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Saturday, Sep 30, 2023

Chatsworth Firm Sees Benefits in Helping Workers

Most business owners with a staff made up largely of younger workers in their 20s and 30s probably worry about people showing up to start their shifts on time, or showing up at all. Karen Johnson, on the other hand, is worried about whether or not her employees are saving enough money for retirement. Johnson and her husband Rick are the owners of Organized Sports, a Chatsworth company that provides physical education uniforms to schools in 15 states. Rick Johnson, who met the business’ original owners by chance in the late 1980s, bought a stake in 1987 and bought out his partners in 1988 to become the sole owner. In the early 90s his wife Karen, who had spent the previous 24 years working at a bank in Santa Monica, joined him in running the business. She had participated in her company’s 401 (k) plan to her own advantage, and wanted her employees to have the same opportunity. “I had a nice retirement egg, and I always felt like that was a really big deal,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of younger employees in their 20s and 30s, and (retirement is) not anything that most of them plan for.” Johnson said that after hearing about the program’s benefits, such as lowering a person’s taxable income and creating a fund that can later be used as a personal loan, more than 90 percent of the company’s employees decide to participate in the program. For those who don’t, however, the Johnsons also contribute a certain amount of their annual revenue to a profit sharing retirement account. “We wanted to have something we could contribute to all of our employees, regardless of whether or not they contribute to their 401 (k),” Johnson said. Organized Sports also provides a typical HMO for its employees, as well as a $15,000 life insurance policy and a $25 monthly credit every month for employees to use to pay for any supplemental insurance that they want. “We feel that part of our purpose when we hire someone is to provide them benefits so they can protect themselves,” Johnson said. The Johnsons also make an effort to let their employees have some fun at work. Last year, a company party thrown for Organized Sports’ 35 employees and guests was attended by 150 people. In addition to a benefits package, Organized Sports employees also sit down for several short job reviews throughout the year. Full-time employees meet with supervisors every two months, and seasonal employees sit down every three months. The reviews only take a few minutes and they are useful for employees, who are able to keep track throughout the year how well they are meeting established goals. “No one likes bad news. If we contribute constructive criticism it gives people a better chance to do something so they don’t end up sitting down at an annual review and realize they were just cost some money because they didn’t meet the expectations of their employer or supervisor,” Johnson said. The strategy at Organized Sports is different from some of the company’s competitors that don’t offer many benefits in order to keep costs down and prices lower, said Johnson. But the business’ customers have stuck with the Johnsons because they like the product and appreciate the high level of service, Karen Johnson said. “We look at it this way we have a high quality product, we have good employees and terrific customer service. Those things cost money,” she said. Bob Johns, President of Eldora, Iowa-based Dodger Industries has been providing shorts for Organized Sports’ uniform operation for the last 15 years. He said that over the last nine or 10 years he’s watched the business grow an accelerated rate every year. “They’re probably our largest account that deals with physical education,” said Johns. “They’re friends at this point . . . we make regular visits to trade shows and we see them once or twice a year, and we talk on the phone weekly.”

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