BY MARK MADLER
SAN FERNANDO VALLEY BUSINESS JOURNAL
MAY 8, 2023
At a time in life when most people are thinking about retirement, Barry Cohn instead has taken bold steps to grow his business.
The 68-year-old is chief executive of JorgensenHR, a Santa Clarita-based provider of human resources services, including executive training and investigations.
Earlier this year, JorgensenHR acquired two human resources companies – Camarillo based Strategies for Human Resources and Quad-County Human Resources Inc., which is headquartered in Placentia.
“We have expanded our geography, we have expanded our client base, and we have expanded our HR solutions,” Cohn said of what the deals mean for his business.
Tami Wiersma, founder and president of Quad-County, is now president of JorgensenHR; she assumed the role from Linda Harris who is focusing on Workplace Investigations, Compensation and Affirmative Action Plan.
It’s a homecoming of sorts for Wiersma, who worked for JorgensenHR for about 10 years in the 1990s. She moved to Orange County, where she founded Quad-County in 2008.
Cohn characterized the Quad-County acquisition as being strategic; JorgensenHR didn’t have any employees or consultants in Orange County, and Wiersma didn’t have staff in Los Angeles.
“It puts us together to work in a larger geographic area,” Cohn said.
Cohn called the acquisition of Strategies for Human Resources an opportunistic one.
He had known the company’s president, Karen Martin, for more than 20 years; both attended meetings of networking and trade groups in Woodland Hills.
When Martin decided to retire to Arizona, she called Cohn and asked if he wanted to take over her company.
“I decided that it was a good opportunity to expand into the Ventura County area,” he said.
While the acquisitions have added to his employee count, Cohn doesn’t need to make room for them at the Santa Clarita headquarters. The consultants work remotely, as they have for the past 20 years or so, he said.
For at least two reasons, the market says this is a good time to do deals such as the ones the JorgensenHR recently completed.
First, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to be an employer in California, Cohn said.
Last year, 900 new laws were signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, of which 90 were labor law changes, he said.
Secondly, one of those laws was SB1162, a pay transparency law that states, among other things, that an employer with 15 or more workers must post the salary range of any open position it is looking to fill.
“We have expanded that part of our practice – our compensation studies and salary ranges,” Cohn
said. “We’ve helped 10 companies this year just to put that all together because they don’t have
That expansion is just one of the ways that Jorgensen is growing the services it offers.
For example, Quad-County does payroll processing for its clients.
“We are able to expand that solution to JorgensenHR clients and Strategies for Human Resources clients,” Cohn said.
And Strategies for Human Resources often works with employment lawyers on wage and hour lawsuits.
“One of the things that Strategies for Human Resources does for employment lawyers, defense firms, is they can do calculations on meal and rest break penalties, which we didn’t do,” Cohn said. “We can expand that out to our clients.”
The combined firms conduct work for 26 employment law attorneys across 12 firms, he added.
What JorgensenHR brings to the table is a big practice in workplace investigations, Cohn continued.
“We have a private investigators license,” he said. “We are able to do investigations for harassment discrimination cases that come up that employers need investigations for.”
Among the company’s clients is the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association.
“We have been working with them for 15 years,” Cohn said. “With the new pay transparency law we are doing some more work for them.”
David Eads, the chief executive of the association that puts on the annual Rose Parade and Rose Bowl college football game, said that the organization has a terrific partner in JorgensenHR.
“Their staff ensures that we are compliant with the ever-changing human resource regulations in California, and they provide terrific support to our team members,” Eads wrote on JorgensenHR’s website. “In order to keep and retain employees, companies must stay on the forefront of employee benefits and trends and JorgensenHR helps us demonstrate our commitment to our employees and their success.”
Kate Cocke, a principal in charge of human resources and office operations at Structural Focus, a Gardena-based building design company, said that for more than 20 years the firm has depended on Cohn to navigate the complexities of human resources.
“Barry Cohn and his team at JorgensenHR are extremely collaborative and professional. Their responsiveness is greatly appreciated as we sometimes have a need for a speedy resolution to an issue,” Cocke wrote. “For a small firm, having a resource like JorgensenHR is invaluable.”
Cohn’s combined companies can serve a client base of businesses with as few as 10 employees to those with as many as 4,000 employees, he said.
“We have some very large clients that people would recognize the names of, and we have some clients that you never even knew existed, small companies with 20 employees, 25 employees, and they just needed a little help,” Cohn added.
Helping people, Cohn said, has always been his company’s main goal.
“You ask any of our consultants what we do for a living, it’s we help people,” he said.
And staying current with state labor laws can be a complicated thing to do.
For instance, Cohn said, whenever an employer hires a new worker they are required to provide them with about a dozen brochures or pamphlets.
“When we do HR audits and due diligence audits for acquisitions, companies are not conforming with the law,” Cohn said.
“We have a way to keep everybody up to date on labor law, up to date on what they should be doing so they don’t get themselves in trouble.”