S-One’s employee demographics
and longevity defy generational norms

In employment think tanks, seminars and conferences around the country, much time is spent trying to figure out how to tap into Millennial loyalty … how to get Gen Xers to truly care … how to keep Baby Boomers engaged.

For the past 25 years, S-One has created a secret sauce that puts all those questions aside and simply embraces an experience and culture that nearly everyone can embrace.

“It’s all about the employee experience and engagement, and if we really get that right, anything’s possible,” says Angie Gruss, an S-One team leader who heads up employee engagement programs. And that seems to transcend across the ages. Currently, S-One employees break down like this:

• 7 are age 25 and younger
• 78 are ages 26 to 40
• 45 are ages 41-55
• 23 are age 56 and older

But the more revealing statistics come by comparing typically job tenure to what’s happening at S-One. For instance, the average American Millennial stays in a job for four years. Conversely, more than a dozen people who fall into the Millennial category have been working at S-One for 10 or more years.

When looking at Gen Xers, the average tenure is seven years, yet about 10 S-One employees who fall within the Gen Xer definition have logged more than 15 years on board. In fact, most of our team leaders fall within this group, and have marked 20th anniversaries and beyond.

But it’s less about when they were born or what societal norms they grew up with than nurturing a culture that can evolve, Gruss says.

“Every time we hire someone, the culture evolves,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re just out of school, on your second or third job or later in your career, if we can keep the mentality that we’re hiring you because you have something to offer, then we’re going to build a culture that says: You have a voice, you have a say, you have a brain and you have ideas – and we want to use you for those.”

People outside of the company have noticed as well. “S-One does a good job on the comradery aspect,” says Mark Gordon, a Florida Business Observer reporter who has followed SOne’s development over the years. “People think it’s a Millennial thing, but for me that should be an any age thing: I want to work at a place and be in a team and contribute to a team.

“I like the idea now that we have this concept where you can do more at your work, and it just doesn’t have to be this pay-check place. That it can mean more or have purpose.”

S-One’s global team is made up of people of all ages and backgrounds who share a similar desire to work in a fun-loving organization.

The Brand Management Group customer service team has fun during the Cinco de Mayo luncheon.

CJ Forker, right, learned about LexJet through his childhood friend, Steve Lowe.

For CJ Forker, 36, S-One was his first job right out of college, and he’s about to celebrate his 12th anniversary. In the early 2000s, he’d interviewed at a few companies, but “something didn’t fit,” he says. “I can’t really describe what it was, just something was missing.”

“I did a few phone interviews, but it wasn’t until I got down here that I got ‘the feeling,’” Forker says. “I got the feeling that there were opportunities, and it wasn’t just monetary. This was something I could contribute to, something meaningful, where I could potentially leave my mark.”

Over the past 12 years, Forker worked in different LexJet sales markets; transferred to BMG when it started in 2012 to get S-One’s global presence off the ground; and in 2016 he returned to LexJet in a team leadership role that he says continues to challenge him. “You have to keep learning,” he says. “If you find a better way to do something – as long as you have a plan or a concrete thought process, there are ears to listen to you here.”

Michael Henshaw, 40, has logged 14 years with S-One, joining after experiencing a few other less than ideal job opportunities. He started in Marketing at S-One and moved over to IT six years ago. He agrees with Forker that the excitement of something new has played a key role in his long-term employment.

“A huge area of strength for us is that people are empowered to take the initiative and get things done,” Henshaw says. “For me, I like to take ownership of things. What’s so awesome is that things are constantly evolving, and we’re always making changes on the fly.”

Anne Grbic, 71, started working in Chicago when she was 13. Hoping to save money for college, she took a secretarial position at RR Donnelly right after high school, where her responsibilities grew to include recruiting and hiring seasonal workers and to reinstate returning Vietnam veterans to their former positions.

It was in 1990 when she worked part-time at Tekra that she met Ralph Giammarco. The two of them, along with Mike Kolman and Mark Buchman eventually left Tekra to start up Utopia, a core LexJet partner, in 1999.

Anne Grbic, right, has been with S-One for 18 years.

Michael Henshaw does his part on Red Nose Day.

Tom Gruss, second from left, celebrated his retirement from S-One in 2018 with Art and Ron and his daughter, Angie Gruss.

Over the years, Grbic has been critical in developing relationships that would eventually become ABAQA, and she was named an annual “Unsung Hero” in 2014 after Utopia, ABAQA, BMG and LexJet merged to become S-One.

While her employment history may be longer, her love of learning and trying new things far outpaces many of her younger S-One teammates.

“I’m such an idea person,” she says. “Sometimes my ideas are seen as bizarre, but Ralph made the effort and realized he could learn from me. Being open to other people’s ideas … that’s something to be celebrated.”

Grbic was in her early 50s when she helped create the Utopia start-up, but her age was never a thing for her. “I just thought it was so awesome,” she says. “So many of my friends ask: Why aren’t you retired? And it’s because I absolutely love what I do. I get to be creative and I’m getting paid to do something that I’m enjoying. A lot of my friends had jobs they wanted to get away from – with a culture they didn’t want to stay with.”

Clearly, the devotion to a strong culture that embraces our vision to Develop, Innovate and Connect, goes hand-in-hand with the loyalty among team members.

“We’re an innovative company with a real focus on our customers,” Henshaw says. “We’re flexible enough to make the changes necessary to balance those two things to keep our employees happy and our customers happy – that’s what we’ve always done.