Best Places to Work 2010

Ten businesses that go above and beyond the standard cubicle culture

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Greater than 100 employees:

1. HospiceCare Inc.

Number of employees: 348
Years in business: 32
Fun fact: #1 Madison Magazine Best Places to Work winner two surveys in a row, and the third largest nonprofit hospice in the Midwest.

• Many locals may not realize that HospiceCare Inc. is a national model in excellence, studied and emulated throughout the country. Its exceptional model of care extends beyond the patients to the patients’ families, HospiceCare employees and the employees’ families; they also work hard lobbying the government for the hospice cause. “Just as HospiceCare considers its patients and their families a mission and a calling,” says Altsech, “it realizes that it cannot care for patients without employees who are cared for as well.”

2. CG Schmidt

Number of employees: 114
Years in business: 90 years
Fun fact: Fourth-generation family contractors of notable buildings such as the Milwaukee Art Museum and the upcoming Union South, CG Schmidt once repaired a roof on a school they built thirty years ago—at no charge.

• It’s easy to tell what CG Schmidt’s values are: Caring. No surprises. Integrity. Accountability. Innovation. Excellence. It’s easy to tell, because they’re listed everywhere—on the whiteboard in the conference room, on the note cards in employees’ wallets, on their business cards. But most of all, they personify them daily. “We’re a family-owned company,” says president and CEO Rick Schmidt, “and we consider all of our employees family.”

3. UW Credit Union

Number of employees: 350
Years in business: 79
Fun fact: Despite these challenging times, UW Credit Union experienced a record year in 2009 with 10,000 new memberships.

• According to UW Credit Union’s mission statement, “Humanity counts most.” Staff is able to treat customers according to this principle because they themselves are treated that way, too. VP Lee Wiersma says UW Credit Union attracts employees who share these values, noting, “If high-character individuals can have a career with an organization that helps them to be successful at what they feel passionate about, they are more likely to feel loyal to that organization.”

4. M3 Insurance

Number of employees: 175
Years in business: 42
Fun fact: From 2005–2009, M3 Insurance grew from two offices to six: five in Wisconsin and one in Denver, Colorado.

• Focused on “open leadership” and keeping employees informed with quarterly meetings with the president, M3 leaders regularly ask for staff feedback and implement changes. They’re very big on employee recognition—bestowing regular bonuses, encouraging staff to honor each other and touting staff accomplishments at meetings and throughout company literature.

5. Wells Fargo

Number of employees: 110
Years in business: Since 1852, nationally
Fun fact: They helped put together a $13,500 grant for the new Madison Children’s Museum in support of environmentally friendly education.

• Though it’s a large national chain, Wells Fargo works hard to operate like a local community bank. Employees are encouraged to go beyond writing checks to charity—they get out there and work directly with local causes such as Red Cross blood drives, Second Harvest Foodbank, Kids in the Rotunda, and various cancer walk-a-thons. “We may not be the financial services company in town with the largest checkbook, but every little bit helps,” says exec Benjamin Udell, “and increases the engagement of our team members.”

Fewer than 100 employees:

1. Community Shares

Number of employees: 7
Years in business: 39
Fun fact: Scoring an astonishing onehundred percent in five out of six indicators (with one hundred percent staff participation), this company has a seven-member staff—but a seventy-one-member board.

• “I think the beauty of Madison is people here really do understand social change,” says executive director Crystel Anders. That change comes directly at the hands of the seventy-plus member groups partnering with the small staff at Community Shares, who over the past eighteen years have gone from a $250,000 giving campaign to over a million dollars annually. “Our sense of collaboration sustains us during these challenging times.”

2. The Creative Company

Number of employees: 7
Years in business: 21
Fun fact: They have three floor-to-ceiling blackboard walls on to which employees are encouraged to unleash their creativity.

• In July 2008, after twenty years in business, president Laura Gallagher downsized her company to focus on its gifts: creativity, spirituality and fun. Gallagher focuses on finding the right employee fit right up front, requiring prospects to spend a day working with her before they’re ever hired, no strings attached. The result is a highly customized, specialized staff that’s perhaps not for everyone, but works extraordinarily well together.

3. Door Creek Dental

Number of employees: 17
Years in business: 45
Fun fact: Avid participants in MG&E’s Green Power Tomorrow program and regular visitors to Guatemala to set up free weeklong dental clinics.

• At Door Creek Dental, there’s a heavy emphasis on patient relationships. Staff members are instructed to “treat each patient as you would your own parents,” says office manager Jill Korfmacher. Employees review each other annually and are trained across disciplines, resulting in a sense of ownership and empowerment. “Dr. Nicole Andersen and Dr. Scott Kirkpatrick are good and kind people,” says Korfmacher, “and that flows into the staff.”

4. Big Wild Communications

Number of employees: 6
Years in business: 9
Fun fact: Producers of radio shows Lunch Pail Logic and The Big Wild and coordinators of the Wisconsin Outdoor Education Expo.

• Big Wild Communications knows how to have fun while keeping the focus on the client. Employees have a wide range of experience in all areas of communication, from event planning to radio and video production, customer service training to public relations and even legislative consulting. As a staff they keep it candid, transparent and unified. “Internally,” says Shauna Breneman, director of public and media relations, “we are a family.”

5. EZ Office Products

Number of employees: 10
Years in business: 4 in Madison
Fun fact: Owned and operated by the Molz family since 1976, where founding father Bert Molz got his start in Philadelphia as BF Molz.

• It’s a simple philosophy—earn the confidence of customers one at a time, by providing good products at fair prices with unbeatable service—and it’s been working in Madison since 2006. Family values are the corporate culture and the heartbeat of EZ Office Products, now operated (and modeled) in Madison by husband and wife team Gary and Rose Molz.

Honorable Mentions

Three Madison-area companies that also scored big as Best Places to Work

CPM Marketing
Number of employees: 153
Years in business: 23
What they do: Health care customer relationship management for hospitals including database development, market analysis, strategic planning and targeted personal communications
Not to mention… Positive feedback from one appreciative employee of this family-owned and operated company: “I have been truly stunned by the level of trust and employee faithfulness at CPM. I have never before
completely agreed with a company for whom I work.” CPM trusted employees enough to share Best Places to Work results during Pizza Day, a popular lunchtime recognition of individual and company achievements. CPM also emphasizes community with a holiday food drive for Middleton Urban Ministry and team walkers in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation fundraiser. 

GKA Research
Number of employees: 9 full-time, 4 part-time
Years in business: 6
What they do: Market research and consulting, including new product development, customer and consumer trends, green marketing and sustainability management
Not to mention… Last month GKA partnered with Ernst & Young and, leading a Germany-Wisconsin business exchange delegation to Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich exploring green jobs growth in energy, transportation, manufacturing and higher
education. The trip included meetings with top-level cabinet members, embassy officials, business and civic leaders. And perks like full health, dental and optical coverage and unlimited vacation (no joke) add serious value to the young company’s forward-minded mission.

Miron Construction
Number of employees: 1,200 (approximately 290 full-time in Dane County; headquartered in Neenah, Wisconsin)
Years in business: 92
What they do: Construction management, design-build, industrial services, pre-construction and general contracting
Not to mention… In addition to paid health insurance, company plans include discretionary bonus, pension (remember those?), profit sharing, 401(K) and a fitness center. New this year: a comprehensive health assessment, valued at $1,500 per person, completely
covered by insurance and open to both employees and spouses. That a business could potentially spend millions on a wellness plan if every employee and spouse takes part speaks to all sorts of smart bottom lines. 

Brennan Nardi


Madison Magazine and Live at Five’s Best Places to Work is based on an employee-engagement framework developed by Next Generation Consulting.

Forty companies reached the fifty-percent survey response rate for eligibility.

Employees were asked to rate their employer in a forty-question, web-based survey that measures companies in these six “areas of engagement”:

1) Trust
Working in an environment where information is shared and people act with integrity and respect

2) Management
Working with supervisors and managers who lead, guide and give feedback to individuals and teams

3) Development
Having opportunities to learn and grow

4) Rewards
Being compensated and appreciated according to one’s performance and contribution to an organization

5) Connection
Feeling a part of something bigger; working for more than just a paycheck

6) Life-Work Balance
Having flexibility to pursue their career and a life outside of work

The ten winning companies for 2010 were chosen because they ranked the highest—over 85 percent—in all six dimensions of employee engagement.

Maggie Ginsberg-Schutz is a contributing writer to Madison Magazine.

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