A picture is worth a thousand words.
This time-tested adage is as relevant today as when it was first uttered.
Histories about the evolution of the phrase offer different interpretations as to its exact origins, going deep into ancient proverbs or writers.
But one of its acknowledged original forefathers, Henrik Ibsen, the 19th-century Norwegian playwright and poet, is said to have used it in a slightly different form than we know it today.
Lore has it that Ibsen had said, “A thousand words leave not the same deep impression as does a single deed.”
Coined two centuries ago, this wisdom fittingly sums up the recent growth of a Waverly business — The Accel Group.
The single deed — expressed architecturally in the vision of their new building in town — is the culmination of a steady, disciplined but inspired growth.
Now one of the largest independent, Iowa-rooted insurance agencies in the state, The Accel Group traces its origins to 1936, when it was founded in the home of Waverly businessman Leslie J. Young, as a business selling life and auto insurance. In 2010, it was joined by another Iowa-based company, namely, the Millhiser Smith Agency, adding a 401(k) and employee benefit division of Net Worth Advisors. In 2018, the agencies merged officially under The Accel Group umbrella, and the following year, acquired Asset Pros of West Des Moines, expanding their services and offerings.
Courted by other cities to relocate its headquarters on their territory, The Accel Group stayed loyal to Waverly, building a state-of-the-art building at 301 Oak Ridge Circle, just next to the Veridian Credit Union branch.
Visible discreetly from Fourth Street Southwest, Waverly’s main thoroughfare, also known as Business 218, the building is a head-turner.
Its use of glass and space is uniquely uplifting.
Its positioning and its orientation give it character and style that stands in stark contrast with some more generic-looking structures nearby and in town.
“We are ultra-creative, and our creative solutions emerge out of the design process,” said Nick Hildebrandt, business owner and founder of Emergent Architecture, a Cedar Falls-based firm that brought the building to life. “We pride ourselves on understanding the problem and understanding the way our clients do business, and we look for ways to create exciting solutions.”
The Accel Group’s Waverly headquarters is the embodiment of that vision not just on the outside, but also in the way the interior is engineered and designed.
The colors, the furniture and the way the space is fragmented in cozy, yet transparent units, convey a community-mindedness and an inclusiveness The Accel Group prides itself on.
“Our goal is to create a world class experience for our clients, and we want our staff to feel that, so in return they do a wonderful job,” says Ty Burke, partner and Business Solutions adviser with agency.
The open space next to the reception desk feels like a laid back coffee house with high tables and chairs overlooking the lavish glass top-to-bottom windows, the centerpiece of the building.
Warmth and openness emanate from the arrangement to the right of the entrance. There, a fireplace with nice armchairs and a coffee table invite visitors for an intimate conversation or perhaps a moment of reflection for clients.
Upstairs, one of the biggest communal assets is a large conference room equipped with the latest technology and glass walls. Several community organizations, Burke says, have already been using the space for meetings.
Also on the second floor, the central area is occupied by a space with top-notch technology, where one can conduct online training in real time and sit, comfortably, on a modern-looking couch with an eye-catching curvature. Along the outside walls are offices — among them perhaps the most notable are those of the agency’s patriarch, Mike Byl, and the office space Burke shares with his colleague and alter ego, Tony Pollastrini. The Burke-Pollastrini duo — both fathers with young families and focused career goals — are admittedly the dynamic force in the agency, and a force to be reckoned with for sure. Both are also health buffs, and a bike Pollastrini is considering buying, leaning against the wall in the shared space between the two men’s desks, attests to their workout passion.
Perhaps the biggest nod to the open mindedness of the ownership of The Accel Group and their philosophy of care for their employees and clients finds its architectural expression in the communal space for food and gathering. Clearly, the intent here is to foster communication and collaboration, as it is well documented that teams that eat together, and play together, work well together.
Comfortable seating — akin to booths one would find in a casual restaurant with two large TV screens — accent the communal space.
As I left the agency’s headquarters after a tour on a recent Friday, Burke’s words, resonated with me.
“Our focus is organic,” Burke he told me. “We have a tremendous culture.”
And the authenticity of that culture has certainly found the right full expression in what Ibsen, the Norwegian playwright, referred to as a “single deed,” in this case, the agency’s marquee, imaginatively built new Waverly home.