Merced County Times Newspaper
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Merced’s Image Masters earns top industry award

Some will be surprised that one of the largest firms in a very large industry is based right here in Merced.

Image Masters employs 25 team members, has a payroll of nearly $2 million dollars and their $6 million in annual sales ranks them in the top 1 percent of firms in the $24 billion dollar promotional marketing industry.

And the industry has now honored the Merced-based company — for the second time — as one of the industry’s Greatest Companies to Work For.

The Merced company will be spotlighted in the July issue of Promotional Products Business magazine.

“I am so proud that we have been recognized by our industry once again for our fun and empowering work environment.” noted company founder and CEO, Tim O’Neill. “We pride ourselves on having happy customers, and, as the owner, I know that we only get happy customers when we have happy employees.”

When asked what companies can do to create a great work environment, COO Chris O’Neill said that the formula was pretty straightforward. “We hire good people, train them well, give them the tools and flexibility to do their job, and then get out of their way.”

To earn the award the company had to first be nominated by an employee. The firm then provides a roster of employees and all company employees are sent a survey asking them to rate their employer on a range of topics including company culture, compensation and benefits, and company values and ethics.

Half of Image Masters employees have been with the company for over five years. Half of those have been on the team for over 15 years. The company offers competitive pay, generous health, dental, vision and paid time off plans; a 401k retirement plan with company matching, and a flexible work approach.

Employees love the monthly team lunches and the annual Summer Fun Trip where employees and their families are taken by bus to someplace fun. In recent years they traveled to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Alcatraz, Great America, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Gilroy Gardens, Six Flags Vallejo, and the SF Giants.

Image Masters is a rare hybrid in the promotional products industry in that they have their own garment decorating facility near the Merced Airport where they do their own embroidery and screen printing in house. “Most of our colleagues and competitors have to outsource their garment decorating” said Adam Saxon, an Image Masters shareholder who has been with the company since graduating college 18 years ago. “Having this capability in-house is a huge competitive advantage.”

Asked whether he’s feeling good about a three-peat for the “Greatest Company” distinction, Tim O’Neill was clear-eyed.

“We can’t stay a great place to work if we rest on our laurels,” he said. “We will continue to hire great people who fit our culture and values, and we will continue to support them as they do the hard work to deliver on our promises to the clients who count on us. And we will continue to have lots of fun along the way.”

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