For their long term commitment to the people of Central Kansas, the Keller Agency was named the 2018 Business of the Year from the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development. Their team accepted the award during the Chamber’s Annual Meeting & Banquet on Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Great Bend Events Center.
Keller Real Estate & Insurance was founded by Normal C. Keller in January of 1968.
With a background in farming, automotive sales, crop hail insurance sales, and real estate sales, he set out on his own after completing a Dale Carnegie course in effective speaking and human relations. Because he and his wife, Karen, had three preschool aged children to support, success was the only option.
After 12 years of steady growth, Keller purchased the building at 1101 Williams where they still operate today. The building was remodeled and the operation was moved into the facility in January of 1981. It was the same year that Keller Real Estate & Insurance Agency was also incorporated. “That was a big year, not only because of our company’s milestones, but also because of the huge flood Great Bend experienced that June,” says Kevin Keller, one of Norman’s sons and a current broker for the agency. “The office building was flooded, but this was minor compared to the impact it had on our community, and the sales in our real estate and insurance divisions.”
Kevin and his brother, Jeff, have been involved with the business for most of their lives. When the flood happened in 1981, they helped Norman clean up the mud and the mess in their office and their rental property. Kevin and Jeff also worked on the firm, painted rental houses, mowed yards, repaired signs, and did whatever else Norman needed them to do. Karen also brought home leads from friends that needed to buy or sell a house, and the couple’s daughter, Kim, worked Saturdays at the office through high school.
In 1986, Kevin officially entered the business after graduating from Fort Hays State University. Jeff joined in 1988 after graduating from Fort Hays State University and working at Marmie Motors for a year. After working alongside their father for several years, the brothers became stockholders and eventually assumed a leadership role in 1999 when Norman passed away from cancer at the age of 62. Several employees who have since retired, including Marsha Kelly and Renee Johnson, helped ease the transition.
In 2003, the agency merged with Keenan Real Estate, increasing the size of the real estate sales team by five realtors. Both the real estate and insurance divisions have continued to grow over the years, with today’s team at 13 realtors and nine experienced staff members, six of them holding insurance licenses. The full-service independent agency represents more than 10 insurance companies, helping clients quote multiple types of policies and coverage options.
“We are honored to have served several generations of the same families, and only time will tell if any of the third generation of Kellers will take over some day,” Kevin says. “Several of our kids have worked in the office and helped with maintaining properties. It’s a business that we are proud of, but we are most proud of our people and the thousands of clients we have helped over the years.”
Business of the Year Criteria
“Business of the Year” is an annual award presented by the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce to showcase companies that demonstrate excellence in customer service, growth, and response in positive ways to adversity. Businesses must also show community involvement and demonstrate innovative business practices by improving products, services and programs.
Previous “Business of the Year” Recipients
2017 Great Bend Children’s Clinic
2016 Countryside Veterinary Associates
2015 Eagle Media Center
2014 Great Bend Co-op Association
2013 Great Bend Regional Hospital
2012 Rosewood Services Inc.
2011 Tim Miller Enterprises
2010 Kustom Floor Designs Inc.
2009 Eldridge Fencing Inc.
2008 Business Management Inc.
2007 Great Bend Tribune
2006 Central Kansas Medical Center
2005 Venture Corporation
2004 Adams Brown, Beran & Ball Chtd.
2003 Great Bend Feeding Inc.
2002 CPI Qualified Plan Consultants Inc.
2001 Doonan Corporation
2000 Farmers Bank & Trust NA
1999 Dillons Stores
1998 Stickney Distributing Inc.
1997 Office Products Inc.
1996 Fuller Brush Company
1995 Becker Tire & Treading Inc.
1994 Straub International
1993 Marmies of Great Bend