Posted: August 01, 2010
Best Companies to Work For in Colorado 2010: Small
Infinity does it againBy Lisa Ryckman
infinity systems engineering
There's got to be something extra-special about a place that lands in the top spot three years running in the Best Companies' small-company category.
Could it be Infinity Systems Engineering's fully covered medical, dental and disability? Or its 10 percent contribution to a 401(k) plan for all employees - who are immediately vested - regardless of whether they make contributions themselves?
Perhaps it's the quarterly happy hours, or the twice-yearly bonuses. Or maybe it's the annual profit-sharing - a perk of being privately held - or the yearly trip to vacation spots like Hawaii or Acapulco or the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas (this year: New York; next year: London, to celebrate the company's 15th anniversary).
Answer: pretty much all of the above.
"Even the people who take out our trash want to become employees," says Alan Patterson, Infinity's vice president of operations. "Someone who hears it for the first time can't believe it's real. But it's been that way for 14 years."
The perks and the profits come courtesy of CEO Andy Wilfong, who wants his employees to retire with his company.
"He does whatever it takes to keep everyone he's got on board," Patterson says.
The Colorado Springs-based engineering and information technology company works on satellite programs, serving such defense industry clients as Raytheon, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, as well as military and government clients. It brought in more than $12 million in revenue last year and boasts a 98 percent retention rate and a 90 percent recruitment rate.
"Everyone's out there working so hard, and this is why they're working so hard so willingly," Patterson says. "By keeping our employees content, they go out to our customers and perform work and do it so well that it generates additional positions for us. The happier we keep the employees, the more work we get as a company."
To be sure, some perks have gone by the wayside; an employee survey found that more people wanted happy hours than weekly massages, and workers were too busy to take time for monthly screenings by a wellness coach.
But managers are committed to ensuring their 73 employees' needs are met, whether that means enough flexibility to carry some employees through economic downturns or allowing a worker to relocate and stay with the company.
And when Infinity does have an opening, the company looks in-house first to determine if the job might be a fit for one of its current employees, to challenge them or move them up, Patterson says. New hires generally come from the military, whose personnel might have the proper expertise and security clearance.
No surprise - the company's hiring process is ultra-efficient, too, Patterson says.
"If we want you, we can have you onboard tomorrow," he says. "We very rarely get turned down."
2009 Rank: No. 1
Working at IP5280 is all about the climb: taking the first step, conquering the mountain - then enjoying the big picture from the top.
"Bottom line, it's who we are," says John Scarborough, managing partner for the Englewood-based Internet phone provider. "We really love this central theme because it reminds us that all great things start with a single step - whether we're talking work, home or play. The idea of ‘climbing' creates a great unifying force among the employees and throughout the company."
And happy employees make for happy customers and more business - which makes for even more happy employees. The company has doubled its work force to 48 in the last year and is still hiring, and revenue has gone from $4 million to $5.5 million.
Being part of this company's team means working hard and playing hard, with plenty of opportunity for both. IP5280's technology - Voice over Internet Protocol ("VoIP") - gives employees the flexibility to work pretty much anytime, anywhere. Their efforts are rewarded with monthly events such as ski trips, snowmobiling, paintball or dinner at Del Frisco's.
"We do see the importance of the work/life balance," says Scarborough, who met partner Jeffrey Pearl when both worked at Qwest. "We spent 20 years apiece in big corporations. I didn't even know the words ‘work/life balance.'"
Their knowledge of big corporate culture has helped them shape IP5280's in other tangible ways. The CLIMB program, for example - Creating Leaders in Management Behavior - grooms high-potential employees for leadership roles, a key piece of the company's commitment to promoting from within.
IP5280 is equally committed to giving back to the community; once a year, its metaphorical climb to the top becomes a literal one when 150 employees, family members and business associates climb a 14er to raise money for Children's Hospital and the Kempe Foundation. Last year's climb raised $50,000, a mark they're hoping to top on Aug. 13.
No better way to understand the last words of IP5280's mission statement: "The climb is the challenge; the view is the reward."
2009 rank: No. 3
jg management systems inc.
At JG Management Systems, the corporate culture encourages a roll-up-your-sleeves, pitch in and give back kind of attitude.
The Grand Junction-based company's 24 employees - including CEO Jerome Gonzales - follow the 10/80/10 concept: 10 percent of their time goes to mentoring colleagues, 80 percent is devoted to their regular work and 10 percent is spent learning from others.
"We encourage knowledge sharing, not knowledge containment," Gonzales says. "Does this approach take more time on everyone's part? Of course it does. But we all see the benefit. The joke around the office is that the more everyone knows what I know, the less I have to work!"
Founded in 2001, JGMS uses engineering methodologies to provide operational and technical support in the areas of facility operations and assessments, program and project management, architectural and engineering design services, construction management and environmental services. From its 12 offices, JGMS works with clients including the National Guard Bureau and other Department of Defense agencies, the Department of Energy and National Laboratories, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Forest Service and other federal and private entities.
The company, which reported $4.25 million in revenue last year, actively encourages pitching in outside of work as well by offering employees 40 hours of paid volunteer time - something Gonzales calls "community stewardship."
"Employees are free to support whatever cause they are passionate about," he says. "They can spend their time all at once or spread it across the several events throughout the year. The only requirement is that the support be toward a nonprofit."
JGMS employees have planted trees in downtown Washington, D.C., gone on church missions to Africa and taught classes on financial literacy to school kids in Grand Junction.
Gonzales encourages his employees to practice "servant leadership," built around humility, putting others first, giving back and being willing to take on the tough jobs. He says JGMS is leading the charge for workplaces to give back to the community by fostering a culture of philanthropy, consistently donating financially and materially to nonprofit organizations and projects, and supporting employee participation in volunteer activities locally and nationwide.
"These are not qualities or ideals that can be faked. These qualities are intertwined with everything JGMS does. It is the fabric of who we are," he says. "JGMS is proud that we can do well - and do good - at the same time."
New to the list
Blu SKY Restoration Contractors Inc.
CEO: Terry Shadwick
Colorado workers: 55
In a nutshell: Blu SKY provides property restoration and reconstruction services for fire- and water-damaged structures in the Rocky Mountain region.
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.
Values: Blu SKY gives employees up to a week per year of paid time for the volunteer activity.
2009 rank: No. 4
Location: Company headquarters are in Seattle
CEO: Dennis Bassford
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 has a customized training program for team members selected as Mentors. Mentors are partnered with new team members and help them during their initial weeks of employment.
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.
2009 rank: No. 7
Location: Roseland, N.J.
CEOs: Steven Kass and Howard Altman
2009 revenue: $5.8 million
Colorado workers: 25
IN A NUTSHELL: Rothstein Kass is a public accounting firm with diverse commercial services offerings and an extensive financial services expertise.
WHAT'S SPECIAL: The company expects employees to give their best to the firm, and it's dedicated to doing everything possible to help people succeed. The firm maintains a true open-door policy of listening to the needs and opinions of clients and employees.
VALUES: A determination to create an environment where each person can reach his or her full potential and achieve the best work/life balance. Mentoring is a key component of training and development. New hires are paired with mentors at the time they accept the firm's offer of employment. New hires meet regularly with their mentors to determine their short- and long-term goals, develop a career plan for the coming year, and identify tasks for reaching their goals. Mentors provide support that many professionals need early in their careers.
2009 rank: No. 11
R.A. Nelson & Associates Inc.
CEO: Chupa Nelson
2009 revenue: $31.7 million
Colorado workers: 60
IN A NUTSHELL: R.A. Nelson & Associates specializes in building mountain resort communities, with a focus on green practices, community amenities, recreational facilities, luxury ski-in/ski out condos, custom homes and affordable local housing.
WHAT'S SPECIAL: When a new employee comes aboard, the company assigns mentors to help through the employee's career. The company is also a scholarship provider for the Vail Valley's Colorado Mountain College. It provides monetary funds, as well as significant mentoring to construction-focused students.
VALUES: The company offers every employee up to four paid hours per quarter to be used for volunteer activities. It also organizes a volunteer activity every quarter, including bike trail cleanup, building Habitat For Humanity homes and ringing bells for the Salvation Army.
2009 rank: No. 13
Applied Control Equipment LLLP
CEO: Randy Schrader
2009 revenue: $35 million
Colorado workers: 61
IN A NUTSHELL: Applied Control Equipment serves the process control needs of the Rocky Mountain region as the sales and service representative of Fisher Controls and Emerson Process Management. The company serves industries involved in mining, power generation, refining, chemical, food and beverage, oil and gas production, as well as gas distribution.
WHAT'S SPECIAL: Applied Control Equipment employees have the option to participate in flexible schedules.
VALUES: Applied Control Equipment has an employee finders fee that awards $1,000 to the referring employee if the referred employee remains employed for one full year. The fee is paid the month following the 12-month anniversary.
New to the list
CEO: Rebecca Flavin
2009 revenue: $15.8 million
Colorado workers: 77
IN A NUTSHELL: EffectiveUI specializes in the creation and implementation of custom Web, mobile, desktop and touch-enabled applications.
WHAT'S SPECIAL: The company has a kitchen stocked with snacks to help employees get through the day. Breakfast is also frequently provided, and the company brings in lunch for all employees every other week during a staff meeting. Pets are allowed to join the employees for their workdays. There is no dress code at the company, as employees are encouraged to dress how they wish.
VALUES: The company offers its employees a flexible schedule, and each employee is set up to work remotely from wherever he or she needs to work.
New to the list
Location: Kingwood, Texas
CEO: Paul J. Sarvadi
Colorado workers: 23
IN A NUTSHELL: Administaff serves as a full-service human resources department for thousands of small- and medium-sized businesses throughout the United States.
WHAT'S SPECIAL: Monthly company-wide meetings are held at the corporate headquarters, and a streaming video of the meeting is posted for those employees who missed the meeting or want to refer to it later. Every year, a fall campaign kickoff event is held at the corporate headquarters and at three of the service centers across the nation. All employees are flown in to attend this event.
VALUES: Administaff's brand campaign, "I Am the Brand ... Every Person Counts" highlights the value of each and every position and person within the company. The company's goal is to have a corporate culture that encourages a balance between family, work and community.
2009 ranking: No. 10
CEO: David Asseoff
2009 revenue: $36.8 million
Colorado workers: 50
IN A NUTSHELL: Adperio is an interactive marketing and advertising agency based in Denver. The company has a global reach.
WHAT'S SPECIAL: The company created and participated in a 10-week team-building exercise. The Adperio Office Olympics began as a survey distributed to all employees, asking for feedback about favorite activities, games and willingness to participate. Goals for the Office Olympics included positive competition, "teamsmanship," creativity and making new friends.
VALUES: During company-wide meetings, service awards are handed out and an employee of the month is recognized. At the end of the meeting, all employees are given the opportunity to share good news about events both professional and personal.
New to the list
Aztek Networks Inc.
CEO: Steven M. Bruny
2009 revenue: $259,000
Colorado workers: 26
IN A NUTSHELL: Aztek Networks builds and supports switch consolidation and network migration solutions for telecommunication providers. The company's products help ensure public safety by maintaining local calling capabilities and access to emergency 911 services in the event of an accidental cut to network service lines or natural disaster.
WHAT'S SPECIAL: Azteck provides onsite showers and lockers. During monthly company meetings, lunch is provided and employees have the opportunity to mingle and hear updates from the CEO, as well as the sales, marketing, finance, engineering and other teams.
VALUES: Aztek embraces a liberal flex-time policy. Employees are responsible for managing their own schedules. Aztek empowers staff and encourages growth and exploration of new technology.
2009 ranking: No. 12
Blizzard Internet Marketing Inc.
Location: Glenwood Springs
CEO: Susan Blizzard
2009 revenue: $3.5 million
Colorado workers: 21
IN A NUTSHELL: Blizzard delivers a blend of Internet marketing services to the hospitality industry.
WHAT'S SPECIAL: The company offers a pet-friendly work environment. All dogs know exactly where the doggie treat bowl is! Employees enjoy a casual office environment.
VALUES: The company's standard of behavior is determined by core values, such as fairness, teamwork, good communication skills, accountability and a good balance between work and personal life. The company's philosophy is that work should not have a negative impact on an employee's personal or family life.
Not a finalist in 2009.
SOS Staffing Services Inc.
Location: Salt Lake City
CEO: JoAnn W. Wagner
Colorado workers: 64
IN A NUTSHELL: SOS Staffing provides for clients' hiring needs, offering a comprehensive line of personnel solutions, including temporary, temporary-to-hire, and direct hire options.
WHAT'S SPECIAL: The annual Blueprint for Wellness program is available to all employees and their spouses. This screening includes a complete blood count, diabetes and cholesterol screenings, and more.
VALUES: An education assistance program reimburses employees 75 percent for courses and 100 percent for books, based on successful completion. Company-sponsored workshops and training seminars are paid by the company.
Did not participate in 2009. No. 14 in 2008 in small to medium category.
Crestone Capital Advisors LLC
CEO: Eric Kramer
Colorado workers: 32
IN A NUTSHELL: Crestone Capital Advisors is a wealth management firm for high net-worth entrepreneurs, their families and their foundations.
WHAT'S SPECIAL: Associates at the company participate in an intensive communication and public speaking seminar through an executive trainer.
VALUES: Many executives have found inspiration in being able to escape the typical office setting and prepare speeches, iron out the wrinkles and carry out high-level, strategic business discussions.
Did not participate in 2009. No. 18 in 2008 in small to medium category.
Lisa Ryckman is the online editor at cobizmag.com.