former site of the flooded public library.

“We’re actually really enjoying our new facility; it has exceeded our expectations with the new technologies. It’s been a great recruiting tool,” Mr. Smith said.

The company’s previous location, 421 Fourth Ave. SE, is being constructed into the new downtown library.

The new building is about 125,000 square feet, including about 50,000 square feet of indoor parking on the lower level, and 30,000 square feet of rentable space. That’s about double the size of the previous building. The first floor also features a renovated auditorium, similar to the former library’s auditorium. It can seat about 150 people.

The insurance and financial strategies company was founded in 2001with the merger of Davis Jones Lamb Insurance, Insurance Service Corp. and Verhille & Associates. Services include risk management/property casualty, employee benefits, qualified retirement plans, executive benefits and business continuation, consulting, personal financial planning, investment management and wealth transfer to commercial and individual clients.

Having specialists in each division of the company has also helped TrueNorth deliver a positive experience for customers, Mr. Smith said.

“Our mission statement is to create value for our customers. We’re specialists,” he said.

Last year, TrueNorth acquired six companies, from areas such as Dallas, Denver, Moline, Ill., and Bristol, Tenn.

“Our goal is to reach $1 billion in sales in 2020,” Mr. Smith. “We’re looking for a mix of acquisition opportunities balanced with organic growth within our current sales networks.”

In January 2012, TrueNorth opened a location in Fort Worth, Texas. In February, the company grew its Des Moines presence by partnering with Frank Berlin and Associates, a local employee benefits provider. In August of last year, the company extended its footprint in Texas by acquiring Employer Planning Services (EPS), a local employee benefits firm.

Then, in October, First MainStreet Insurance in Longmont, Colo., became part of TrueNorth. RJ Lee and Associates and TrueNorth partnered in December to provide employee benefit solutions in the Quad Cities.

Headquartered in Cedar Rapids, the company has offices in Cedar Falls, Des Moines and West Des Moines; Arlington, Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas; Peoria, Ill.; Brentwood, Tenn.; Longmont, Colo.; and Overland Park, Kan.

-Pat Shaver