Business

Kansas City’s Top Companies 2014: Pro Athlete, Inc.

Cool Company: Pro Athlete Inc.

Just how cool is online baseball and softball retailer Pro Athlete? For starters, consider the company’s philosophy on job titles.

“My official title is ‘No Title,’” says Andrew Dowis. “I act as COO, but we don’t care about titles. We all do a little bit of everything.”

Established as a local brick-and-mortar sporting goods store in 1987, Pro Athlete moved operations entirely online in 1999 with the rollout of the company’s first website, BeAPro.com. Today, Pro Athlete owns JustBats.com and JustBallGloves.com – two eCommerce sites that specialize in the sale of baseball and softball bats and gloves.

Clockwise from top: Stephanie Garcia, Jeramy Jordan, Austin Hall and Jodi Smith of Pro Athlete, Inc. Photo by Aaron Lindberg.

Working in the technology-driven world of eCommerce is undoubtedly cool, yet at Pro Athlete, inventive employee perks help contribute to a culture that fosters employee productivity, well-being and fun.

“We have free haircuts, free massages, made-to-order breakfast and free lunch prepared by an in-house chef,” Dowis says. “There’s a swimming pool, batting cage, racquetball court, ping pong tables and game room that employees can use during the day to take a break and be active.”

Pro Athlete also pays 100 percent of its employees’ health insurance. And because giving back to the community is a top priority, every Pro Athlete employee receives a stipend that they can donate to the charity of their choice.

Given those sorts of benefits, it’s no wonder that employee retention levels are high. And when employees reach a milestone in the company’s Years of Service program, they’re rewarded with the ultimate prize: a personalized bobblehead doll that’s crafted to look just like the employee.

These perks (and others) all underscore the company’s larger goal: to provide a great work environment.

“Being an eCommerce company, we’re always open,” Dowis says. “We have employees who work a lot of hours because they want to. We provide a great environment so they can take meaningful breaks and feel energized. We do work really hard and put in a lot of effort, but we also know how to have a good time while doing it. Nobody wants to come in and dread work, so we try to make it fun while producing quality results on a daily basis.”

Creating that sort of work environment is a two-way street. Dowis says the management team is constantly collecting employee feedback and works to implement ideas so that all of the employees are more invested in the company. In fact, employee feedback helped spark significant changes with company management.

“We had an inexperienced management team and no real clear-cut system for management,” Dowis says. “During our Employee Engagement assessments, our employees called us out on it, so we reacted. We built a system for managers to all get on the same page and manage the Pro Athlete way. We built a Relationship Building Initiative (RBI) to get managers and employees talking more and gaining more trust with each other. The employees have noticed the changes and are excited about the direction in which things are heading.”

Company perks are cool—but at the end of the day, it’s this sort of commitment to employee satisfaction and well-being that’s a true testament to the company’s culture and success.

“Our leadership genuinely cares for the people who make what we do possible,” Dowis says. “They love keeping the focus on the employees because they’re what keeps us here.”

- Katy Schamberger