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Posted: August 01, 2008

Best companies to work for in Colorado 2008

Edward Jones and Infinity Systems Engineering rate the best among 40 finalists judged for having great workplaces in the state

It’s that time of year again when the editors of ColoradoBiz go green. We’re not talking about that overused buzzword for sustainable business practices. We’re talking a much deeper green.
        For the third year, ColoradoBiz has joined with the Colorado State Council of the Society of Human Resource Management and, an online employment advertising service, to produce a list of the best companies to work for in the state.
        Sure, we have it pretty darn good here at WiesnerMedia, the privately held parent company of ColoradoBiz. For the second year in a row, our company picnic included the announcement of summer hours on Friday — which means the place clears out after 2 p.m. We have good benefits, flexible hours and comfortable working conditions. (Just don’t mention the office Olympics to our CEO; Dan Wiesner is still driving an electric cart around the office, thanks to a volleyball-induced injury to his Achilles tendon.)
    But, um, where’s our fully stocked kitchen with all the free food we want? At Crestone Capitol Advisors in Boulder, you can even make a request for your favorite food or beverage, and it’ll be in the next week’s grocery package. I’d like some Haagen-Dazs to go with my Starbucks, please.
    How about a link on our desktop to regularly updated financial information about the company? Buffalo Supply in Lafayette lets employees tap into that to see how they’re meeting financial goals — and employees share the profits through bonuses of up to $1,500 a month. (Yearly bonuses last year averaged 39 percent of salary for non-executive employees.)
    In other words, folks, if your employee incentives include little more than a pat on the back and an employee-of-the-month certificate, you need to ramp it up. Even in this wobbly economy, plenty of Colorado companies realize the key to keeping their workers motivated and successful is spreading a little TLC — and some of the wealth — around the office.
    Forty companies made this year’s Best Companies ranking and are profiled here. The 15 largest companies have 250 or more employees. The 25 companies in the small- to medium-size category include those with work forces under 250.
    To participate in the rankings, companies paid from $575 to $1,165 to sign up with Harrisburg, Pa.-based Best Companies Group Inc., which partners with Modern Think, a workplace-excellence consulting firm.
    Employee responses to 65-question surveys account for about 75 percent of the rankings, according to Best Companies, which surveys all employees up to 250. For larger companies, it surveys a random selection of employees, peaking at 400 for employers larger than 2,500 workers.
    If you feel like you’re ready to jump ship after reading about these companies, good luck: These guys get flooded with resumes.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              — Mike Cote, ColoradoBiz  editor


Large companies

(250 employees or more)

1. Edward Jones
2. Pinnacol Assurance
3. AlloSource
4. Mercury Payment Systems
5. Alpine Bank
6. Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP
7. Merrick & Co.
8. Cheyenne Mountain Resort
9. Quest Diagnostics Inc.
10. Education Sales Management
11. CoBank
12. GE Johnson Construction Co.
13. T-Mobile USA — Colorado Call Centers
14. Baxa Corp.
15. Hercules Industries Inc.

Small/medium companies
(25 to 249 employees)

1. Infinity Systems Engineering
2. Rally Software
3. PCL Construction Enterprises Inc.
4. Moneytree Inc.
5. The Staubach Co. Front Range
6. Memolink Inc.
7. Buffalo Supply Inc.
8. Maptek
9. IP5280 Communications
10. ReadyTalk
11. Stern Elkind Curray & Alterman LLP
12. Magpie Telecom Insiders
13. Blu SKY Restoration Contractors Inc.
14. SOS Staffing Services Inc.
15. NetQuote
16. New Frontier Bank
17. Design Workshop
18. Crestone Capital Advisors LLC
19. E Source
20. ViaWest Inc.
21. Administaff Inc.
22. Rothstein Kass
23. Work Options Group
24. Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce
25. Aztek Networks

Best large companies to work for

Best company winner
Edward Jones

    Edward Jones is a company accustomed to ranking someplace around the top of “best company” and “best customer service” lists.
    One year ago, J.D. Power & Associates ranked Edward Jones first among full-service brokerage firms in investor satisfaction for the third straight year. In another field, Edward Jones this year ranked No. 4 in Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list.
    There are two reasons Edward Jones — with 9,560 U.S. branches, 258 in Colorado — consistently finishes high in these sorts of surveys. Both reasons are embedded deep in the company’s business model, which places the highest priority on the personal touch.
    First, there is the typical Edward Jones office. Unlike the big brokerages, these almost always consist of one Edward Jones financial adviser/broker and one branch office administrator. Part of the importance of the office manager is that he or she handles most of the bushels of paperwork today’s financial folks are obligated to fill out.
    Among other virtues, this enables the financial advisers to get out of the office. This literally means pounding the pavement. Edward Jones offices are distributed geographically, and advisers often go door-to-door to solicit new business, as well as meet with clients. Conversely, the office-in-your-neighborhood model allows convenient access to advisers for clients and prospects.
    “We feel that we’re making an impersonal world more personal,” says Denver-based financial adviser and regional leader Dan Large (who, as regional leader, has not one but two branch office administrators in his office).
    The second award-winning part of the Edward Jones model is internal. One potential flaw of the Edward Jones office model is that it could tend to isolate advisers from their colleagues — and in a fast-moving industry, this could be deadly. Edward Jones strives to minimize this possibility by bringing advisers and staff together in frequent meetings that often double as rewards for a job well done.
    Large, for instance, sat down for this interview just after a four-day confab in Steamboat Springs that asked about 60 advisers to attend morning meetings, but left afternoons free for themselves and their families. (About 45 spouses and 60 children attended, too.)
    “Our summer regionals are a family event. We all put our Blackberries away,” Large says. “We do these types of things to get together so that people don’t feel isolated.” The company also hosts monthly adviser meetings and other gatherings.
    Another internal incentive involves rewards for performance. For instance, the company awards financial advisers up to two yearly “diversification trips” to five-star international resorts — not for sales, but for properly diversifying clients’ portfolios. In 2007, more than half of all advisers won a diversification trip.
    So why work for Edward Jones? “You’re going to run your own office and you’re going to be your own boss,” Large says. “Ted Jones was a pretty smart guy. He knew people would work harder if they were working for themselves. For the right person, this is the greatest thing in the world.”
2007 rank: No. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               — David Lewis

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Best company winner
Pinnacol Assurance

    Pinnacol Assurance was a financial mess not too many years ago, with a disaffected work force to boot. Today the nonprofit is a stirring fiscal success story and a sterling example of enlightened employee policy. The two are not unrelated.
    Pinnacol is what used to be the Colorado workers’ compensation company. It still is, technically, but it’s more complex than that. While Pinnacol derives from state statutes, like other mutual insurance firms the company effectively is owned by its policyholders.
    They must be a happy group: While Pinnacol suffered a $500 million deficit in 1990, since 2005 its turnaround has enabled it to return $227 million to customers. This year, Pinnacol distributed $55 million in dividends to 58,000 customers, namely Colorado businesses. Meanwhile, the company  has dropped premiums 25 percent the past two years. 
    Meantime, employees get to work for a business that offers scads of exemplary benefits, and keeps coming up with new ones, such as an expanded telecommuting program.
    Another example is the monthly “Coffee Talk with Ken” program, Ken being president and CEO Ken Ross.
    “Coffee Talk with Ken” has two benefits: It allows staff to shoot questions at the CEO while eating a catered breakfast or lunch, and it can lead to further bennies.
    For instance, Pinnacol formerly neglected to match employees’ 401(k) contributions. But it only took two Coffee Talk questions from concerned workers before Ross gathered his staff and changed that tack.
    “Once we did that, my e-mail was flooded,” Ross says. “We have 600 people in this building, and  I must have gotten about 75 thank-you notes.”
    It’s part of a corporate culture that says, “If you’re happy at home with your family, and your family is happy with you in your work environment, that directly impacts your production, your efficiency and your output,” Ross says. 
    Pinnacol staff gets lots of other impressive give-backs, one of which has had a profound impact on Ross himself. The company offers $4,000 to employees who adopt. Ross and his wife last November adopted a Longmont boy, now 7 months old. “He’s a sweet little guy,” Ross says.
New to list
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       — David Lewis

Best company winner

    When you’re a nonprofit dedicated to saving and restoring human lives, it’s natural that the employees who make it happen would feel good about what they do. But AlloSource works at employee-satisfaction, too.
    Based in Centennial where it has 254 employees, AlloSource provides skin, bone and soft-tissue grafts for use in surgical procedures. It is the world’s leading supplier of fresh cartilage tissue used for joint repair and skin allografts to heal severe burns.
    “We have a very strong mission, which helps lay the foundation for everything else we do,” says AlloSource President and CEO Thomas Cycyota. “Because we are a nonprofit and because we deal with donated human tissue, we hire people who right off the bat understand that we’re a mission-driven organization, and that drives a lot of our success as far as it relates to getting good, satisfied employees.”
    Among the company’s offerings: a flex-time alternative that allows for four-day, 10-hour work weeks, a generous retirement plan and PTO (paid time off) policy as well as medical and dental benefits. Plus picnics, barbecues and other get-togethers to encourage employee interaction.
    In his eight years with AlloSource, Cycyota has seen the company grow from 80 employees in the Denver area to its current 254 in Centennial, and from 120 employees companywide to 400 (its other primary locations are Salt Lake City and Cincinnati.)
    AlloSource was a finalist in the Best Companies small-medium category last year for firms with fewer than 250 employees. Cycyota agrees that maintaining the desired workplace culture becomes more of a challenge as the size of a work force grows.
    “The challenges when you’re a 400-person company with locations across the country are different than when you’re an 80- to 90-person company with most everybody based here in Denver,” Cycyota says. “We actually have set up a couple committees ... we don’t call them the ‘fun committees,’ but that’s what they are. New employees as well as more tenured employees look at different things we can do to create or maintain the atmosphere that we have.”
    A third-place showing this year among large-company finalists indicates AlloSource’s efforts have paid off.
    “I’ve been in business a long time,” Cycyota says. “Winning this award last year and then again this year is one of the highlights of my career. Business success is one thing, but cultural success and having folks who kind of vote you in for this ... it’s a big deal.”
2007 rank: No. 17 (Small-medium category)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    — Mike Taylor
Mercury Payment Systems

    Based in Durango where it is one of the largest private employers in town, Mercury Payment Systems provides point-of-sale solutions for retailers and merchants, including credit, debit, check, gift card and loyalty processing.
    Led by Marc Katz, this magazine’s small-business CEO of the Year in 2006, Mercury has grown rapidly since its founding in 2001. Two persistent challenges are Durango’s high cost of living and its relative remoteness, making it all the more critical for company leaders to create an environment that workers enjoy. Last year the company had 800 job applicants and hired 134.
    The company’s 252 current employees are invited to provide feedback at regularly held “Townhall Meetings” as well as bi-weekly lunches called “Departmental 101s” where they meet with executive team members.
    Mercury’s highest honor, the “Award of Excellence” is bestowed quarterly by the company’s “Culture Club” committee to the employee who exhibits outstanding performance and service, demonstrates the company’s core values and does whatever it takes to help Mercury succeed. The award comes with a $500 prize.
New to list


    Based in Glenwood Springs, Alpine Bank has been a part of the Western Slope since its founding in 1973. The bank currently serves nearly 100,000 customers at 37 locations.
    One of the bank’s notable offerings is its Dependent Education Assistance Program that gives children of eligible employees the opportunity to pursue post-high school education. The bank covers up to $1,500 of the education costs per year with a maximum of $6,000 per child.
    Most of the bank’s 564 employees also benefit from a wellness program that includes fitness rooms and lockers wherever possible, and a Wellness Bucks program developed to help employees cover the cost of their insurance deductible.
    Further evidence of a favorable work environment: Many of Alpine Bank’s employees and managers have been with the organization for 10 years or longer, enabling them to build long-term customer relationships. That longevity extends to members of the bank’s original board of directors, many of whom are still with the bank, including Chairman Robert Young.
New to list

Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP

    PricewaterhouseCoopers provides expertise in resolving complex client and stakeholder issues worldwide. Of course, employees with children have issues too, and PwC helps take care of them as well.
    The firm has teamed with three leading national child-care vendors, Kindercare, Knowledge Learning Corp. and La Petite Academy to provide a 10 percent discount on care for employees’ toddlers and older children. The company also reimburses employees for back-up child care in emergency situations, and its Just-In-Case program enables employees to be reimbursed for emergency backup care not only for their children but for older relatives.
    PwC is based in New York and has a presence in 149 countries with a work force of 140,000 people, including 268 in Colorado.
    Among the company’s “Best Practices” is a referral bonus program that pays $8,000 for the referral of a manager or above, $5,000 for senior associate referral and $3,000 for an associate referral. PwC provides services in the fields that include assurance, tax, human resources, performance improvement and crisis management.
2007 rank: No. 5

Merrick & Co.

    Aurora-based Merrick & Co. specializes in engineering, architecture, construction management and related disciplines. These traditionally have been male-dominated fields — and certainly were back in 1955 when the company was founded.
    Today, though, one of the firm’s “Best Practices” is its sponsorship of the Merrick Professional Women’s Roundtable, an organization with the stated mission of enhancing women’s careers, exchanging information on workplace and women’s health issues, and helping Merrick women grow on a personal and professional level. MPWR meets monthly, and the discussions are related to the various professional societies, conferences and events that the engineers, architects, interior designers and engineering designers belong to or participate in.
    Nearly three-fourths (277) of Merrick’s 400 employees work in Colorado out of the firm’s Aurora or Colorado Springs offices. Standout employees are recognized through The Merrick Way Awards Program. Nominations for the award are submitted by co-workers and supervisors, then reviewed by an internal committee. Winners are announced at an annual awards luncheon.
New to list

Cheyenne Mountain Resort

    Cheyenne Mountain Resort is one of Colorado Springs’ top hotels, with 316 guest rooms and suites, all with mountain views. These accommodations, which include 40,000 square feet of meeting space, 38 dedicated conference rooms and an amphitheater, make the resort a natural draw not just for vacationers but for business retreats.
    Along with an 18-hole Pete Dye-designed golf course, the resort boasts four swimming pools, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a complete fitness center, and a 35-acre lake for sailing and fishing.
    But people ultimately make the difference in the hospitality industry. Recognizing this, the resort gives its 445 employees ample opportunity to experience the resort, too, not just as staffers but as vacationers when they’re not working.
    Employees and their family members receive a discounted room rate as well as a 50 percent discount at the resort’s food and beverage outlets. Other perks include complimentary golf for all employees (subject to availability) and a 25 percent discount on catered events held at the resort.
New to list

Quest Diagnostics Inc.

    Quest Diagnostics responded when employees said they wanted more opportunities to learn and develop in their careers. The response was to create IntelliQuest, an initiative for training and development consisting of more than 450 classes for employees, plus online computer training provided by the company.
    Quest Diagnostics, the nation’s leader in clinical testing for medical and other diagnostic purposes, is based in New Jersey and employs 708 people in Colorado. The company has more than 30 regional laboratories, approximately 150 rapid-response laboratories and more than 2,000 patient service centers nationwide.
    While it is the national leader in a broad range of testing services, the publicly held company strives to make a difference in the communities where it does business by recognizing the local volunteer efforts of employees. One recognition program, dubbed “Because You Matter,” enables employees nominated by co-workers to earn awards ranging from $50 to $200 for community-service efforts.
2007 rank: No. 4
    Fun is important at Education Sales Management, and it’s the job of the company’s Activities Committee members to make sure there’s at least one fun activity for each month, like the Annual Holiday Gala in January and the Take Your Child to Work Day in April.
    Founded in 1995 and based in Highlands Ranch, Education Sales Management started out as a support and admissions service for two Sylvan Learning Centers in the Denver area.
    Today it is a customer-contact center that assists schools and institutions across the country, from kindergarten through higher education and professional-development markets, to enroll students and help companies sell their educational programs, products and services.
    While fun is important at ESM, it’s not the only reason people choose to work there. In Colorado, ESM has 449 employees, and their annual performance evaluations give them the opportunity to earn up to a 5 percent merit-pay increase. Other incentive programs are applied throughout the company and vary depending on the complexity level of each department. Some may increase an employee’s total compensation up to an additional 25 percent of his or her base pay.
2007 rank: No. 3


    With more than $52 billion in assets, CoBank is the largest financial-services institution headquartered in Colorado. Unlike most financial institutions, it’s a cooperative, owned by its customers and led by a board of directors primarily elected by customers. Each year CoBank returns a portion of earnings to customers through “patronage” payments, an important part of CoBank’s value proposition.
    Employees at CoBank, including 423 in Colorado, are part of a value proposition as well, with annual merit pay increases that reflect their performance and annual incentive payments based on individual and company results.
    Headquartered in Greenwood Village, CoBank was founded in 1916 and now boasts 11 regional offices throughout the U.S. and an international-representative office in Singapore.
    CoBank recently launched the “ECO program,” or Environmentally Conscious Organization, as a continuation of its sustainability efforts. As part of ECO, CoBank plans to purchase one-fourth of its power from sustainable sources (wind) and working with employees to improve the company’s sustainability on a daily basis.
New to list

GE Johnson Construction Co.

    Headquartered in Colorado Springs with offices in Denver, GE Johnson Construction Co. provides construction management and general contractor services for building types such as health care, commercial office, resort and hospitality, and historic renovation to name a few. Some specialties it handles, like advanced-technology construction, weren’t even around when the company was formed in 1967.
    GE Johnson employs 398 people in Colorado, and to ensure a strong field of applicants for jobs that open up — the company has a Refer-a-Friend Program that rewards current employees who recommend someone who is hired for a position listed by the company. Depending on the position, cash awards can be for $3,000, $5,000 or $7,500.
    GE Johnson also supports Canine Companions for Independence, as it has welcomed service dogs in training within its office environment for the past three years.
New to list

T-Mobile USA — Colorado Call  Centers

    T-Mobile USA-Colorado Call Centers employs 1,547 people in Thornton and Colorado Springs. Both sites have programs that encourage career development and amenities like workout rooms, Internet cafes, new-mom rooms and serenity rooms to help employees stay balanced amid rigorous workdays.
    Both the Thornton and Colorado Springs sites also boast career-development centers that include a centralized location for current job postings, career-development brown-bag sessions, departmental career sessions, job fairs and shadow programs.
    The Colorado Springs site has a mentoring program called BENCH, designed to prepare employees for front-line leadership positions. Similarly, the Thornton call center has a Role Model Representative Program for which employees are selected to provide one-on-one support to new hires. RMRs are trained to provide coaching and constructive feedback to new representatives.
    T-Mobile USA Inc. is based in Bellevue, Wash., with more than 37,000 employees who serve more than 30 million customers. It operates a nationwide network of 22 call centers and sells wireless phones and devices at approximately 1,700 retail stores.
2007 rank: No. 10

Baxa Corp.

    Baxa Corp., a medical-device company based in Englewood, offers its 329 Colorado employees ample benefits, including development programs geared to specific skill training, flu shots for employees and their families, and career tracks for non-professional employees.
    On the lighter side, there are monthly summer barbecues and sponsored activities for children of employees.
    Baxa employees have for years enjoyed a profit-sharing plan, earning 25 cents for every dollar of profit generated, up to 5 percent of company sales. In addition, managers have the discretion to provide individual financial or other incentives based on project performance.
    Founded in 1975, privately held Baxa provides technologies for fluid handling and delivery. Its systems and devices promote the safe and efficient preparation, handling, packaging, and administration of fluid medications. Key products such as its Rapid-Fill Automated Syringe Fillers, Exacta-Med Oral Dispensers and MicroFuse Syringe Infusers are used worldwide in hospitals and health-care facilities.
2007 rank: No. 7

Hercules Industries Inc.

    Hercules Industries was started in 1962 by William E. Newland, the father of current owners Bill, Jim and Paul Newland. The company, whose primary customers are HVAC (heating, ventilating and air-conditioning) contractors, started in Denver and has grown throughout Colorado, where today it has 271 employees at seven locations, and into neighboring states.
    In January 2007, Hercules launched a wellness program dubbed START (Striving Toward a Renewed Tomorrow), designed to provide employees with information, resources and creative solutions to assist them in taking accountability for their health. To kick off this program, Hercules invested $250,000 in a modern, on-site employee exercise facility at its largest location, the Denver branch/production center.
    Values typical of a family are emphasized and encouraged at Hercules. Managers are given autonomy to run their branch as if it were their own business and use their judgment in regard to inventory levels, pricing and expenditures.
New to list

Click here to read about Colorado's best small to medium companies to work for in 2008.

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