Reason To Celebrate At JH Specialty

"Work Hard, Play Hard" The Motto At This Indiana Distributor

JH SpecialtyIt’s Wednesday afternoon at the office of JH Specialty (asi/232445), and the dial is set to “relaxed.” Food’s in the breakroom and beer’s in the cooler. Employees are outside in the sun mingling and playing corn hole; a few are loading up an air gun and firing projectiles a couple hundred feet across the back lot. Wednesdays aren’t all like this – the Fort Wayne, IN, company is celebrating its record first-half sales this year – but it’s also not far from the many enjoyable things the company does, at the behest of Owner John Henry III.

“A lot of it is fun. John has the motto work hard, play hard. You hear that a lot, but it’s true,” says Jamie Nicholson, an account manager with the distributor firm.

Henry got his start back in the late ’90s while attending Indiana University. “I needed to make some money. I looked around and didn’t want to work at the cafeteria,” he said. So, he sold T-shirts to Greek organizations and parlayed that into a distributorship today that not only sells promotional products, but also has a robust e-commerce presence ( and a wealth of digital marketing capabilities. That leads to a diverse workplace – techies with Nintendo characters plastered on their walls sharing an office with veteran promo and marketing experts. To ensure the best fit, Henry and COO Jason Knothe create job profiles and run personality tests on candidates while keeping long-term growth in mind. “With each interview,” Henry says, “we want to make sure it’s as good a fit for you as it is for us.”

Of course, potential employees have ample reason to come aboard to JH Specialty, which has made the Best Places to Work list each of the eight years that the list has existed. Every other Wednesday, the company holds a luncheon for employees to eat and relax. The firm also affords employees one day every couple of weeks to try a side diversion that piques their interest.

“We allow them to pursue a passion to sharpen their skills … It’s like ‘Google Days,’ ” says Knothe, referring to the tech giant’s “20% Time” policy that lets employees pursue projects.

Other fun touches include a bean bag chair video game room and printed avatars on the walls for the YourPromoPeople employees. A Community Involvement Committee pulls double duty by also coming up with fun events, including a bacon-themed challenge last summer based on the TV show “Chopped” that required use of the meat in a drink, entrée and dessert. It all falls in with the family atmosphere cultivated at the company – something literally in place, since Henry’s father works at the company as well.

“The main thing is the Golden Rule,” says the younger Henry. “Treat people how you want to be treated.”