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Saturday, Sep 30, 2023

The Briefing

Finding good workers and having them become loyal employees consistently ranks as a key issue for small businesses. Those concerns are no different at Sun Valley-based Transit Systems/American Fleet, which repairs buses. But Maurice Venega, owner of the nine-year-old firm, has developed a not so run-of-the-mill solution. In 1996, he began organizing some of his employees into small buying and investment groups. “From day one, I knew it was important to be in a situation where everyone got along with one another, and had good sentiments about the work environment. I knew that if people are happy, they’re more creative and have a better attitude. “My dad worked for a manufacturing company that moved to Mexico because of NAFTA, and he lost his job of 17 years. After working all that time, he was still renting a two-bedroom apartment. I said the same thing wouldn’t happen to my people. I may not be able to pay them more money per hour, but I can give them something else. “So we starting saving, and I put my dad in the group. We all pitched into a savings account and in a year and a half had $13,000. We went to an auction and bought a distressed property, and put one person from the group into the house. It was a fixer-upper and needed a new roof and carpet. It was a two-bedroom that we rented for $700. “We eventually ended up doing the same thing with another group. And as the property appreciated, we took the credit line from the house and used it to help buy another one. It takes about a year and a half to save up because we want to put down 20 percent. “This has created a lot of loyalty with my employees. People are really grateful. I’m an immigrant, and some of my guys are immigrants and might have never been able to get into a house otherwise. It’s also had the side effect of creating a ‘family’ atmosphere. The wives are involved with one another. They even visit my mom when she’s sick. “When they leave, employees get the money back that they put in. So far, only one person from the original group has left and three from the other groups.”

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