20 local companies that are totally boss
In a world where that word means labor, exhaustion, mindless and neverending, it’s refreshing to see so many Utah Valley businesses work like a charm.
These 20 companies next door — whether they be startup small or worldwide warrior — employ thought, passion and creativity. They make it their job to better the jobs — and their businesses are more successful for it.
Take a ride through our flagship Quality of Work company, Property Solutions in Lehi, and then meet 19 more companies working it. These employers are oozing quality in multiple measures, but we’re sharing just some of the ways they each work their magic.
PROPERTY SOLUTIONS, Lehi
THIS IS HOW WE ROLL
Property Solutions is cruisin’ along with the cleverest of corporate cultures. (Why yes, that is Michael Jackson. And hot dogs. And dodgeballs.) Take a stroll through the property management software company’s bus stop and see what has its employees riding high.
1. DANCE LIKE EVERYONE’S WATCHING
A “Thriller” zombie flash mob at The Shops at Riverwoods in Provo? Oh yes they did. It was Halloween 2012, and the goal was spooky: Perform the original choreography from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” After a week of rehearsals with an instructor from Orem’s Center Stage, team members got zombified with professional hair and makeup for the deadly dance.
And … they killed it.
“Donny Osmond was there, and he thought it was great,” says Tashina Wortham, a marketing manager at Property Solutions. “He didn’t actually say that, but we know that’s what he was thinking.”
As for their unconventional culture?
“Our founders always say, ‘If it’s cool, it gets a budget,’” says Chris Brasher, director of marketing.
2. FACE VALUE
The company’s values aren’t a mandate — they’re a perk. Throughout 2012, employees collectively chose Property Solutions’ five values: Be Excellent to Each Other; Be the Real Deal; Business in the Front, Party in the Back; Talk to Me, Goose; and Be the Joneses.
These values were launched (during an aptly titled Values Week) with a series of stunts and surprises. Among the fun? Big, red mailboxes were placed throughout the office for Be The Joneses, which invited employees to “mail” in their ideas to challenge the status quo. For Be The Real Deal, employees were given 3-D glasses to help decipher a code message. The glasses helped them “see through the clutter, identify the real deal, and respond.”
“Everyone is passionate and excited here,” says Angela Joyce, payroll specialist. “It’s easy to be excellent to each other. We’re family. It’s not a stretch.”
3. IF THE RED SHOE FITS
When you get your foot in Property Solutions’ door, it’s going to rock some red. (Which is especially ironic, since all three founders are a very Cougar blue.)
4. WELL, HOT DOG!
Now, this is a delicious (ish) tradition. Since 2009, Property Solutions has had a hot dog eating contest — with the trophy below as the official prize. As for the champions? Kurt Radmall, regional vice president, was the first-ever winner with seven hot dogs in five minutes. The most recent winner was Mike Winmill, product development manager. He ate a total of eight hot dogs in five minutes — but Winmill would like you to know that the hot dogs were larger than years past.
Foosball is a part of Property Solutions’ mythology. When the first office was established in 2003, it wasn’t much of a looker at $6 a square foot. One of the first luxury items? A foosball table, which had to be packed into a supply closet due to space.
But the real kicker? That “work hard, play hard” mentality has led to tournaments on and off the table.
“I love our company strategy,” says Josh Albrechtsen, chief customer advocate. “It’s fun to win.”
6. THEY GOT GAME
In 2011, on a whim, Property Solutions founder Dave Bateman decided to break the record for the World’s Largest Dodgeball Game. (Note to self: Set a higher bar for whims.)
And what resulted was 4,035 participants, 760 regulation dodgeballs, $11,317 raised for Camp Kesem (a summer camp for children whose parents are undergoing cancer treatment), and 1.6 million hits on their YouTube video covering the game.
Clearly, they’re having a ball.
7. WHAT A RIDE
This bright red beacon of a bus was driven from Oklahoma City to Lehi by two Property Solutions employees. Originally from England, the 1977 Bristol VR Double Decker was purchased for company events — but not for speed. It tops out at a whopping 45 mph.
“The bus is an example of Dave, our CEO. He doesn’t fear. He’s not content until we think outside the box,” says Brandon Fish, VP of HR and one of the bus drivers. “We want to buy an old bus? He goes for it. It was the coolest experience driving it here. It’s become another one of our legendary tales of adventure.”
Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch?
Vivint, a home automation and security company, provides its employees with a complimentary lunch at the company cafe. Every. Dang. Day.
Employees were spending piles of money and time heading off campus to grab a bite, so CEO Todd Pedersen and president Alex Dunn decided it was time for Vivint to cook up a solution.
And what a recipe it’s been.
“Since we started the cafe, we’ve seen turnover rates go down and morale go up,” says Megan Herrick, public relations director for Vivint. “It gives employees more time to relax, and we’ve seen increased productivity because people get back to work faster.”
The favorite meal among employees? The weekly sushi menu. Even more delicious? The family focus the cafe creates.
“The cafe essentially serves as a giant kitchen. Employees come and eat with their spouses and kids, as well as their extended family — their coworkers,” Herrick says. “Part of our culture is also about a commitment to our customer family. Employees who are treated the best will provide the best customer service.”
JAMBERRY NAILS, Provo
AROUND THE CLOCK
When it comes to flextime, Jamberry Nails is, well, nailing it.
With a staff of students, parents and the like, the direct sales stalwart has painted a culture of hard work, trust and flexibility.
“We continued to see that our employees were happier and more effective if they could work schedules that accommodated their needs to work but also their needs for family and education,” says Adam Hepworth, co-founder. “We have been able to find the best employees who otherwise couldn’t work for us.”
Jeremy Newns, director of operations, says employees who know they are being invested in work harder and take more ownership and pride in their work.
“By being flexible with their schedules, we have been able to keep the talent that makes this company what it is,” Newns says.
ISSIMO, Pleasant Grove
For two hours each week, it’s showtime for employees at Issimo Productions.
Inspired by Google’s “20 percent time,” Issimo gives its staff 480 minutes a month to work on a “Passion Project” of their choice.
“Passion and inspiration are critical in a creative industry,” says Jacob Hoehne, founder of the video production company. “People love the autonomy to explore things they otherwise wouldn’t get to. It’s fun to see your own ideas come to life.”
One such passion plight? An employee caught a spider at home and brought it to work in a jar so he could try a new reverse lens mount technique.
“He got extreme closeups of the spider’s legs moving,” Hoehne says, “which wigged out others in the office.”
(Perhaps passion is overrated … )
COMPANY’S BEST FRIEND
Who let the dogs out?
Qualtrics, that’s who. The Provo company, which develops survey-based software to help businesses conduct online data and analysis, encourages its employees to bring their dogs to the office.
“Studies show bringing dogs to work can reduce stress and improve employee collaboration,” says Liz Tanner, communications director at Qualtrics.
And the leader of the pup pack? That would be Barnaby.
Belonging to Jared Smith, one of the company’s co-founders, Barnaby has been roaming the halls at Qualtrics for the past two years. He plays fetch with ice, moseys by during video conferences with Facebook, and gets his human on by eating off tables and drinking from the water fountains (leading most employees to the water coolers and soda taps).
In fact, when Gov. Gary Herbert came to the office for the company’s big press conference (to announce its $70-million funding deal with Accel and Sequoia), Barnaby got on stage and posed for reporters, rightfully ready for his close-up.
“Barnaby is Jared’s only dependent, so he’s actually a large shareholder in Qualtrics,” Tanner says. “Employees love him. He’s the company dog and the closest thing to a mascot. He represents the casual, fun, family atmosphere at Qualtrics.”
NOW YOU’RE TALKING
Veracity Networks isn’t phoning it in.
The communications company said hello to employee training — and a crucial one at that. Understanding the importance of smart talk and managing interpersonal relationships, Veracity invited VitalSmarts’ co-founder Ron McMillan — who is also the co-author of “Crucial Conversations” — to speak to employees and their spouses.
“We continually strive to help our team of employees grow and be successful as individuals,” says Drew Peterson, Veracity founder. “The employees participated in several communication exercises while providing strong encouragement to each other. This helped to bring down barriers and open up genuine dialogue and feedback.”
NU SKIN, Provo
Nu Skin’s employee perks are legendary — out-of-this-world parties, cash bonuses, Force For Good projects, trips to Lagoon and Halloween contests, to name a few. But there’s one particular program that just makes cents.
Retire Ready is a financial reward and education program intended to help employees improve their financial fitness and prepare for eventual retirement.
“Retire Ready began with the company’s executive team and founders and their genuine care for Nu Skin’s employees,” says Sydnee Fox, senior manager of Nu Skin’s corporate communications. “Nu Skin strives to be a place where employees want to stay long term and then be in a position to retire comfortably. Retire Ready helps achieve these goals by helping employees prepare for the future and rewarding their contributions to the company’s success.”
In addition to the profit-sharing power, employees have greatly benefited from the retirement education. Many have gotten out of debt, stayed on budget, learned to invest and conduct estate planning.
Talk about a Nu lease on life.
Never underestimate the boost of a swingin’ company party.
Boostability, an SEO firm that has catapulted in revenue and employee count, called a time out to head to Provo Beach and foster unity amidst the growth.
With employees’ families on board, golf simulators in swing, and pizza and soda freely flowing, they were in good company.
“The venue allowed everyone to interact in a casual and fun environment,” says Ryan Walker, marketing coordinator. “It enabled individuals from different departments to get to know each other. We’re excited about how the newly formed relationships contribute to unity and camaraderie in the office on a daily basis.”
So who was the Big Kahuna? That would be Jake Maybe (pictured), a premium SEO account manager.
“Jake made the Flowrider look easy,” Walker says. “He pulled a number of 360s that wowed the crowd.”
US SYNTHETIC, Orem
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
At US Synthetic, employees are given a healthy allowance.
Not only does the company have an onsite gym the staff can access 24/7, this leading diamond manufacturer also helps its employees go for the Gold’s.
“Company executives wanted to make overall wellness and exercise convenient for every employee,” says Marc Modersitzki, marketing director. “So, we provide gym passes to Gold’s Gym, Orem Rec Center, the Quarry, etc. Employees love the access to good exercise facilities, and investing in our employees’ health is a no-brainer.”
What’s more, US Synthetic hosts group workouts and 100-day health challenges that reward employees for taking an active role in exercise programs — and it’s changing lives.
“My father died when he was 52, and it was because he wasn’t proactive with his health,” says Bryan Jensen, a supervisor who participated in one of the 100-day challenges. “I just had a new baby girl in December, and I’m 41 now. I want to be proactive about my health and positive about my life. I used to get a lot of back pain and heal spurs when I jogged, and the group workouts helped me work out more intensely. Those nagging problems have left. Literally.”
DOMO, American Fork
Every time a Domo employee makes a sale, a disco ball gets its wings.
The company pumps up the jam while blue laser lights bounce off the spinning disco ball on the ceiling. Employees then congregate to the center of the office, grooving as they gather.
“When a sale closes, the energy is off the charts,” says Josh James, founder of the business intelligence software company. “We wanted a Pavlovian-like recognition of the reps. When I hear ‘Make it Rain’ pounding over the loudspeakers, I know Taylor closed another deal.”
But doesn’t that interrupt work and phone calls, you ask? James can only hope.
“Everyone drops what he or she is doing to come together for the customer,” he says. “At first people were like, ‘You can’t do that.’ But I said nothing would make me happier than a sales person having to explain that the background noise is everyone celebrating a customer win. Everyone likes to be involved with something hot and growing — customers, too. Bringing everyone together to celebrate our successes through customer wins is a great way to remind employees why we exist.”
This tradition (which James credits to repeatedly seeing the Led Zeppelin laser light show as a kid) is an employee favorite and has led to some memorable moments — though none that James will disclose.
“A few things that resulted weren’t actually immoral,” he says, “but they may have potentially violated a few city ordinances.”
But that’s Josh James for you — breaking rules and records.
ELI KIRK, Provo
Pumpkin carving is, like, so 2008.
Eli Kirk, a design and branding agency, demolishes its pumpkins with flair, thank you very much — air cannons, trebuchets, robotic arms, crane drops, paintball shoot-outs, sledgehammers, you name it.
The official title? Slash Bash.
The official purpose? Staff bash.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The tradition of pumpkin carnage began in 2009. A small group of Eli Kirk employees were goofing around in the parking lot after it was discovered one of them kept a legitimate ninja sword in her car (that’s another article for another time). It was the first week of November, and the crew decided they should try out the sword with leftover pumpkins.
Fast-forward to the present, and Slash Bash has become a celebration of employees, who in turn celebrate clients, neighbors and friends. Last year, 500 attendees came to watch Eli Kirk drop a 500-pound pumpkin from a crane into a burning RV. (Oh, that old trick?)
“Slash Bash is a microcosm for our love of people — mixed with our inventiveness, creativity and insatiable desire to do everything to the max,” says Lance Black, founder of Eli Kirk. “Our employees love Slash Bash because it’s a unique way to enjoy the people they interact with professionally every day.”
As senior developer Chris Rock so eloquently yelled while destroying a pumpkin in 2012, “I can’t believe I work for a company that lets me leave work early to do this!”
So, just how many pumpkins have been harmed in Eli Kirk’s annual Slash Bash?
Into the thousands.
Moment of silence for the fallen gourds, please.
Before a new hire sets foot in Simplifile’s offices, they’re asked two questions:
1. What kind of chair would you like to sit in?
2. What kind of computer and operating system would you prefer?
Simple choices. Rare offers. Stellar results.
“The tradition to provide employees with their choice of computer and chair — or really whatever tools they need to succeed and enjoy their work — is just part of our company’s culture,” says Anais Moody, public relations manager. “It reflects how our CEO feels about each employee and his willingness to invest in the ‘small things’ that make a big difference.”
Most Simplifile employees aren’t too picky about their chairs — standard, adjustable ones are most popular. But some of the staff are sitting pretty on exercise balls.
As for the computer conundrum? Fifty-nine percent of Simplifile employees use Windows/PC, 21 percent use Mac, and the last 20 percent use Linux.
Power to the people.
IN IT TO WIN IN
For Blendtec employees, every minute counts.
Each Friday, the force behind “Will it blend?” asks employees for 60 seconds of pure, good old fashioned tomfoolery in its very own version of “Minute to Win It.”
“We recognize departments and individuals, discuss current initiatives and have fun,” says Tim Provost, public relations manager. “What better way to build relationships and get to know each other than by playing games?”
“Minute to Win It” prizes have included everything from $5 to the company’s full-service bistro to $300 in Jazz tickets — and everything in-between.
“The best part is we get to watch our fellow employees make fools of themselves, and we actually discover that some of our employees have amazing talents,” Provost says. “The best memory was when we gave out those Jazz tickets. Because the prize was so valuable, it added to the tension of the fun. The winning team came from behind to take the prize, and it was a team from our production area, which includes many of our unsung heroes at Blendtec. All around a great win.”
FIVE STAR FRANCHISING Spanish Fork
Headcount 40 (1,000 system-wide)
Do you know what your coworkers do all day long? (Crickets.)
Five Star Franchising employees do.
Every month, the company holds a Lunch and Learn where all 40 corporate employees gather for free lunch and priceless knowledge as they listen to a coworker give a presentation on his or her job.
“It gives employees the opportunity to understand what is going on in other departments and among other employees,” says Chris Scheitinger, communications manager for Five Star Franchising. “Some of the best ideas can come from people outside of a department, so it acts as a catalyst to help the company be more innovative. As the company has grown from three employees to 40, the Lunch and Learn helps us maintain a sense of touch and interconnectedness.”
At DigiCert, the walls are literally down — employees know each other from the inside out.
Seasonal parties, date nights, team retreats, golf outings, birthday lunches, service opportunities, Disneyland trips — these out-of-office, company-sponsored activities bring on the fun and the family.
“We want our employees to develop relationships with each other and know each other’s families,” says Jeff Chandler, public relations director. “Our employees can be more focused on their jobs if they understand and trust each other.”
The hope, of course, is that they’ll know and work with each other for a long, long time. It’s retention at its best.
“By building a culture that values trust in relationships and empowers the individual to succeed, we’ve been able to stand out from the competition,” Chandler says. “The activities we provide for our employees, both inside and outside the office, serve to strengthen relationships and lead to a better product for our customers.”
Every employee an entrepreneur? Why, that’s the Marketecture way. From a truly open-door policy to extensive employee training to business-idea bonanzas, the inventive staff (inventively pictured) is taking ownership in everything they do.
“Employees love thinking like an entrepreneur, because it causes them to think outside the box,” says Oliver Bigler, founder of the online business solutions provider. “It makes employees feel valued, and because they feel valued, they value the customers.”
Earlier this year, the company held a business-building competition. Employees created every type of online business imaginable — and some even saw profits.
“Seeing that you can truly succeed with Marketecture’s platform inspired employees to pursue entrepreneurship at a greater level,” Bigler says. “The satisfaction of helping someone succeed is one of the biggest rushes an entrepreneur can experience. And we provide that every day at Marketecture.”
Headcount 1,000 (11,000 worldwide)
WHAT A LOOKER
Oh, Adobe. You’re so pretty.
With peek-through walls, bold colors and architectural artistry, the no-Photoshop-needed building can only be a case of design intervention.
More importantly? Its employees feel the same way.
“We wanted to create a workplace that could help attract, retain, motivate and enable the best talent in the world,” says Jonathan Francom, senior director of global workplace solutions. “Perhaps our greatest sign that we achieved our goals is that to date, we have had more than 20,000 folks come in and get a visitor badge to see the building. It’s clear our employees love the building and are proud to share it with others.”
And there is, oh, so much to share.
Soccer, basketball and volleyball courts? Play ball. Bike breaks? It’s handled — check out a company bike and hit the neighboring trails. Onsite gym? Pump it up. Hard-core, high-end PC gaming rooms? Bunker down. Ping pong and pool? Go the rounds. Discounted breakfast and lunch? Bon appetit. Free drinks? Quench away. Dry-cleaning drop off? Wear it’s at. Passport photos? Smile! (But not really.) Grand piano and guitars? Get jamming. Reading room? The end.
Corporate Alliance is in the business of knowing — knowing everyone, knowing how to connect, knowing how to validate and knowing how to entertain.
You know what else they know? How to practice what they preach.
The Corporate Alliance team has monthly camaraderie activities to strengthen the team, whether it’s handgun shooting at Action Target, a night with “Guys and Dolls,” or tubing down the Provo River.
What’s more, they put their money where their knowledge is.
If employees meet their monthly and quarterly goals, the bonus is spent in creating a team memory — and that’s memory with a capital M. These bonus bondings have led to weekend getaways in New York and Park City and an overnight luxury stay at The Grand America in Salt Lake City.
“My kids comment that I have the best job in the world because we have sodas, snacks, TV and a pool table at the office,” says Jeff Rust, co-founder. “They are right that I have the best job in the world, but it is because we get to connect with incredible people.”
When we announced our Quality of Work feature, more than 40 nominations were cast for InsideSales.com. Approximately 90 percent of them lauded two terrific traits:
1. The high-energy environment. 2. The trust and responsibility given to young employees.
“The days fly by!” they said. “The career opportunities are out of this world!” they said. “The glass desks!” they said.
And the evidence was as clear as their tables. InsideSales.com did nearly $10 million in revenue last year. They work with premier players — Groupon, Dell, AT&T, Cisco. And they’re growing from the inside(sales) out. How do they do it? Start ‘em young.
“We are located near a major university, so initially a lot of our applicants were new in their careers. We were in need of talent, and our very motivated employees stepped up to the plate,” says Dustin Fuller, HR manager. “Now, we actively screen for people who have that energy and drive.”
InsideSales.com guesstimates that 50 percent of its employees graduated in the past three years. Some employees are managing teams after only six to eight months with the company — something that traditionally would take years (and years) to achieve.
“People who are working hard move to where they want to be fast,” says Morgan Lyman, business development rep. “It motivates you to work harder because you know it will pay off.”
Case in point? The marketing team pulled off the largest virtual sales event ever — in three weeks.
“We put in crazy hours and asked our very new team members to do things they’d never done,” says Thomas Oldroyd, senior director of marketing. “One girl had just graduated from college and had been on our team for two weeks. We asked her to call some of the biggest sales experts and authors, including Jeffrey Gitomer and Guy Kawasaki, and get them to speak. After taking a few deep breaths, she did it, and got these big names to speak for free — something they never do.”
“The goal isn’t just to help employees succeed at the company,” adds Jonathan Miller, national sales manager. “We really focus on building skills that will help them throughout their lives.”
Now that’s what you call the inside track.
NORTHSTAR ALARM, Orem
Headcount 65 (plus 100 sales reps)
SERVES THEM RIGHT
There’s nothing alarming about NorthStar.
The 13-year-old security company has armed itself with regular service opportunities. They’ve teamed with Habitat for Humanity, Kids on the Move, Provo Community Action Services, American Fork Half-Marathon — and the list rings on.
“Part of our mission is to provide our employees the best opportunity, tools and support to reach their personal goals. And becoming well-rounded, service-oriented individuals is a high priority,” says Courtney Brown, marketing/PR specialist. “If we can set aside time for our employees to team together to give back to our community, they will feel their individual power.”
They also feel the fun. This past August, NorthStar did a food drive with the theme “Hunger is Not a Game,” playing off the blockbuster books and movies. They split the office into “districts” and competed for who could bring in the most food. Throughout the week, team captains sent out motivational speeches and posted bows and arrows around the office.
“The competitiveness comes out time and time again, but we were really impressed with the strategy behind each team,” Brown says. “People started stashing cans in their desks and strategically turned in food items. In fact, our food drive ended on a Friday at 5 p.m., and up until the very last second people kept appearing in the can collection area with carts and arms full of food. And when we say ‘last second,’ we are serious! We had to set an official clock because everyone’s ‘5 p.m.’ was a little different.”
In the end? The competition collected 3,867 food items for the Provo Community Action Food Bank — that’s 85 items per person for the week.
Give and game on.