March 21, 2010

Voted #1 Tampa Bay's Top Places to Work

St. Petersburg, FL (March 21, 2010) - American Strategic Insurance Corp. was a scrappy startup in flood-prone Snell Isle when Hurricane Charley hit.

Suddenly, everyone but the CEO was taking claims calls, in conference rooms and in closets. Then came Frances, Ivan and Jeanne.

While his 70 employees worked 12-hour days, John Auer turned himself into head caretaker, caterer and cheerleader. He baked breakfast casseroles (sausage and vegetarian), delivered lunches to desks and offered to pay for laundry service.

Auer needed spirited employees to keep call wait times low and service high — even as some waded through knee-deep water to get to work.

They remember the 2004 storm season as the crucible that formed the ASI family.

Before ASI stood for "American Strategic Insurance," it represented three pieces of Auer's vision for his new company: Attitude. Speed. Innovation.

The words are carved around an ASI logo just off the elevator in the company's post-Charley offices in Baypoint Commerce Center. They're repeated by employees around the building. "Attitude" trumps them all.

"It's the people that make the difference," Auer says. "We have happy employees."

In the early days, ASI hired friends and family, especially former colleagues with strong reputations. Now that the company has more than 160 employees with plans to add 20 more this year, it doesn't leave attitude to word-of-mouth. It tests for it.

It's Monday after lunch, and Leslie Knapp, 31, is effervescing in her cubicle. She's an agent with ASI's internal agency, Sunshine Security Insurance.

"I tell people all the time about the company," she says. "I really love getting up and going to work. I love everyone I work with."

She interviewed for a job at ASI two years ago because her grandmother was neighbors with an underwriter's mother-in-law. (The company is full of stories like that.) Sure, her department is tightly staffed, but it's worth it. She goes to the gym at lunch — the company picks up the tab. She ticks off the company gatherings: a Christmas celebration at the InterContinental Tampa; a Thanksgiving potluck where Auer says a blessing and carves the turkey; spring training games with food and free drinks; a gathering at Auer's house to mark the end of hurricane season. Company-paid annual trips alternate between adventure outings and cruises to Cozumel. Her first year it was white-water rafting in Colorado.

"When you're there, you have to row t