Best Places to Work - JH Specialty

This Indiana distributor firm knows how to work hard and play hard.

A summer Wednesday at the office of JH Specialty (asi/232445) can often mean play time. 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 across the back lot. Not all Wednesdays are like this, but it’s also not far from the many enjoyable things the company does, at the behest of Owner John Henry III, pictured at right along with company COO Jason Knothe. “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.

Jason Knothe (left) and John Henry III of JH Specialty in the firm’s showroom.

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. To ensure the best fit, Henry and Knothe create job profiles and run personality tests on candidates while keeping long-term growth in mind.

Of course, potential employees have ample reason to come aboard to JH Specialty, which has made the Best Places to Work list every year since 2008. 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,” says Knothe.

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 coming up with fun events, including a bacon-themed challenge based on the TV show Chopped. It all falls in with the family atmosphere cultivated at the company – something 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.”