Keating Agency Insurance has been a staple in West Hartford, CT for more than 50 years. The third-generation family-run business lives up to its “People First” adage through relationship building, community involvement, and giving back to local organizations.
In 1999, Michael Keating took over the agency from his father. His son Ryan joined in 2016 and Mike’s daughter Maura came on board in 2019. While Mike has continued to grow the agency, Ryan and Maura have also amplified the agency’s community involvement.
seedership spoke to the Keating family about their commitment to community and how building a community around their business has helped strengthen their business.
Being an insurance agent involves forming relationships, building, trust, and networking. How does being engaged in the community help Keating Agency Insurance continuously build those relationships and become a trusted name in the community?
MIKE KEATING: We’re in the business of helping people as an industry. Paying it forward within the community is a continuation of that. Being active in the community represents what we do on an ongoing basis with our clients.
MAURA KEATING: Our value here is not in what we sell but how and why we recommend it. I feel like us being so involved in the community shows that we have a strong foundation of being here for you—and it’s not just because we want your business. I think that makes a big difference.
MIKE: Right. We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do versus doing it for the guarantee we’re going to get a client.
RYAN KEATING: I agree. Over time, I’ve learned the value of giving without any monetary gain. We give because we find it rewarding. And it becomes a way to build trust through commitment and building a presence.
I grew up in West Hartford, moved away for a while, and came back. Being involved in things like helping create Future Leaders of West Hartford (FLOW) and creating engaging events, like Finest Hours and Last Fridays Lunch at Harry’s Pizza, helped me become known and respected in the community, which is completely separate from talking insurance. If you can do that well, people begin to recognize your commitment to the community, which creates trust when it comes to doing business with you.
Being in business for several decades, Keating Agency has built a reputation. How do you maintain that reputation?
MIKE: I would probably say, my father would say no a lot more often than I would! Since Ryan and Maura have been on board, we have opened the checkbook up a lot more. Many other insurance agencies aren’t doing the same type of things we do. That’s one way we’re building our reputation—by differentiating ourselves with our community building.
You often hear: It takes money to make money. So, if we make a donation or sponsor something, some of that money could become seed money for that organization to do more marketing or pay for consulting.
RYAN: Being involved and having our name in a lot of different things also presents the image that we might be larger than we are. One thing I’ve noticed talking to people over the last couple of years, is that they don’t realize that we’ve been around for five decades. Then, when you do talk to people in the insurance industry who see what we do, they’re sometimes surprised we’re a smaller agency. Like my dad said, many others aren’t putting in the money into marketing or community building like we do. But when I’m meeting and interacting with people, I don’t think you can put a price on that.
My dad had built his successful relationships with organizations he was involved with, many of which stem from him also growing up in West Hartford. When I moved back to West Hartford, it wasn’t plug-and-play. I didn’t walk right back into the circles the agency or I was associated with before.
Using the business to get involved with the community helps me and Maura personally, too. We’ve both gone through the Leadership Greater Hartford Quest program. It just opens opportunities.
In what ways do each of you feel like you’re inspiring more good by the good you’re doing? Any specific examples?
MAURA: Coming into the agency most recently, it was important for me to also be the face of Keating Agency—everyone knows my dad and Ryan! For me, I’ve added to the community by getting involved in local organizations. I’ve joined the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce and I’m on the board of FLOW. My involvement has enabled me to interact with people in our community and learn more about them and their interests.
I’m also involved with the Junior League of Hartford, which helps me connect with other businesswomen and which holds these Done In A Day meetings where you can sign up for volunteer events with local organizations like Journey Home, Interval House, My Sister’s Place, The Boys And Girls Club, and Junior Achievement. Keating Agency gets involves with sponsorships for some events, too, which has been fun. It’s helped people to be involved with both the community and with Keating.
MIKE: One thing I’ve personally enjoyed getting involved with is the annual Conard Lacrosse alumni two-day tournament, which benefits the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Through our Team GOAT contribution, we honor U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Larry Philippon, a West Hartford native, friend, and neighbor who was killed while serving in Iraq.
I also enjoyed helping keeping restaurants in our community afloat during the COVID-19 quarantine. We didn’t want to see them shut their doors, so, through monetary donations, we helped support several independently owned restaurants as they paid it forward to feed healthcare workers, first responders, and out-of-work restaurant employees.
RYAN: It’s about bringing people together. I’ve always felt I’ve been good at connecting people. Finest Hours is a good example of that. It brings people together for a happy hour that gives back to multiple charitable organizations. It attracts a younger demographic on the community side, too.
Part of the goal is to help strengthen communication between organizations in the Greater Hartford area. Many people are supporting one organization but unaware of others. So, events like this help bring it all together.
We want to be part of the change. There’s a resurgence in Greater Hartford with money coming in for development downtown. Hopefully, it can become vibrant, like West Hartford Center. We want to help and be involved in that so, hopefully, we can one day see Hartford ranked with cities like Boston, New York City, and Portland, ME as a destination place.
Let’s talk about quantification. What prompted you to start using seedership?
RYAN: What prompted us to use seedership was meeting Co-Founders Jennifer and Ray Smithberger through Leadership Greater Hartford. We had sponsored their Lessons In Leadership and I was impressed with their experience from the corporate world. And, I love supporting entrepreneurial endeavors, especially when it ties into ways of connecting with others. It’s even better when it’s about doing good and providing a platform for small and local businesses to showcase their community building efforts.
MIKE: Like I said earlier, we spent a lot on marketing and community building, which is difficult to quantify. Most of my agency friends don’t spend anywhere near what we spend. Working with seedership has provided a holistic view of our community engagement by showing the entire scope of our giving, whether it’s through time or money. More importantly, it’s shown us the value of our giving efforts.
How would you say your involvement with seedership has helped enhance your community story and how do you plan to work with them in the future?
RYAN: We’ve been truly grateful for the trust Jennifer and Ray have given us to help us. We’re so appreciative of the time and effort they’ve put into seeing us as a role model local business, including creating the Everyday Seeders: Keating Agency Insurance Gives Back video and working with us to develop this story.
Working with seedership has also provided us with a platform that’s been growing and evolving with easy-to-use functions for documentation. We also love that it creates a visual interactive experience of our community story/engagement/involvement to share socially on our existing platforms.
We plan to use seedership in the future with more engagement of the visual sharing features they’ve recently made easy to access. We’ll continue to use it to track what we are doing as a company in the community and look forward to future developments that can help connect us with other organizations, community members, and causes.
Local businesses like Keating Agency provide more than just a good or service. They build vibrant communities and form trusted relationships. For the Keatings, being part of the community means more than just owning a local business. It means taking action to strengthen their community stronger and creating opportunities to engage and inspire others to give back.