This week Winning Workplaces and Inc. Magazine announced the 2011 winners of our joint Top Small Company Workplaces competition. The winners are featured in a special report in Inc.’s June issue, and they will also be honored at our joint Leadership Conference in Dallas, Texas, on June 15-17, 2011. Out of nearly 350 applicants, 50 were selected.

These firms represent a mix from all across the country ranging from manufacturers and software developers to even a paint company.

They stand out for many reasons including:

  • Values-based leadership.
  • Unique work environments.
  • Progressive employee practices.
  • Have built a foundation of trust and commitment that help them weather – and for some, even thrive – during  a tough economy; all but two firms showed strong profits in 2010.

Their revenues range from $2 to $177 million and they each have from 20 to 330 employees. Additionally:

  • They’ve all been in business for five or more years; three of the firms have been in business over 40 years.
  • 12 firms are ESOPs.
  • Nearly all share financial information with employees; 40 offer some form of profit-sharing.

To whet your appetite, here are five of this year’s honored firms and some of their interesting workplace practices to attract, retain and satisfy their workforces as well as their customers and clients as a means for marketplace competitiveness – practices you can use and adapt for your organization:

When the economy was in a downswing and many IT firms were laying off staff, the leadership of Applications Software Technology Corporationin Naperville, IL, took a different approach. They invested in building their capacity in new technologies and improving internal processes and systems. Consequently, they were well positioned in the industry, which accounted for their 20 percent revenue increase in 2010. AST’s 100 employees are continually engaged in learning and testing new boundaries. For example, as part of the company’s conference paper sponsoring and bonus program, employees receive a monetary bonus if their paper is accepted at industry conferences and AST pays all their expenses to attend. Paper submissions have doubled in the past few years and the acceptance ratio has increased. These conferences help employees expand their presentation skills and networking, and as well as AST’s exposure in the Oracle community.

For over 25 years, Cal-Tex Protective Coatings has manufactured and distributed automotive sealants and detail chemicals to thousands of automotive dealers across the U.S. This Texas-based, 80-person company is an ESOP, nearly entirely owned by its employees. To that end, its leadership spends much time and resources on helping employees understand key performance measures. Employees are provided scorecards, updated daily on their intranet, to track revenue and progress on quarterly benchmarks. Leadership provides annual income statements with projections and regularly discusses the company’s cash flow and debt through team and all-staff meetings. This strong emphasis on business metrics has paid off: Cal-Tex has steadily increased its revenue (over 20 percent from 2009) and has remained profitable.

Dyn‘s (formerly Dynamic Network Services) core philosophy “Everyone needs to eat their own dog food” has served this New Hampshire-based, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) company well. With nearly 125 staff members, they operate as one team and no task is too small for any employee to perform, no matter what level they are at. The CEO still works on the support queue, the CTO still has “on-call” rotations and engineers answer midnight phone calls. This strong sense of collaboration accounts for Dyn’s premier reputation for customer service and reliable product delivery. Their stability and steady growth is a result of their focus on sustainability: they have been cash flow positive and “bootstrapped” since day one, and they have above average customer retention and low employee turnover.

Gold Eagle Co. is an 80-year-old industry pioneer in the production and distribution of automotive fluids and additives. In contrast to many traditional manufacturers, Gold Eagle, based in Chicago, IL, continues to innovate restructuring their performance management system, increasing leadership capacity and cross training all of their 169 employees. In 2005, to mitigate the skyrocketing healthcare costs, they executed an onsite wellness strategy comprised of employee health screenings, education programs, physical fitness challenges and an onsite fitness center. As a result, over the last two years, Gold Eagle has seen a reduction in absenteeism and a decrease in health insurance claims, and their insurance rate increase is 7 percent lower than the market rate, saving the company thousands of dollars.

Founded in 2004, M & E Painting, of Loveland, CO, a residential and commercial painting business, offers interior and exterior painting, wood staining and refinishing and other services. Despite the housing crisis’ effect on demand, M & E has increased its revenues 34 percent since 2008. This 25-employee firm’s focus on mentoring, open-book management including financial training and team-based profit sharing have contributed to its success in filling all open positions from within in 2009. Notably, an industry survey revealed that M & E did better than virtually all of its peers last year, which saw flat or decreased sales.

For more information on these and our 45 other award-winning organizations for 2011, stay tuned to our IDEAS newsletter.