Business Profiles

Home-ice advantage: Johnston Group is dedicated to Manitoba

President Dave Angus says group benefits are a necessity for small businesses in the ongoing hunt for top-notch employees.

Dave Angus is confident that Johnston Group continues to be in the right place at the right time.

The Winnipeg-based provider of benefit services, which has more than 33,000 small business clients representing about 185,000 people and their families, says its numbers went up during the COVID-19 pandemic and they’re continuing to rise today.

Those tail winds are in part due to the growing number of small businesses that are realizing that having group benefits are table stakes in today’s competitive employment environment. “A lot of potential employees will walk through the door and ask, ‘do you have benefits?’ If you don’t, they’ll turn around and walk out,” says Angus, president at Johnston Group since 2016.

“Even some small companies in sectors such as hospitality that haven’t had group benefits previously are starting to offer them because they want to attract good people.”

The company’s close relationship with its more than 300 independent advisors across the country has helped the company’s upward trajectory, too.

“That sustained our growth and amplified it coming out of COVID. We were stronger because we were closer to the client and our advisors,” he says.

Angus is also quick to credit the vision of founder Dave Johnston, who focused his attention on the small business community because he felt it was underserved with benefits. At the time, the benefits offered by small companies were a far cry from large competitors, which made it difficult to compete for people.

“(Johnston) thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great if small businesses could work together and have a plan that’s sustainable with high-quality benefits?” Angus said.

That ultimately led to the creation of the Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance Plan, which is now the largest small business group benefits plan in Canada. Since then, it has added Maximum Benefit, a one-stop shop for large employers, and CINUP, its employee benefits plan geared towards Indigenous people.

With 330 employees at its Winnipeg head office, Angus said Johnston Group is completely committed to the Manitoba capital.

“We have no interest in getting acquired or moving anywhere. We’re going to continue to grow our footprint in Winnipeg,” he says, noting he expects the company to hit 400 employees soon based on current growth projections on the way to 500 employees.

Just how busy is Johnston Group? It processes an average of more than 3,000 health and dental claims a day.

Angus says the company’s friendly and supportive corporate culture goes a long way in attracting new employees and all of its people have a strong community focus. “We’re very committed to our local community. We see that as one of our responsibilities. We support community initiatives as part of our role and we invest a lot in them,” he says.

Some of the beneficiaries include charities, social causes, arts and culture, food security, hospitals as well as health and wellness providers.

But don’t just take Angus’s word for it. Johnston Group has been recognized as one of Canada’s best managed companies, the country’s leading business awards program, every year since 2001.


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