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All Employees at Insurance Firm Get Involved in Giving

All Employees at Insurance Firm Get Involved in Giving By JACQUELINE FOX Staff Reporter Roughly three years ago Steve Brown, president of the Sherman Oaks-based insurance firm, Hoffman Brown Co., got to thinking about food. Not about eating it, but about how much of it goes to waste and how many stories there are to be told of the families who struggle to keep it on the table. What came of it all was the Hoffman Brown Feeds program, an annual food drive benefiting more than a dozen Valley-based and citywide charities, including the West Valley Food Pantry, Domestic Violence Center of the Santa Clarita Valley and L.A. Family Housing (LAFH) in North Hollywood. While it is not a prerequisite for employment at Hoffman, every single one of the company’s 38 employees, including upper management, participate in the food program, choosing a charity or agency they want to help and playing a front-and-center role in the process from collection to distribution. “This program and others we participate in is simply part of the culture of our company,” said Brown, whose firm has received the Business Journal’s Best Corporate Citizen honor. “It’s what gives us the core values of our company and it is, simply put, our grounding point. I think what makes the food drive so popular here with our employees is the fact that, rather than making it a ‘Hoffman Brown’ program, every employee chooses a charity they want to help, so each one touches their own community in some way.” This year Brown’s employees distributed more than 2,000 boxes, or roughly 90,000 pounds of food to the needy, which included families of enlisted service men and women sent to Iraq. That’s up from 500 boxes of food the first year the program began. Brown said he spends roughly $10,000 each year organizing the campaign, which includes collection, storage, packaging and distribution of tons of non-perishable items donated from a wide range of sources. Truth be told, Brown didn’t think the food drive program would last more than a year or two. “We survey ourselves each year to see if we are interested in continuing,” said Brown. “We had 100 percent of our employees willing to carry on this year. Same for last year. It just keeps going. This is what they want to do.” LAFH, which provides shelter and other services for the homeless, is perhaps one of the largest benefactors of Hoffman’s good deeds: Brown, himself, is a LAFH volunteer board member and also serves on the agency’s Project and Program Development Committee. “Steve looks at what he does as the mission being bigger than the individual, and the food program is a very big part of that,” said Jeff Farber, LAFH chief operating officer. “There’s a feeling at his company that this is the community we live in, work in, and serve and we should be providing a way to give back to that community that touches everyone. He sets a tone for his employees that is unbelievable. You go into their offices and you feel the energy there. The whole company is really invested in the San Fernando Valley, not just on a business level, but also on a volunteer level.” ‘Giving back’ In fact, the act of “giving back,” said Brown, has always been a part of the fabric of the 42-year-old family run business started by his father and CEO, Bud Brown in 1961, although he himself didn’t join it until 1989. “We are a service business,” said Brown. “We serve the public and so people who are interested in this job are wired to help others from the get go. This is the same view my father had and in fact, that’s how I was raised. We are a very successful business and no one here is because anyone person is a superstar. We share that success as a team. And the view that my father and I have always had is that each of us can contribute a very small amount to the people or the community around us, and when you put it all together it’s remarkable how much you can do.” In addition to the annual food drive, Hoffman’s employees also participate in charity walks for a variety of causes, have built homes for Habitat For Humanity, held fundraisers for sick colleagues or their personal charities of choice and participate in annual blood donation drives. Brown’s employees not only benefit from the goodwill they sprinkle across their communities. They also share in the rewards of the company’s financial successes. For example, sales were so strong in 2002, said Brown, he ordered new Dell computer systems for each of his employees. Not for their desks, but for their homes. “We said ‘these are for your families,”‘ said Brown. “Take them home.” Energy levels are one indicator of solid corporate harmony. So are employee turnover rates: the average length of stay at Hoffman is 16 years. “You know they’re happy if they don’t leave,” said Brown. “We have about a 2 percent turnover rate here. Our employees either leave us because they leave Los Angeles or they leave the industry.”

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