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Posted: August 01, 2009

Best Companies to Work for in Colorado ’09

Pinnacol Assurance, Rally Software and Infinity Systems Engineering rate the best among 35 finalists judged for having great workplaces in the state

In a time when workers are taking on extra duties, it’s nice to know we still have companies that keep the office stocked with snacks, or in the case of one of this year’s Best Companies finalists, “Scooby snacks.”

Oh, and thanks for covering employee health-care insurance premiums. That’s coming in handy right now as the nation braces for what could become wholesale changes to our health-care system.

As we face economic challenges, celebrating companies that create great workplaces couldn’t be more important. The Best Company to Work For in Colorado finalists understand that keeping workers inspired and appreciated not only improves the bottom line but creates dividends that transcend it.

For the fourth year, ColoradoBiz has joined with the Colorado State Council of the Society of Human Resource Management and Jobing.com, an online employment advertising service, to produce a list of the best companies to work for in the state.

Large companies
(250 employees or more)
 1.     Pinnacol Assurance
 2.     Edward Jones
 3.     Omni Interlocken Resort
 4.     PricewaterhouseCoopers
 5.     Alpine Bank
 6.     Cheyenne Mountain Resort
 7.     Quest Diagnostics Inc.
 8.     CoBank
 9.    Merrick & Co.
10.     T-Mobile USA – Colorado Call Centers
11.     DaVita Inc.
12.    The Children’s Hospital
13.    tw telecom
14.     CH2M Hill
15.    Hunter Douglas Window Fashions, Inc
Medium companies
(100 to 249 employees)
 1.     Rally Software
 2.     PCL Construction Enterprises
 3.     Exclusive Resorts LLC Inc.
 4.     Stanley Consultants Inc
 5.     Classic Residence by Hyatt – Highlands Ranch
Small companies
(25 to 99 employees)
 1.     Infinity Systems Engineering
 2.     ReadyTalk
 3.     IP5280 Communications
 4.     Blu SKY Restoration Contractors Inc.
 5.     Memolink Inc.
 6.     Evolve
 7.     Moneytree Inc.
 8.     Return Path Inc.
 9.     Odell Brewing Co.
10.    Administaff Inc.
11.     Rothstein Kass
12.    Aztek Networks Inc.
13.    R.A. Nelson & Associates Inc.
14.    SAFEbuilt Inc.
15.    Sterling-Rice Group

It’s especially inspiring this year to hear what companies are doing to engage their workers and connect with their communities. Few companies can afford to pay 100 percent of health insurance benefit coverage for employees and their families, as ReadyTalk does, or plan an all-expense paid trip to an exotic locale every year for the entire staff, a long-time tradition at Infinity Systems Engineering. But those are only the more striking examples of what makes those companies a great place to work.

Even companies of modest means can make the grade by creating a workplace culture that champions the contributions of employees and strives to help them balance other aspects of their lives. Offering paid time off for employees who do volunteer work and matching their charitable cash contributions is one of the more common “best practices” among the companies the program honors each year. And with nonprofits strapped for support these days, continuing such programs is crucial.

Thirty-five companies made this year’s Best Companies ranking and are profiled here. The 15 largest companies have 250 or more employees. The five companies in the medium category have 100 to 249 employees. The 15 companies in the small category include those with work forces of 25 to 99 employees.

To participate in the rankings, companies paid from $625 to $1,175 to be surveyed by Modern Think, a workplace-excellence consulting firm. All employees are surveyed in the small and medium categories. Up to 400 employees are surveyed in the large category depending on the size of the organization.  If the company has more than 400 employees, the participating employees are chosen at random. — Mike Cote, ColoradoBiz editor

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LARGE

Best Company winner
Pinnacol Assurance
www.pinnacol.com

Best_Large1_Pinnacol.jpg

Pinnacol Assurance CEO Kenneth Ross leads morning stretching to proactively avoid potential problems and promote employee health. From left: Rosemary Herrera; Brandon Williams; Ross; Jeff Tetrick, CFO of Finance; and Johawna Robbins. Photography by MARK MANGER.

Pinnacol Assurance plays a vital role in Colorado’s economy, providing workers compensation insurance to more than 58,000 businesses representing 1.5 million employees across the state. More than half of all Colorado businesses are Pinnacol policyholders.

But while Pinnacol is known as “Colorado’s insurer of last resort,” it is first in the eyes of judges when it comes to Best Companies to Work For. The Denver-based insurer has gone to considerable lengths to take care of its own 622 employees.

Perks at Pinnacol include a matching 401(k) plan, an in-house exercise room with pilates instruction and other classes, and a companywide ergonomics program to ensure optimum comfort and worker health in an environment where most work is done sitting in front of a desk.

In that program, new employees and employees changing workstations receive an ergonomic evaluation aimed at correcting hazards like ill-fitting chairs or poor seating posture. They also have weekly access to an on-site occupational therapist to discuss any symptom, regardless of cause. A stretching program further promotes employee health.

Of course, for a company that provides workers’ compensation insurance, this sets a good example for policyholders. And vice versa.

“What we do as a business carries forth to our employees,” says Ken Ross, who is nearing his fourth year as Pinnacol’s president and CEO.

Pinnacol’s history dates back to 1915, making it Colorado’s oldest provider of workers’ compensation insurance. The company was regularly in the news earlier this year when state legislators sought to tap $500 million of Pinnacol’s $2 billion in reserves to fund higher education before a judge ruled that such a move would be illegal.

“Pinnacol’s story is about our role in the Colorado marketplace, our role in the economy,” Ross says. “We went through a rough time with our legislature in the springtime. The way we look at it is we prevailed, and we think the law is very clear how Pinnacol should operate in Colorado.

Because of the size of Pinnacol and who we insure, we play a very crucial role. It is even magnified with these difficult economic times, that we’re in a position to provide stability in the marketplace and still look to return dividends and reduce rates for our customers.”

Indeed, Pinnacol has returned a dividend to policyholders for five straight years, most recently in May when it returned $120 million, bringing the five-year total to $347 million. Prior to 2005, it hadn’t returned a dividend to policyholders in 22 years. Ross attributes the dividends to Pinnacol policyholders keeping safe workplaces, tending to claims and “working with our claims adjusters and our agents across the state to try to keep their own employees safe and claims costs down.”

Meanwhile back at the office, Pinnacol has not passed along increased health-coverage costs to employees for the past two renewals.

Pinnacol describes itself as Colorado’s “safety net” workers’ compensation provider – by law it must provide coverage to any Colorado business, regardless of its size or accident history. Thus, it takes on more risk than many of its competitors, but it balances this with careful underwriting, prudent pricing, effective claims management, and what it describes as “the relentless pursuit of internal efficiencies.”

Count attention to its own employees’ wellbeing as one demonstration of internal efficiencies – an area in which Pinnacol strives to show the way for the Colorado businesses it serves.

2008 RANK: No. 2
Mike Taylor

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Best Company winner
Edward Jones
www.edwardjones.com

Best_Large2_EdwardJones.jpg

Scott Wilson, financial adviser and regional leader for Edward Jones in northeast Colorado and southeast Wyoming, works with Charla Compton, senior business office administrator, in Wilson’s Loveland office. Financial advisers enjoy the benefit of running their own offices.

When you’re talking about the Best Companies to Work For, it seems a given that Edward Jones will land somewhere near the top of the discussion. The St. Louis-based investment-services firm was judged No. 1 among large companies in 2006 and was No. 1 again last year. The firm has hardly slipped in the eyes of judges. This year’s runner-up result matches its showing in 2007.

Donna O’Bryant, who has operated an Edward Jones office in Colorado Springs the past 17 years, says the firm’s model has proved especially effective in the current recession. The typical office setup consists of a financial broker/adviser, and an officer administrator who is paid by the Edward Jones company, not by the broker/financial adviser. Also, Edward Jones pays for each branch’s office space.

“What makes Edward Jones a great place to work for is we are a partnership, not a shareholder-owned corporation, so our decisions can be based on the long term,” says O’Bryant, who serves as regional leader of southeastern Colorado representing about 70 Edward Jones offices.

Founded in 1922, Edward Jones is the nation’s largest financial-services firm in terms of branch offices with more than 9,900 U.S. locations, including 271 branches and 565 employees in Colorado. The company had revenues of
$3.5 billion in the U.S. last year.

“At a time when our industry had been in kind of a disarray, we didn’t have to go to the government for any money. We didn’t have anything in the trouble areas that so much of our industry was taken down by,” O’Bryant says. “This year, what’s really on everybody’s mind about what makes Edward Jones a great company to work for is that they’ve stayed solvent and they’ve stayed independent and they’ve stayed forward-thinking.”

O’Bryant points out that a large number of Edward Jones employees are limited partners, so they share in the company’s profits – and in the decision making. When it became evident early this year that the firm needed to cut spending to maintain a positive bottom line, employees came through with a number of ideas such as offering voluntary unpaid time off and reducing the number of annual company meetings, from three to two. In all, Edward Jones cut expenses by $91 million, O’Bryant says.

“There was just an outpouring of recommendations and suggestions from all the employees — ways we could cut down on the budget,” O’Bryant says. “And therefore we’ve remained profitable this year.”

2008 RANK: No. 1
Mike Taylor

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Best Company winner
Omni Interlocken Resort
www.omnihotels.com

Best_Large3_Omni.jpg

Omni Interlocken Resort associates have the opportunity to utilize the brand new, state of the art fitness center at any time, at no cost. David Jurcak, general manager, and Alissa Heim show off the new equipment.

Employees at Omni Interlocken Resort who want to further their careers in the hospitality industry can take advantage of at least two programs to put them on the road to becoming managers or supervisors or another role.

“We kind of refer to our development here as ‘growing our own garden,’” says Marcey Bowman, director of human resources at Omni Interlocken, a 390-room resort in Broomfield outside of Boulder.

One Omni program, called Manager in Development, or MID, is aimed specifically at recent college graduates and is designed to provide students the training and mentoring needed to begin their careers at Omni Hotels. Another Omni program is called Leaders in Development (LID). Participants have six months or a year to complete the process, depending on the program.

“Just because they may be working in banquets or at the front desk doesn’t necessarily mean their knowledge has to be limited to those departments,” Bowman says. “They can become more well-rounded and learn how to become a supervisor, become a manager, and enhance their skill set so we can have them work for us well into the future or possibly relocate to a different hotel, and it really keeps them motivated.”

The programs are both a recruiting and retention tool for Omni Interlocken, one of 40 hotels in the Omni Hotels Resorts chain throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

“We really have fun with it, too,” Bowman says of Omni’s developmental programs. “It’s not just sitting there in a classroom. They’re actually out there kind of in the field. Whether it’s learning about golf maintenance or shadowing a wedding or something like that, they get some hands-on experience.”

Another benefit for Omni Interlocken’s 301 employees is the employee dining room, where breakfast is free and other meals are just $1 each. Paydays – every other Friday – are celebrated with donuts from Lamar’s donut shop in Louisville in the morning and prime rib in the afternoon.

Employees also get to play golf for free at the resort’s 27-hole course – voted the third-best course in the Rocky Mountain region by Golf Magazine in 2008 – and they have free access to the resort’s state-of-the-art fitness center. They also can get an RTD Eco Pass, good for unlimited use of RTD transportation, for $10 a month.

“They’re working hard here, and we want to show them we appreciate them,” Bowman says.

New to List

Mike Taylor

4
Best Company winner
PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
www.pwc.com

Founded: 1998 (merger)
Location: Denver, headquartered in New York
CEO: Dennis Nally
2008 Revenue: $7.2 billion (U.S.)
Colorado workers: 268

In a nutshell: With a worldwide work force of more than 140,000, PricewaterhouseCoopers helps organizations around the world solve complex business issues in areas ranging from taxation to human resources to transactions to crisis management.
What’s special: Despite its large size – 30,000 professionals in the U.S. and 268 in Colorado – PwC maintains a community feel with bimonthly newsletters and biweekly “PwC Updates” from CEO Dennis Nally that include an “Ask Me Anything” feedback button. More than 110 employees submit ideas, questions or comments to Nally each month, and every question receives a personal response, even when the answer requires considerable research.
Values: In Denver, PwC has a Diversity Circle made up of more than 50 members. Among other things, it celebrates holidays for its diverse groups. A Women’s Networking Circles group with about 30 members has the goal of meeting four to five times a year
to discuss women’s issues, and a Staff Advisory Council comprised of all lines of service and all levels of employees focuses on continuous improvement.

2008 Rank: No. 6

5
Best Company winner
Alpine Bank
www.alpinebank.com

Founded: 1973
Location: Glenwood Springs and 36 other Western Slope locations
CEO: Robert Young
2008 revenue: $187 million
Colorado workers: 572

In a nutshell: Alpine Bank serves customers with retail, business, trust, asset management, mortgage and electronic banking services.
What’s special: The bank attributes much of its success to its ability to retain employees – many for more than 10 years — who have built long-term relationships with a customer base that now numbers close to 100,000. Alpine Bank employees started a grass-roots effort called the Green Team in 2005. This led to development of the bank’s Environmental Management System (EMS), a framework to measure progress in implementing environmental practices.
Perks: Alpine Bank employees receive three days of paid time for volunteer activities such as helping schools or with highway cleanup or other projects.

2008 Rank: No. 5

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6

Best Company winner
Cheyenne Mountain Resort
www.cheyennemountainresort.com

Founded: 1980
Location: Colorado Springs
CEO: Laura Neumann
2008 revenue: Not disclosed
Colorado workers: 445

In a nutshell: Destination resort hotel with golf, four swimming pools, indoor and outdoor tennis, fitness center and 35-acre lake for sailing and fishing.
What’s special: Employees and their families get discounted room rates, a 50 percent discount at all food and beverage outlets, and a 25 percent discount at the resort’s catered events. Workers also can golf for free, subject to availability.
Benefits: Included in an employee’s medical coverage is a wellness incentive, which includes a $600 wellness benefit for services not already covered under preventive care. The package includes $300 toward health and fitness programs.

2008 Rank: No. 8


7
Best Company winner
Quest Diagnostics Inc.
www.questdiagnostics.com

Founded: 1967
Location: Major laboratory facility in Denver, headquartered Madison, N.J.
CEO: Surja Mohapatra
2008 revenue: $6.7 billion
Colorado workers: 708

In a nutshell: Quest Diagnostics is the leading U.S. provider of diagnostic testing and services, including routine medical testing, gene-based testing, drugs-of-abuse testing and anatomic pathology testing. Quest is also the leading provider of risk-assessment services to the life insurance industry.
Perks: Quest’s Blueprint for Wellness program provides employees and their spouses or domestic partners a free, complete health assessment that includes having their blood drawn at a Quest lab and receiving an 18-page personal wellness report. Employees who participate pay $10 less per paycheck to their company-sponsored health plan.
What’s special: Quest’s GENESIS Mentoring Program is aimed at creating an inclusive, cross-functional learning environment to maximize the growth potential and business contribution of the company’s leadership team. The program adds to the development of future leaders as a part of Quest Diagnostics’ goal of creating a diverse leadership pipeline.

2008 Rank: No. 9


8
Best Company winner
CoBank
www.cobank.com

Founded: 1916
Location: Headquartered in Greenwood Village with 11 regional offices throughout the U.S.
CEO: Robert B. Engel
2008 revenue: $863 million (net interest income)
Colorado workers: 423

In a nutshell: With more than $63 billion in assets, CoBank is the largest financial-services institution headquartered in Colorado. CoBank is a cooperative, owned by customers. They include agribusinesses, agricultural cooperatives, farm credit associations, rural energy companies, communications companies and water companies.
What’s special: CoBank conducts two companywide employee meetings each year, giving associates the opportunity to hear from the executive team and get a sense of long-term company plans. The meetings typically are held off-site and include a meal.
Perks: Employees can take up to four hours off for personal reasons on any given day – with supervisor approval – and make up those hours during the same week.
Values: CoBank expects employees to have a life that is more than just working for CoBank. That may mean the time to coach a child’s soccer team, volunteer at a local shelter or play in a band. For others it may simply be the comfort of knowing they can make it home for dinner each night. Maintaining a healthy life balance, whatever that may look like, is crucial to the bank’s sustainable success.

2008 rank: No. 11

9
Best Company winner
Merrick & Co.
www.merrick.com

Founded: 1955
Location: Headquartered in Aurora, 11 total offices in the U.S., Canada and Mexico
CEO: Ralph W. Christie Jr.
2008 revenue: $87 million
Colorado workers: 309

In a nutshell: Merrick & Co. specializes in engineering and architectural design, facility and equipment design-build, procurement, construction management, and geospatial services.
What’s special: Merrick’s internship program enables college sophomores and juniors to experience a hands-on engineering experience. They are provided a mentor and attend weekly meetings dealing with public speaking, resume writing, office etiquette, interview skills and meeting management. This school year Merrick had approximately 700 applications for 15 paid internships. Merrick hires approximately 80 percent of its intern class each year.
Perks: Merrick has developed two types of part-time positions for its retirees: regular part-time, and an on-call basis. Regular part-timers receive benefits. The program allows Merrick to maintain contact with valued employees and tap into their experience. Currently five retirees are participating in the program.
Values: “We know that our employees have great resources when it comes to finding quality employees for us,” the company says. Merrick is developing a mentoring process for its Leadership Development Program and will provide training for participants, either as a mentor or mentee.

2008 RANK: No. 7

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10

Best Company winner
T-Mobile USA
Colorado Call Centers
www.t-mobile.com

Founded: 1994
Location: Headquartered in Bellevue, Wash., with call centers in Thornton and Colorado Springs
CEO: Robert Dotson
2008 revenue: $21.9 billion (T-Mobile USA)
Colorado workers: 1,572

In a nutshell: T-Mobile USA Inc. is a wireless communications company serving more than 32.8 million customers. It has call centers in 24 U.S. locations, including Thornton and Colorado Springs.
What’s special: Both the Thornton and Colorado Springs call-center sites have localized career-development programs with current job postings, a Leadership Library, Career Development Brown Bag Learning Sessions, Job Fairs and shadow programs.
Perks: A program launched in 2009 called “Take Back Your Time” allows employees to temporarily reduce their full-time shifts to 30 to 32 hours per week, giving them extra time with friends and family during the summer months and helping the company budget.
Values: The Colorado Springs call center has a formal mentoring program called BENCH designed to prepare employees for front line leadership positions. The Thornton call center has a Role Model Representative (RMR) program in which participants are trained to provide coaching and constructive feedback to new-hire representatives, assist them with understanding their performance metrics, and take escalated calls from customers.

2008 RANK: No. 13


11
Best Company winner
DaVita Inc.
www.davita.com

Founded: 1999
Location: Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif.
CEO: Kent Thiry
2008 revenue: $5.66 billion
Colorado workers: 778

In a nutshell: DaVita Inc. is a leading provider of kidney care in the U.S., providing dialysis services and education for patients with chronic kidney failure and end-stage renal disease.
What’s special: DaVita’s Redwoods Leadership Development Program, launched in 2008, provides a great leadership experience with mentorship by senior management. The program has provided more than 60 scholarships to outstanding DaVita teammates for MBA and similar programs at leading universities. Some 37 business school graduates who have been trained in the Redwoods Program have entered leadership roles and are advancing toward senior management.
Values: DaVita values transparency and information-seeking at all levels. For example, when a DaVita vice president is present in any group of 10 or more, he or she will hold a Town Hall Meeting, where any teammate in the room can ask any question about DaVita or provide their feedback to the executive. The spontaneous, casual meetings are designed to provide teammates access to this level of leadership. Similarly, DaVita’s “Voice of the Village Calls” are held every six to eight weeks and allow teammates to hear updates from CEO Kent Thiry or COO Dennis Kogod. The calls are attended by an average of 3,000 teammates and give them a chance to connect with their senior leadership.

New to list


12
Best Company winner
The Children’s Hospital
www.thechildrenshospital.org

Founded: 1908
Location: Aurora
CEO: James Shmerling
2008 revenue: Not disclosed
Colorado workers: 3,938

In a nutshell: The Children’s Hospital provides pediatric care at its main campus and through a network that includes emergency locations, community based after-hours care sites, specialty care centers and more than 400 outreach clinics held in three states every year.
What’s special: Children’s emphasizes career development and promotion from within. Approximately 60 percent of all management and leadership positions are filled with internal candidates.
Perks: Concierge services at no extra cost for employees include car washes, oil changes, watch repairs, dry-cleaning pickup and drop-off, hotel, flights and rental car reservations. Other benefits include free use of an employee gym 24/7 and backup-care options for employees who have a temporary breakdown in their normal care arrangements. Children’s covers the majority of costs for this program.

New to list

13
Best Company winner
tw telecom
www.twtelecom.com

Founded: 1998
Location: Littleton
CEO: Larissa Herda
2008 revenue: $1.16 billion
Colorado workers: 1,091

In a nutshell: Provider of managed voice, Internet and data networking services for businesses, large organizations and carriers with offices in 75 cities in 30 states and Washington, D.C.
What’s special: As an employee-retention measure and in response to historically high fuel prices, tw telecom implemented pilot work flexibility programs in 2008. Employees in corporate finance and accounting participated in a compressed work week that allowed eligible employees to work nine rather than 10 business days in a two-week period. A second pilot is under way at tw telecom’s National Operations Center in which technical non-exempt employees work four, 10-hour days per week.
Perks: tw telecom offers an ESPP (employee stock purchase plan) to all employees. The benefit features a 15 percent discount with a look-back feature on price of option. In addition, all employees are eligible for an annual grant of stock options and/or restricted stock units based on performance and contribution to the company’s success.

New to list

14
Best Company winner
CH2M HILL
www.ch2mhill.com

Founded: 1946
Location: Englewood
CEO: Lee A. McIntire
2008 revenue: $6.4 billion
Colorado workers: 2,091

In a nutshell: CH2M Hill is a global leader in engineering, procurement, construction, management and operations for government, civil, industrial and energy clients.
What’s special: CH2M Hill is employee-owned and has long been recognized as a leading employer, including being named by Fortune one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For (2009, 2008, 2006, 2003).
Perks: Prior to their retirement, CH2M Hill offers employees access to financial counseling through either Fidelity Investments or Addison Avenue Credit Union. CH2M Hill also offers flexible work arrangements through part-time or flexible work schedules for employees who want to transition toward retirement but who may not want to stop working completely. Of its employees age 55 and older, 14 percent are working part-time or flex.
Values: CH2M Hill encourages retirees to stay connected with the firm through a quarterly retiree newsletter and a biannual retiree retreat. In 2009, CH2M Hill will also launch a corporate social networking website that will make it convenient for retirees to learn about work, mentorship, community service/volunteer and social event opportunities offered by the firm.

New to list

15
Best Company winner
Hunter Douglas Window Fashions Inc.
www.hunterdouglas.com

Founded: 1985
Location: Broomfield; headquartered in Upper Saddle River, N.J.
CEO: Richard Pellett
2008 revenue: Not disclosed
Colorado workers: 824

In a nutshell
: Design, manufacture and distribution of textile window coverings.
What’s special: Hunter Douglas’ “Windows to Wellness” program is an employee-run wellness committee that features a number of health-centered intitiatives. Launched in 2006, “Windows to Wellness” includes an annual health fair with company-paid blood tests, information booths, body-mass index screenings, blood pressure and skin cancer screenings, and more.
Perks: A Weight Watchers program is held on-site and is 50 percent subsidized by Hunter Douglas. Yoga and cardio classes also are offered on-site.
Values: Hunter Douglas believes in fostering a work environment that is safe, pleasant and stimulating for all employees, thereby encouraging their creativity.

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Medium

Best Company winner
Rally Software
www.rallydev.com


Best_Med1_Rally.jpg

Ryan Martens, founder and chief technology officer, and Tim Miller, CEO, of Boulder-based Rally Software in a Smart car. By encouraging alternative transportation, Rally reduced its CO2 emissions from commuting by 17 percent and awarded the employee who most dramatically reduced carbon emissions.

When asked what differentiates Rally Software from other software companies, CEO Tim Miller said, “Our corporate culture.”

“A lot of software companies are deeply passionate like we are and trying to change the world like we are. But I think we have a broader mission,” he said. Rally expects employees to “create their own realities” and grow professionally and personally in any way they want.
“Growing personally is often not directly related to work, but it makes us better people,” Miller said. “And when we make ourselves better people, we become better employees. … We’ve built a sense of loyalty and culture that allows us to survive and thrive even in tough times.”

Rally stresses a work-life balance and backs it up by offering its 143 Colorado workers flexible schedules, the option of telecommuting when needed, time off to meet family commitments and 1 percent of employees’ paid work time to volunteer for the organization of their choice.  

Behind all the feel-good philosophy is serious business.

Founded in 2002, Rally is a growing company that recently opened offices in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and London – and banked $10.6 million in gross revenue in the latest fiscal year. There is no such thing as 9-to-5 there; Miller spoke of an employee who recently spent 17 days on the road, talking to customers eight hours a day.
“When you’re working in a high-tech-startup, with aspirations to get big and one day go public, you’ve got to be driven and passionate,” he said.

That’s why the company doesn’t just hire anybody who’s qualified for the job. Nearly 6,500 people applied for jobs at the company last year; 86 were hired.

In keeping with Rally’s Agile software development methodologies — in which solutions evolve through collaboration among self-organizing, cross-functional teams — all employees are involved in the hiring process, Miller said. “Anybody can say no for any reason,” he said. “We reject a lot of highly qualified candidates through that process, but the ones that make it through really tend to shine.“ 

Scientific thought is highly valued. “We don’t just make decisions,” Miller said. “We create theories, ‘I think if we do this, we will see that.’” And if something doesn’t work, workers shut down the test or try a different theory, he said.

“We need to be able to react and respond to the market and the conditions and obviously the financial crisis,” Miller said.
So far, so good.

“I’m continually amazed that we get better,” Miller said. “I was told that it’s easier to have everybody be happy when you’re a smaller company.” Now a medium-sized company, Rally as a whole is still pretty sanguine. 

In a time when “flat is the new up,” Miller said, “We’re still growing, and we’re still hiring. I’m thrilled we can continue to be the great company we are.”

2008 rank No. 2 in small category
Mary Butler

Best Company winner
PCL Construction Enterprises Inc.
www.pcl.com

Best_Med2_PCL.jpg

The PCL College of Construction strongly encourages employees to act as instructors at in-house training courses. Harry Levine instructs the president of PCL Construction Services, Inc., Al Troppmann, and Matt Boyd.

Diana Canzona-Hindman knows from experience that her employer, PCL Construction, walks its talk. Its policy of unlimited sick time and flexible workdays is real, she learned, when her mother was diagnosed with throat cancer.

At most companies, “When you’re a woman coming up through the ranks, you have to be at work no matter what your family situation,” said Canzona-Hindman, PCL’s human resources adviser. But her supervisor “didn’t bat an eyelash” when she requested time to take her mother for hospital visits. And Canzona-Hindman said she won’t forget the company’s generosity. “It just made me work harder,” she said.

The 103-year-old PCL was born in Saskatchewan but today has offices throughout Canada and the U.S., including locations in Vail and Denver and 233 Colorado employees. Today with gross revenues of $6 billion, PCL strives to maintain the vision of its founder, Ernie Poole, said Michael Maymir, PCL human resources and professional development manager.

“Poole’s Rules,” posted on the company website, begins with “Employ highest grade people obtainable.” Maymir said his coworkers are simply “outstanding.”

“I think part of that comes from the fact that we are employee owned,” he said. PCL employees receive dividend checks annually in February or March, and for some workers who’ve been with the company for many years and have a substantial number of shares, that check can exceed his or her salary, Maymir said. Employee ownership at PCL, Maymir said, creates a vested interest and drives the company culture in a very positive way. People could take advantage of the company’s unlimited sick time policy, for instance, but they don’t, Maymir said.

While PCL respects its history, it has evolved into a diversified business that erects large buildings, as well as roads and bridges — a fact that has helped it weather the recession and continue to add to employee programs. Eighteen months ago, it launched a $300,000 employee wellness initiative, including onsite health screenings, smoking cessation programs and even $200 “exercise reimbursement” checks per employee for everything from yoga classes to gym memberships.

2008 rank: No. 3 in small category
Mary Butler

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Best Company winner
Exclusive Resorts LLC
www.exclusiveresorts.com


Best_Med3_ExecResorts.jpg

Exclusive Resorts offers an extravagant and generous perk — the Employee Usage travel benefit. Jeff Potter, CEO, and Jill Lloyd pose in front of a portrait of an Exclusive Resort home.

Exclusive Resorts clients spend a lot of money — between $100,000 and $500,000, in most cases — for a vacation stay that combines the luxury of a hotel and the comfort of a private residence in locations from Chicago to the French Alps.

That’s why “we thought it was very important to create a work environment where people would be motivated to serve these clients,” said David Kallery, ER’s senior vice president of human resources. Probably the biggest job perk for ER’s 167 Colorado workers is the opportunity to enjoy vacations like the wealthy people they take care of while on the clock.

“That’s something we just started a year or two ago,” Kallery said. “It’s certainly one of the best motivators.”

The hospitality industry often struggles with the transient nature of its work force, but ER has been able to entice employees to stay, thanks to its unique travel program and other benefits, including a 401(k) match, gym membership and professional development program, he said.

“One of the things we wanted to create here is a culture where people would want to stay and grow their careers and be here for many, many years,” Kallery said. That works well for a company – and for clients who appreciate it when workers know when and where they like to play golf and which of their children likes to ski.    

“I can tell you that members are attracted to the fact that we have these big beautiful homes, four -, five - and six-bedroom homes in beautiful locations around the world,” Kallery said. “But that can easily be duplicated by other companies. Our employees are what make Exclusive Resorts different.”

ER was founded in 2002 but really took off after 2004, when AOL founder Steve Case became involved in the company; he’s majority owner and a board member.

The company’s business model, which was new at the time of the company’s birth, attracted people who wanted to be a part of something unique, Kallery said.

The company’s CFO came from Marriott, the head of hospitality, from Ritz-Carlton, Kallery said. “A lot of employees that were here when it was a true startup are still here today,” he said. “We consider ourselves a young and largely entrepreneurial company.”

New to list
Mary Butler

4
Best Company winner
Stanley Consultants Inc.
www.stanleyconsultants.com

Founded: 1913
Location: Denver; headquartered Muscatine, Iowa.
CEO: Greg Thomopulos
2008 revenue: $214 million; $26 million in Colorado
Colorado workers: 174

In a nutshell: Provider of engineering, environmental and construction services worldwide.
What’s special: The employee-owned company calls its workers “members.” “Our corporate culture places emphasis on our members as our most important assets. Throughout the history of the company, we have been able to attract and retain exceptional people.”
Perks: 401(k) and stock bonus plan, to which the company contributes the equivalent of 1 percent of a member’s compensation each year. The privately held company’s stock value has averaged a better than 20 percent return per year since 2004.
Values: Professional development: The company offers three different mentoring and leadership programs to groom and assist workers in their efforts to advance through the ranks.

New to list

5
Best Company winner
Classic Residence by Hyatt
Highlands Ranch
www.hyattclassic.com

Founded: 1987
Located: Highlands Ranch; headquartered in Chicago
CEO: Randy Richardson
2008 revenue: More than $300 million
Colorado workers: 108

In a nutshell: Provider of luxury living communities and quality care for older adults.
What’s special: Tuition reimbursement. The company supports employee development by paying partial or full reimbursement of tuition costs — up to $6,000 per calendar year — with the goal of retaining and attracting the best talent.
Perks: Each October, the company hosts a wellness fair, offering health information, food, fitness classes and demonstrations and free flu shots for employees and their families.
Values: Relationships. “Our commitment to our residents begins with our commitment to our employees.”

New to list


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Small

Best Company winner
Infinity Systems Engineering
www.infinity.aero

Best_Small1_Infinity.jpg

Andy Wilfong, president of Infinity Systems Engineering, enjoys a massage by Alisa Giroir, LMT of Colorado Springs-based Intuitive Touch Massage Therapy. Infinity pays for personal massages every Monday, for all employees.

During an era of economic uncertainty, a company willing to carry some of its employees until the workload resumes brings new meaning to “best practice.”

“Right now, we have about six engineers on overhead for months,” says CEO Andy Wilfong, who founded Infinity Systems Engineering in 1996. “Most companies would let them go in two weeks to a month. But we’re keeping them on board four to five months because we have a huge contract award that is going to be announced hopefully in the first week of this October.”

The Colorado Springs engineering and information technology company – which also ranked No. 1 in the small-company category in last year’s Best Companies competition — works on satellite programs, serving such defense industry clients as Raytheon, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. It recently added work with the Army to its extensive track record on Air Force contracts.

Its workers, who number 62 in Colorado, are used to logging long hours, but the company has strived since its inception to keep them happy, taking the entire team and their significant others on annual trips to such exotic locales as the Bahamas, Cancun and Mexico. The company is planning a trip to London in 2011 to celebrate its 15th anniversary, Wilfong said.

Infinity’s wellness program includes company-sponsored sporting events such as softball, volleyball, golf and tennis for workers and their families. This year, the company began bringing in a massage therapist once a week to help workers cope with the strain of working in front of computer screens for long stretches.

“I just thought it would be a great idea to hopefully minimize our medical costs but just as importantly keep employees feeling fresh and, from a muscle perspective, feeling good about themselves,” Wilfong said.

The company, which brought in more than $11.5 million in revenue last year, boasts a 98 percent retention rate and a 90 percent recruitment rate. In short, it’s looking for workers who want to stay with the company until they retire. Infinity’s managers accomplish that by working with employees to make sure they’re content with their jobs, Wilfong said. That can mean being flexible enough to let a worker relocate but remain employed with the company. A 12-year-employee recently moved to Boston.

“A lot of companies figure, if someone leaves we’ll just hire someone else,’’ he said. “I try to view it as a family. When you’ve been with a company for seven years, why not try to make it seven more?”

Infinity pays full medical, dental and disability coverage completely covered by the company and kicks in 10 percent to a 401(k) plan for all employees — who are immediately vested — regardless whether they make contributions themselves.

“We do things to try to keep them happy financially, which is stay very efficient as a company, which allows us to utilize what we bill our customers and give it back to the employees in terms of these awesome benefits,” Wilfong says. “You can have a goal for awesome benefits, but if it ends up costing too much to your customers, you’re not going to be able to implement it.”

2008 rank: No. 1
Mike Cote

Best Company winner
ReadyTalk
www.readytalk.com

Best_Small2_ReadyTalk.jpg

Dan King, CEO of ReadyTalk, shows off their great work environment. Amanda DiPlacido enjoys her work with her dog, Dieter, by her side.

Volunteerism and philanthropy have long been ingrained in the culture of Denver-based ReadyTalk, a provider of audio- and Web-conferencing services. And it’s become even more meaningful with the company’s continued success.

“As ReadyTalk becomes a more and more a successful company, it’s both an opportunity and obligation to contribute to the community in which we all work,” CEO Dan King says. “Healthy companies are the ones that can really impact philanthropic activities, and we’re very much a healthy company.”
'
Workers at ReadyTalk can devote up to 20 hours a year on company time to volunteer work. The company also will match charitable contributions up to $500 per employee per year and contributes cash and services each quarter to nonprofits.

The economic downturn has meant increased demand for ReadyTalk’s services, King says. The company added 30 employees last year and is on track to exceed that number this year, with 20 new hires as of early July.

“In a poor economy people look for cost-effective tools that are also very productive, and Web conferencing and audio conferencing both foot that bill,” says King, who co-founded the company in 2000. “We also see companies doing webinars more and more as part of their marketing initiatives. And we have a great platform for customers who are doing those types of events.”

Although benefits are generous – ReadyTalk pays 100 percent of medical coverage for employees and their families — King attributes ReadyTalk’s reputation as a great place to work to the company’s culture, which aims to draw on the strengths and passions of employees.

“For me, it makes all the sense in the world that engaged employees are the ones who are going to deliver outstanding customer experiences both through the products that we build and support and the customer service that we provide,” King says. “We’ve always organized our thinking about our business just to make sure we’ve created an environment where we have highly engaged employees.”

Visit ReadyTalk’s Lower Downtown offices and expect to see 15 to 20 bikes parked inside the lobby.

“ReadyTalk tends to be on the younger side,” says King, who bikes from Boulder occasionally. “We have a pretty environmentally minded group of people who work here.”

2008 rank: No. 10
Mike Cote

Best Company winner
IP5280 Communications
www.ip5280.com

Best_Small3_IP5280.jpg

IP5280 illustrates telecommuting can happen from just about anywhere. In front, John Scarborough and Jeffrey Pearl, managing partners and co-founders, demonstrate a virtual office.

This month, employees of IP5280 along with family members and business partners will climb Gray’s Peak, spending a Friday scaling one of Colorado’s 14,000-foot-plus mountains.

The Englewood-based Internet phone company began the treks four years ago as a way to promote teambuilding and raise money for charity. This year, IP5280 hopes to raise $50,000 for The Children’s Hospital and the Kempe Foundation.

“There’s a real sense of adventure when you’re climbing. It’s a high-energy activity,” says Managing Partner John Scarborough. “There’s a lot of leadership that is involved. There’s an amazing sense of accomplishment when you reach the summit of a 14er.”

Scaling those heights is indicative of the culture the company promotes in the workplace, Scarborough says. You can see it every day at the company’s daily sales meetings at 7:30 a.m., he says.

“By 7 o’clock, the music is blaring in the conference room. The coffee is brewing. People are moving and shaking,” he says. “It creates a fun place, a fun team environment.”

The technology the company sells – voice over Internet protocol – makes it easy to allow flexibility in where, when and how employees work. Although IP5280 has a formal office environment, workers have the ability to work remotely as needed in a seamless manner.

“The technology of voice over IP enables them to take one of our IP phones and plug it into literally any broadband connection in the world, and it will act just as if it’s sitting right here on your desk,” Scarborough says. “We can have remote workers, virtual workers operating from their homes, and they are still only an extension dial away. They still feel as if they’re in the office next door.”

Scarborough says IP5280’s products can save businesses 20 percent to 30 percent over traditional phone systems, something the company’s sales reps can believe in. The company logged more than $4 million in revenue last year.

“In the tough economy we’re in, we’re selling a product that saves people money,” he says. “It’s fun to be able to go out there and talk to other small- and medium-sized businesses and show them how new technology can not only build more efficiencies in how their business operates but it can save them money, too.”

2008 rank: No. 9
Mike Cote

{pagebreak:Page 9}

4
Best Company winner
Blu SKY Restoration Contractors Inc.
www.goblusky.com

Founded: 2004
Location: Centennial
CEO: Terry Shadwick
2008 revenue: Not disclosed
Colorado workers: 55

In a nutshell: Blu SKY provides property restoration and reconstruction services in the Rocky Mountain region. The company delivers immediate response and restoration services for fire and water-damaged structures for the commercial and residential markets. It also offers capital improvement and restoration services in the multifamily/condominium market.
What’s special: Career progression charts for each department define positions and what it takes to achieve the next level. The company also has internship programs with Colorado State University and the University
of Colorado.
Perks: All employees are given a company cell phone that includes e-mail, Internet and text messaging. Blu SKY employees also can work remotely through the company’s virtual private network. The company provides laptop computers to all senior management, sales estimators and project managers.

2008 rank: No. 13

5
Best Company winner
Memolink Inc.
www.memolinkinc.com

Founded: 1994
Location: Denver
CEO: David Asseoff
2008 revenue: $34.8 million
Colorado workers: 53

In a nutshell: Memolink operates online reward programs with more than 1,000 shopping partners that allow consumers to earn points through completing surveys or sampling products. The points can be exchanged for cash or gift certificates or donated to a charitable organization. The company also operates CPA Storm, a business-to-business affiliate network that acts as an intermediary for advertiser offers and helps companies succeed in the online space. Memolink’s PayBuyPartner connects social media sites and developers with Fortune 500 companies.
What’s special: Two kitchens at the company’s Denver headquarters are stocked with free snacks such as chips, pretzels, apple sauce, granola bars, ice cream and soda. The company also buys lunch for employees every Friday and breakfast bagels a few times a month.
Values: The company promotes core values that include trust, respect, pride, integrity and hard work.

2008 rank: No. 6

6
Best Company winner
Evolve
www.evolveprograms.com

Founded: 2002
Location: Englewood
CEO: Joel Wochner
2008 revenue: $10 million
Colorado workers: 32

In a nutshell: Evolve designs and produces customized uniforms and fulfills merchandising for such corporations as Qwest, DIRECTV
and Chipotle.
What’s special: Evolve provides up to eight hours each quarter to employees who volunteer in nonprofit groups that support missions tied to the company’s goals and strategy, such as environmentally or socially focused groups.
Perks: Earth Day is a paid holiday for any employee participating in a company sanctioned Earth Day activity.
Values: Diverse committees discuss ideas for employee recognition, health and wellness and volunteering opportunities and/or activities; ways to improve company profitability; and improving safety.

New to list

7
Best Company winner Moneytree Inc.
www.moneytreeinc.com

Founded: 1983
Location: Company headquarters are in Seattle
CEO: Dennis Bassford
2008 revenue: Not disclosed
Colorado workers: 77

In a nutshell: Privately held Moneytree provides check cashing, payday loan and other retail finance services. The company also offers pre-paid debit cards, wire transfer services, money orders, and phone and gift cards.
What’s special: Moneytree supports many organizations that benefit youth, families and financial literacy.
Perks: Medical insurance is fully paid by the company for full- and part-time employees. It offers reduced-cost medical, dental and vision insurance for dependents.
Values: The company encourages participation in professional organizations and pays for membership and travel to meetings and conferences. It reimburses employees for taking classes to maintain their licenses and certification.

2008 rank: No. 4

8
Best Company winner
Return Path Inc.
www.returnpath.net

Founded: 1999
Location: Broomfield; headquartered in New York
CEO: Matt Blumberg
2008 revenue: $20.3 million
Colorado workers: 97

In a nutshell: Return Path provides an on-demand software application to monitor and certify e-mail programs for such clients as eBay, The New York Times and Facebook to help ensure their messages reach recipients. Internet service providers like Hotmail and Yahoo use the company’s data services to create more accurate e-mail filtering algorithms.
Perks: Every new employee receives a stock option grant based on the size and scope of his or her role. These options vest over a four-year period. Extraordinary grants are awarded on an annual basis to high-performing and high-potential employees.
Values: Return Path supports individual efforts to give back to the community. Every employee is eligible to receive up to five days per year of paid time off per year to perform community service work.

New to list

9
Best Company winner
Odell Brewing Co.
www.odellbrewing.com

Founded: 1989
Location: Fort Collins
CEO: Wynne Odell
2008 revenue: Not disclosed
Colorado workers: 44

In a nutshell: Odell Brewing Co. makes a variety of craft beers, including 90 Shilling and East Street Wheat, that it distributes to restaurants and liquor stores in its Fort Collins base and statewide as well as to seven central and mountain states outside Colorado.
What’s special: At “Odell U,” workers can learn about a particular program or departmen

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