A Publication of WTVP

Pearl Companies has come a long way since Jack Pearl founded Pearl Insurance in 1954, selling insurance door to door.

Doubling the size of an organization by the year 2020 is no small undertaking, but it’s exactly what the Pearl Companies plan to do, supported by one major driving force: progressive technology.

“Next to creating a positive culture and environment for our dedicated group of team members, we devote much of our time and attention to technology. It impacts every area of our company, from customer service and accounting to sales and marketing,” says Gary Pearl, chief executive officer of the Pearl Companies. “You either choose to keep up, and get in front of the constant advancements, or you’re falling behind to your competition.”

Easier said than done, right? Pearl Companies is made up of Pearl Insurance, Pearl Benefits, Pearl Automotive and Pearl Technology. When your organization is comprised of multiple companies spanning multiple industries, you’re tasked with an even greater job.

“Bottom line: for us, it’s about better serving our customers and giving them what they need,” says Pearl. “Our business decisions are made with that in mind, including where and how we invest in new technologies, which ultimately leads to continued growth.”

A Responsive Team
Pearl Insurance is one of the nation’s leading program administrators and managing general underwriters for specialty markets. The group also specializes in the design and administration of direct-marketed insurance plans for affinity groups including professional and trade associations. They insure hundreds of thousands of people, and fewer and fewer are taking pen to paper to submit insurance requests.

“People want ease of use, and they want speed,” Pearl explains. “In response, we’ve created ecommerce solutions that enable our customers to purchase insurance online. They can shop and bind their coverage, and even print their proof of insurance. As a customer, we give them online access to view and modify their policy, which is innovative technology that is not being offered by many of our competitors.”

The team utilizes responsive design for its web development, which means the client websites they create and manage may be viewed on all screen resolutions, from mobile devices to desktop monitors. Coupled with a data analysis team and digital marketing campaigns that include personalized emails, custom landing pages and social media touches, the company has come a long way since Gary’s father, Jack, founded Pearl Insurance in 1954 and went door-to-door selling insurance.

“In the winter, Dad would drive along country roads putting flyers with his face on them in every mailbox,” Pearl recalls. “After the first big snow, he’d retrace his path and knock on each farmhouse door. They’d be quick to invite him in, saying that he looked familiar.”

Authorities in Technology
The auto industry has created a huge demand for online shopping as well. Pearl says 99 percent of customers go online to look at the inventory and gain a better understanding of the options available before stopping by one of the Pearl Automotive dealerships, and more than 20 percent of used car sales are transacted online.

Vehicles today also have more technological capabilities than ever before. Many brands, including those at Pearl’s Lexus of Peoria, Peoria Toyota Scion and Autohaus of Peoria, have virtual dashboards, rear-mounted radar, cameras, GPS and mobile functionality, to name a few of the more impressive features. “The technology is so complex,” Pearl notes. “We now have technologists for each of our brands in order to help customers use and get comfortable with the technology available to them when they drive off one of our lots.”

The Pearl Companies’ most authoritative experts in the technology space are the ones who work at Pearl Technology—a full-service technology company that Pearl had the foresight to acquire in 2000. “It was an opportunity to maximize our ability to stay on the cutting edge of technology,” explains Pearl. “We were investing a lot in technology, and it was clear everyone needed technology, just as they needed insurance and vehicles.”

Pearl Technology maintains numerous clients throughout central Illinois, with teams specializing in application development, project management, information technology (IT) solutions and security. In fact, the team includes certified ethical hackers with the mission of helping businesses avoid vulnerabilities to their IT infrastructure.

“It’s not just competitors that pose the biggest concerns to companies anymore,” Pearl warns. “With the evolution of web-based technologies, IT security threats are something organizations must take great precaution to protect their customer data. While technology advancing is a blessing, it can also be a dangerous weapon when it’s used maliciously. The web is available 24/7. As a business, you have to be thinking about every aspect of your company, at all times.”

Full Speed Ahead
And that’s a full-time job as well, but it’s not stopping the Pearl Companies’ leadership team from moving full speed ahead. The organization celebrated its 60th year in business in December and has experienced double-digit growth each year over the past decade.

“We invest all profits back into the business, all of which goes toward people and technological resources,” Pearl says. “We’ll keep reinvesting in the company in the areas that are going to keep us competitive and efficient.”

Pearl recently spearheaded the formation of the Pearl Insurance Organization Advisory Board, consisting of some of the most experienced and respected leaders in the industry. They are helping to guide the leadership team in meeting objectives for the company’s strategic plan: “Mission 2020.” In addition to doubling the size of the company, this includes supporting efforts to develop its people and encourage employee growth, as well as initiatives to continually grow and enhance products and services to exceed the needs of all existing and future clients.

“My dad built the organization on a solid foundation, and it has evolved in more ways than he would have ever dreamed of,” Pearl declares. “There are so many moving parts to all of our companies, and I’m excited about where we’re heading. I have no doubt that where we’ll be another 60 years from now is unlike anything I could ever imagine—and it’ll be in the best way possible.” iBi

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