Winning Workplaces and Wall Street Journal Top Small Workplaces 2007: Distinguished Finalists

Winning Workplaces received over 430 applications for this year’s Top Small Workplaces program. These included many great organizations who have produced impressive business results through enlightened people practices. Below is a list of our notable finalists and their accomplishments:

Althea Technologies, Inc. 
Using gene-based technologies, Althea provides contract manufacturing and developmental services to the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. Private firms and universities alike turn to them knowing they can count on flawless results. Since its inception in 1998, this biotech powerhouse has thrived, mixing rapid growth with a fundamental passion for good science and concern for its employees. Broad health benefits are offered alongside generous tuition reimbursement and training aimed at making each of their 150 employees an expert in their field. A family-like atmosphere, bright and inviting facility and unwavering dedication to quality ensure their continued role in defining the future of an ever more exciting industry.

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Butler, Rosenbury & Partners 
Since 1978, the innovative team at Butler, Rosenbury and Partners has been providing architectural, structural engineering, landscape and interior design services to broad spectrum of clients including the hospitality industry, civic and community entities as well as commercial, retail and entertainment venues. Having grown 38% in the past 3 years, fully twenty percent of the current 95 employees are shareholders or in stock option plans. They all cite remarkably open communication in fostering complete engagement across the board. Structured around six distinct, market and discipline specific studios, each team maintains a studio leader who is part of the Senior Management Team, thus retaining the firm’s characteristically flat architecture. This encourages expertise and collaboration within teams while providing a wealth of resources across projects. An individual approach is fundamental, and primary is “the freedom to do what you need to do to get the job done.” With formal mentoring programs and strong financial support (averaging 3% of salary) for continued education, seminars and conferences, this organization ensures that their staff are top-notch, invested and ready to focus on their client’s vision.

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Chief Enterprises, Inc. 
With a staff of 35 employees, Chief Enterprises demands a lot from each and every individual on the team. A dynamic distributor of heavy duty electrical components for vehicle manufacturers, they’ve consistently won clients with a responsiveness rarely seen among their competitors. Family sentiment is a given in the workplace, and Andrew Gabelman heads this versatile, people-oriented organization in line with a bold heritage set in place by his father, who founded the company in 1991. Steady growth over the years has been achieved within a close-knit team atmosphere, where complimentary all-company lunches are routine and only one person has been let go in 16 years. Matching 401(k) contributions are offered in tow with generous profit-based bonuses, and financials are run open-book. Flexibility in work/life scheduling means employees can feel comfortable at work and at home, dogs enliven the office and kids are welcome for lunch and a game of basketball after school.

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Gardner Groff Greenwald & Villanueva, P.C. 
The team at Gardner Groff Greenwald & Villanueva, P.C. describe themselves as a “lifestyle” law firm. Of the 17 employees composing this competitive intellectual property firm, most had worked at larger, more “typical” firms, and came on board to be a part of something different. In contrast to the standard reliance on exceedingly difficult hours logged by junior staff and relatively removed navigation maintained by a few senior-most partners, a progressive element of shared investment pervades this workplace. The firm has a nice balance of experienced senior lawyers, top-notch junior lawyers, and dedicated staff and its success like the annual company retreat, is something everyone’s a part of. Business has been good as more and more large companies become frustrated with paying a premium to larger firms which fail to provide the responsiveness and quality which define Gardner Groff. Financial metrics are made available to all in the company, and the firm takes great pride in their ability to train and educate staff and attorneys, cultivating great leadership from within.

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InspiriTec, Inc. 
InspiriTec has been impressing clients and improving lives since the non-profit call center and IT design firm opened in 2000. With over three-quarters of its 70 staff positions held by individuals with disabilities and various disadvantages, this “inspired social entrepreneurship” remains intent on providing meaningful work to those who would otherwise face a national unemployment rate topping 70%. Boasting an attrition rate well below half the national industry average, the company staffs full-time assistive technology engineers and social service case managers, thus providing the traditional vocational and rehabilitation supports required by its employees. This, in addition to an array of company benefits, ensures “individuals with disabilities are afforded a comfortable setting in which they are not fearful of failure and therefore are willing to push themselves beyond what others may call a limitation.”

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Intermountain Donor Services 
Most days are exhausting at Intermountain Donor Services, the federally designated, nonprofit organ and tissue procurement organization serving Utah, southern Idaho, southwestern Wyoming and Elko, Nevada. But the 35 employees here view themselves as privileged despite the intense physical and emotional demands. They focus on two interrelated goals: saving lives through organ and tissue donation and supporting the people who do this difficult, routinely stressful work. Established in 1987, IDS provides clinical services for the recovery of organs and nearly all tissues, as well as professional and public education to 75 hospitals and a regional population of 2.8 million. In doing this IDS developed and maintains the nation’s most successful donor registry, leading to high rates of organ and tissue donation. The hours are long and stress is part of the job, but careful hiring and a strong program for the mental and physical health of employees makes this a cherished job for many, leading to a strong group of longterm staff. Professionals applaud a refreshing freedom from bureaucracy and politics, and IDS healthcare benefits are astounding across the board.

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Logistics Plus Inc. 
Industry depends on efficient logistics, and Logistics Plus has carved out a global niche with distinctive, reliable service that nourishes the cityscape of Erie, PA in the process. Housed in the city’s historic Union Station, Logistics Plus was founded in 1996 to manage the freight for GE Transportation. Having seen phenomenal growth since then, the company has maintained its passion for excellence in operations while preserving its unique culture of amiability, diversity and dedication. Staff at the Erie office hail from across the globe and make it their daily business to accomplish seemingly impossible challenges under fast paced and unpredictable conditions. While precision oriented, a comfortable and collegial atmosphere nourished by the company’s spirited CEO, Jim Berlin, prompts employees to make good use of the on-site gym, air hockey table and kitchen facilities. With a generous benefits package and strong opportunities for project ownership and cross-training, enthusiastic employees see clear options for advancement and longevity.

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LPK
From creating the perfect logo to complete rejuvenation of brand identity, LPK is on it. This international design agency focuses on building leadership brands through a dedication to artistic integrity, employee empowerment and client partnership. An ESOP company, LPK supports a great degree of self-direction, with each of its 317 employees encouraged to compose a unique personal development plan. Shared learning occurs over frequent lunchtime “Knowledge Noshes,” and shared recreation is encouraged at informal monthly parties. Rather than allowing someone to ever feel stuck on a certain project, staff are allowed to move around through teams to gain inspiration and motivation. With efforts to retain intimate internal communication as they grow, high-touch client relations and strong support of charitable projects, LPK has left clients confident that the “good guy does prevail.”

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Menlo Innovations LLC 
Guided by the mission of making software as user-friendly as possible, and fueled by the process affectionately known as “extreme programming,” Menlo Innovations has welcomed a doubling in both revenues and staff over recent years. Founded in 2001, the company has seen great return on investment in a deep cultural understanding of its client’s users. This “High-Tech Anthropology” has preserved contracts in the face of the rampant off-shoring, and the use of leveraged play in contracted work leaves clients delighted with the degree to which Menlo is vested in the outcome of their projects. Hosting a handful of international interns each year, Menlo brings the world into its doors, and there breeds a growing dedication to its distinct character and values of education, empowerment and open exchange. Training is ongoing, and employees are encouraged to prepare and host the company’s frequent “Lunch and Learn” sessions. Walls are almost non-existent in the office, and all designers are paired at shared terminals, leading to a constant percolation of concepts between team-members and across the open office wherein the three owners themselves have their desks.

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Minitab Inc.
Minitab’s long record of success began in the 1970s when it developed Minitab Statistical Software, a package that revolutionized the teaching and learning of statistics. It then introduced its innovative product to the world, eventually becoming the market leader and claiming over half the Fortune 500 companies as clients. Minitab Inc. was officially established in 1983 and is renowned for making data analysis easy, particularly for professionals implementing quality improvement methodologies such as Six Sigma.  The company routinely amazes clients with the degree of attention, support and technical expertise it offers them, and operates under a value-driven approach grounded in the belief that by “providing the best for your people, people give the best back.” Every manager on the team has been promoted from within, and the company’s 245 employees enjoy a solid 401(k) plan and wonderful insurance package for staff and family. All this in addition to a swimming pool, game room, weight room, personal trainers and on-site theater!

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New York Cares 
New York’s a city with a lot of heart. But with over 8 million residents, each with different backgrounds and schedules, how do the right people find the right projects to help others and make the most difference? Beginning in 1987, New York Cares set about creating opportunities for New Yorkers to volunteer in meaningful ways, establishing itself as an information clearinghouse and nexus for what has become a pool of 35,000 active volunteers. New York City’s leading volunteer organization relies on 52 paid employees, a tight-knit group which cherishes the organization’s family-like environment and team-based culture. All find great support in the group’s generous benefits package and enjoy the same flexibility applauded by its volunteers in balancing work/life demands. With subsidies for degree programs, opportunities to learn across departments and thorough training in people management, employees learn the ropes from the best at one of the nation’s most successful non-profits.

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PRIZIM Inc. 
Since its inception in 1996, PRIZIM has made environmental stewardship a priority. As a leading provider of environmental consulting and advisor in resource management, every client assignment demands complete education on the ecological and financial concerns of that region and customer demands. One of the strongest small businesses recognized by the U.S. EPA and other national programs for sustainability, PRIZIM has attracted top talent to its rural Maryland location with remarkable character, generous insurance arrangements and appealing benefits in the form of exotic travel and top-notch training. An ESOP organization, books are made open and each of their 25 employees is trained in how to read company financials. Whether it’s group hikes over lunch, the informal atmosphere maintained in the office, or the flexible arrangements adopted for travel, employees argue that PRIZIM looks for what will work best in every scenario and, thus, provides the most for its clients and staff.

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Rauland-Borg Corporation 
Steady growth and a rich, solid history of innovative products define our longest-running Finalist, Rauland-Borg Corporation, established in 1920. Employees average a decade of service with this leader in the design and manufacture of communications and life-safety equipment for hospitals and schools. The company maintains a VP of Work/Life on their six-member Executive Committee and places great value in developing and maintaining employees. Beyond the free in-office massages and abundant family outings and parties, employees receive much cross-training to facilitate capacity across teams, and paid external coursework extends from driving school to bachelors and full law degrees. Employees are encouraged to participate in the various “team member” committees which direct many company-wide policies, nourishing a strong sense of empowerment and providing a steady source of novel and informed solutions.

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rbb Public Relations 
Public relations is a fast moving business, and both clients and employees seem to navigate through the industry at a pretty good clip. But at rbb Pulic Relations, they put a premium on the work experience itself, and thereby retain a family-like team of ace employees with expertise in media relations, corporate communications, crisis counseling, product launches and special events. Founded in 1975, the firm, makes headlines with personalized service and hands-on creativity. Every client is managed by a small team which includes at least one of the partners, and which compete within the company for the claim of adding the most value to their client. rbb is winning awards and finding great return in allowing its 24 employees a high degree of flexibility and trust. “Because our people stay, our clients stay,” they assert. And considering every staff member, down to the bookkeeper, can determine his or her own schedule and choose the location where work will be done, it’s no wonder staff sticks around.

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Root Learning Inc. 
Its employees are often described as proud “Rootizens,” and clients admit fantasies of switching teams to go work for “Root-topia.” Egalitarian, creative and high-tech, Root Learning Inc. has been churning out miracles for clients since 1987. Specializing in helping businesses assess gaps and connect people to create results, Root Learning’s 91 employees conceive custom learning solutions to engage client employees and ensure company-wide change. Artists, programmers and MBA’s work side-by-side in a bright, contemporary office, where a team approach to projects and cross-field collaboration are a must. Open communication and open book management encourage employees to be open and relaxed as well, and support in training and tuition supplements ensure a top-notch team. A special wall displays hand drawn portraits of all employees at the company, and awards are given each year at the “Rooties,” commending those who have most embodied the values of the company. Collaboration is key here, and the concept of partnership pervades relations among both employees and clients.

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Ryla Teleservices Inc 
Based north of Atlanta, Ryla Teleservices Inc. provides customer contact solutions for Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and non-profits nationwide. It’s tough work, and the company’s 275 employees are often on call at all hours, able to provide assistance in a variety of languages. The tendency in the industry has been to work people harder, pay less, and give fewer benefits. But Ryla has taken the other path. With benefits far above the industry standard and professional and personal development seminars enriching even entry-level positions, Ryla is making sure its team sticks around, resulting in a turnover rate around one-third the industry average. A high level of caring and diversity saturates this organization, and their uniquely positive attitude is perhaps no more apparent than in the employeecrafted cheers presented at monthly “Ryla Huddles,” highlighting the accomplishments of the team and talents of each individual.

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The Fuel Team 
It’s not always easy playing such a huge part in the success of your business, but the folks at The Fuel Team would have it no other way. As a Finalist with one of the smallest teams, this developer of webbased software for business and nonprofit communicators works very hard at retaining its intensity with a small crew, stressing investment, focus and consistency. Revenue has increased almost 150% in recent years, and only a handful of new employees have been hired, with only one having left in three years. Open financials and profit sharing assure that each of their 11 employees maintains a stakeholder mentality, and the idea of poor communication seems laughable to them. When the company faced a massive brand and product line change, everyone sat down for a two-day session to sculpt what would be adopted as their core culture and approach. Staff at the main office bring their dogs to work and enjoy a great view over the river, and satellite developers applaud the great degree of independence while remaining very pleased with the input and contact they retain within the company.

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Themis Group Inc. 
Themis Group has been making waves since 2001 as a confident small business deeply engrained with the culture and trends of digital gaming. Focused on interactive marketing services, community management and media publishing, this 30-member company describes themselves as colored with “the hacker ethos of Silicon Valley and the creative energies of Hollywood.” They certainly get points for the “cool factor” among employees, and staff arrive to work in casual dress, work at all hours of the night and decorate their office with artsy figurines and pirate flags. Beyond this, this highly participatory environment results in a quality product. Clients describe them as “miracle workers,” and employees admit even minor typos don’t get past the CEO. With leadership hailing from such venues as Harvard Law School and West Point Academy, this crew takes success seriously. Teams of editors, coders and artists work on projects together under the agreed constraint that no one leaves the office the final day of a project until all its facets are complete.

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Triage Consulting Group 
Through the provision of astute financial consulting to our nation’s hospitals, Triage Consulting Group has secured the recovery of over $1 billion for its clients since beginning in 1994. Specializing in payment review, contract compliance, underpayment recovery and process improvement, the Triage team has secured national recognition as one of the most educated, efficient and hard-working consulting firms out there, renowned for its balanced work-life approaches. Heavy travel is a part of the success in this game, and the group is very active in recruiting top talent from top universities, securing energetic and outgoing members who fit the bill. Benefits such as companion travel perks, time off and creative group gatherings keep a youth-fueled staff engaged and free from burn-out. An employee-owned company, each of its 218 staff understand they’ll be given the resources and support to do their best work. A strong mentor program and extensive training for all associates ensure a high degree of autonomy and responsibility from the word “so” and promotes leadership and empowerment at all levels.

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Wiss Janney Elstner Associates, Inc. 
Having been in business since 1956, Wiss Janney Elstner Associates have successfully completed investigative, testing, and design projects involving virtually every type of construction material, structural system and architectural component. Company stock is completely employee owned, benefits are generous, financials are kept “extremely open” and this team of 410 employees boasts one of our highest tenure rates. WJE engineers, architects and materials scientists have become proficient in sharing workload and mobilizing as a team quickly in response to short-notice contracts, particularly for forensic services. For example, the state of Massachusetts needed a full-scale safety audit of their “Big Dig” project completed ASAP following complications in 2006, and WJE structural engineers were on site in Minneapolis within 24 hours of the recent I-35 bridge collapse to lead Minnesota’s official investigation. This performance demands agility through a high degree of communication and expertise through support for a rich mentor environment, in-house classroom sessions and gratis professional courses.

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