(Winners are listed by size category and then alphabetically by company name.)
SANTA ROSA — BKF has been a leading California civil engineering firm since 1915.
“Everyone takes their job seriously and proudly. We who work directly with clients always feel like we’re on their side — which makes working hard and late on their projects easier,” a consultant said.
“When you put together highly trained technical advisors with high passion for their work, you have ingredients for a good company,” said Greg Hurd, principal and vice president. “When they also care deeply about the community and clients, you have the recipe for a great company.”
Employees say, “Our company culture is free of trivial politics and office drama. Young employees aren’t held back and receive progressively responsible assignments.”
BFK has been selected for many top projects like SMART, Highway 101 improvements, BART, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Queen of the Valley Hospital and the newly reconstructed Santa Rosa Auto Mall.
“I worked at two other Bay Area engineering companies and BKF is the best by far. I wish I had come here sooner. We have a professional environment, cool employee events, extra curricular team bonding activities and clean, high-tech office spaces.”
Staff members enjoy an annual holiday party, a picnic at Six Flags, and a casino day at corporate headquarters in Redwood City with raffle prizes to be won.
Coldwell Banker Brokers of the Valley
NAPA — Coldwell Banker is a national real estate brokerage comprised locally of friendly, knowledgeable and professional people working together to meet and exceed client needs by creatively overcoming any challenges.
“We have an outstanding company that continually strives to make employees successful,” an associate said.
In the North Bay, Coldwell Banker has 155 employees — with an average longevity of seven years service among staff and assistants.
“Our team is what makes us a fantastic company,” said Carolyn Roberts, broker owner. More than 65 percent (some 86 agents) have been with us more than 10 years.”
Employees say the people involved and honest communication is what makes the company a Best Place to Work. “It is always on the cutting edge of industry developments and prepared to invest in the company’s growth,” a staff member added.
In the economic slide, an agent said “The firm carefully monitored and reduced expenses (such as scanning files rather than paper storage) without cutting support service to agents. It also enhanced in-service education for sales associates to enable them to be the best in a challenging market.”
Coldwell Banker’s people work hard and have fun at holiday parties, Taco Tuesdays, fun Fridays, and Giants games, along with bowling, bocce ball and golf outings.
Embassy Suites Hotel – San Rafael
SAN RAFAEL — “With the economy getting stronger, Embassy Suites has an opportunity to hire more people and ensure that all of our team members are getting their hours,” General Manager Pat Sorber said.
“The team I work with is what makes this property and brand great. They are the reason I come to work every day.”
One team member observed, “I just joined the hotel a few months ago and am very happy I did. There is a good feeling among everyone.”
Morale is important and Embassy Suites has scheduled all-team member meetings, round table discussions and team member events throughout the year. There is a new Team Member Recognition Program giving the staff a chance to earn additional rewards.
“Everyone pitches in. We are there for each other,” another staff member said. “The team I work with is amazing and the guests that cross our paths really put a smile on my face. I love it here. It feels like home.”
Fringe benefits are good, too. There is an employee assistance program, home and car insurance discounts, employee rated hotel stays, referral business incentives, and on-line marketplace reduced pricing.
“I appreciate the opportunity to cross-train and grow,” a team member added.
First American Home Buyers Protection Corporation
SANTA ROSA — With 120 years in business, First American has become one of the nation’s largest home warranty service providers with coverage in 40 states.
“What makes us a Best Place to Work is our open attitude to change to make the company better. Our managers really have employees’ best interests at heart,” an agent said.
“Our employees are world class and set us apart from other organizations. By supporting our 222 staff members and providing them with the tools needed for their jobs, they — in turn — are able to take great care of our customers,” said President Jeffrey Powell.
With increased home sales, First American has experienced an upswing in business enabling it to reinvest in its employees through rewards and recognition programs, celebrations and talent development.
In addition to offering multiple medical plans, a concierge service allows employees to resolve health issues through a dedicated advocate or by Teledoc, where employees can call a doctor from home or work to receive a diagnosis and treatment for several conditions.
“First American empowers us to make decisions affecting our jobs and we are respected as individuals. The atmosphere is open and friendly.”
The company is active in the community and partnered with the non-profit Kids Around the World in a food packing project for children in Africa.
SAUSALITO — Everyone at this dynamic, fast-growing company is an owner. With 130 employees in Sausalito, and 30 more across the U.S. and in the U.K., Glassdoor has a forward-thinking attitude, plus an adaptable, innovative spirit that keeps it laser-focused on outperforming the competition.
“Our services help people secure their next job. We feel like we are doing something for the greater good of society,” an employee said.
CEO and Co-founder Robert Hohman says, where you work matters. “As the world’s most transparent career community, I’m proud to say every Glassdoor employee is dedicated to helping others make more informed career decisions and in connecting great employers with top talent.”
Another employee said, “People love working at Glassdoor. Each person is rewarded for his or her efforts and no one takes credit for someone else’s work.”
”A lot of upward momentum enabled us to successfully launch our business in 2007 and power through the recession.”
Glassdoor has a pet-friendly office and offers discounts to a local gym and restaurants. There are hosted Cross-Fit events, stand-up paddle boarding, yoga twice a week, and organized soccer, biking and running activities. Free food and drinks are provided along with catered lunches and Glassdoor swag — T-shirts, bags, hats, etc.
IDEX Health & Science
ROHNERT PARK — This maker of precision engineered fluid-handling subassemblies, gas management systems and components is also a progressive, fun and employee-focused Best Place to Work.
“I’m often given an opportunity to work on many diverse projects with the freedom to choose the best path for achieving desired results,” an employee said. “My co-workers and the company help create a cool, fresh and cohesive atmosphere in the workplace.”
Open and honest quarterly town hall meetings and two-way communication, keeps everyone informed — especially during the recent business slowdown and restructuring.
“While we can’t necessarily change the impact the poor economy has on our business, we can do our best to reduce employee fear and stress that comes with uncertainty and organizational change,” said General Manager Greg Orr.
IDEX offers a full range of benefits and a yearly bonus plan. There are barbecues, a Costco lunch day, and Giants game outings, plus discounts on cell phones, computers and software. There also flu shots for employees and their families, and on-site, employee- paid massages.
”We continue to experience growth and improve our processes. Our company is able to achieve great results — such as reduced lead-time for new products and engineering solutions, with greater sales support in new markets — without sacrificing employee needs,” another worker said.
ROHNERT PARK — Employees at this manufacturer of precision custom connector solutions think their company “rocks!” based on its incredibly friendly and fun work environment.
“We work in a beautiful building with nice offices. There are employee garden plots, an outside eating area, a lunch and snack program, fresh fruit delivered on Mondays, a gym membership subsidy, health fairs and a health and wellness program,” employees noted. “And we’re hiring!”
Workers go to baseball games and get fair tickets at discount prices. They have access to on-site ping pong, darts and a massage chair, in addition to enjoying company potlucks, birthdays and holiday celebrations.
General Manager Dean Pohwala says, “One of the most important facets of our business is sharing information and communicating with our team. Whether it is the economy, sales or the voice of the customer, they need to know what is happening and hear accolades from customers for our products and services.”
Lemo weathered the recession with only a small reduction in company-paid benefits.
“My bosses are fair and always have my back. They added July 5 to the vacation schedule giving us a four-day weekend. What more could you ask?”
Northern California Medical Associates
SANTA ROSA — Devotion to quality patient care is the priority at NCMA for its 195 North Bay employees.
”Everyone works to make patients’ lives a little better as if they were their mom or dad,” an employee said. “All of the physicians are top notch. They also do pro bono work and offer discounts in financial hardship cases.”
CEO Ruth Skidmore said, “Our staff is truly committed to the physicians they work for and their patients. This practice has expanded over 15 percent per year, on average, over the past 13 years at a time when other healthcare businesses closed their doors.”
When things slowed down in 2009, employee salaries were frozen. A year later, quarterly bonuses were given as a partial cost of living increase.
The NCMA culture of care extends to the community in the form of CPR training, providing speakers, screenings at community events, sponsorships of non-profit fundraisers, a public access defibrillator program, and the placement of automatic external defibrillators in all Sonoma County schools.
The practice also donates furniture or supplies to organizations such as the Family Support Center, Sebastopol Cultural Center, Earle Baum Center for the Blind, the Southwest Community Health Center and other organizations.
“The generosity and vision of the doctors sets a tone and allows me to manage in the same spirit,” a staff member added.
Nova Group, Inc.
NAPA — As a general engineering contractor, Nova’s commitment to safety, quality, training and education of its workforce radiates through each project it builds.
“The casual, unstressed family-team atmosphere goes from the office to the field and back. Several employees have worked here 30 years or more,” an employee said.
CEO and Board Chairman Ronald Fedrick views NOVA as having an “Exceedingly collegial, positive family focus on team efforts and team accomplishments, while promoting and developing personal and professional growth with an emphasis on safety.”
In 2012 the firm received first place safety awards in heavy/civil/highway divisions from the Associated General Contractors of California and from the National Association of Contractors.
Always seeking new bid opportunities, NOVA is seeking global business outside of its niche marketplace, the Federal Government and the nation’s military — sectors hit hard by sequestration.
With a focus on employee health, “We built a mile-long walking, running and exercise track for everyone to utilize,” an employee said.
Employees participate in quarterly blood drives, a health fair and the “Novathon,” by selecting a charity and securing pledge support for walking or running laps that is matched by the company.
This year employees raised $18,970 in charity pledges in Napa and Solano Counties, matched by $16,650 from NOVA.
Petaluma Health Center
PETALUMA — While providing quality healthcare to low-income patients and those without insurance, the Petaluma Health Center continues to grow, obtain grant funding and technology to help it improve efficiencies and the customer experience.
“We have a smart and mission-driven staff who are open to new ideas for producing positive health outcomes,” an employee said. “There is an innovative spirit that permeates the entire organization. The most talented people want to work here because of our culture and the location.”
CEO Kathryn Powell says, “Our 172 employees are extremely dedicated to our mission: To provide high quality medical and dental care with access for all, and our vision: To foster a healthy community. When these pieces are in place, it makes you enormously proud to come to work everyday.”
An employee observed, “We are used to challenges at PHC and have seen many more patients come through our doors due to the economic downturn. We responded by giving bonuses rather than pay increases and by expanding our provider and clinical support staff to enhance our capacity to see more patients.”
Beyond the benefits package, there are monthly employee drawings and recognition awards, CPR and first aid classes, emergency preparedness training and discounts at a local health club — plus a winter gala and a summer party.
REACH Air Medical Services
SANTA ROSA — REACH provides emergency air ambulance transportation services based on 911 emergency system requests and patient transfers between hospitals — logging more than 5,000 flights a year.
“Our mission, to always do what is right for the patient, is revered and adhered to at REACH. We save lives and bring relief to the sick and injured,” a team member said.
President Sean Russell says what makes REACH great is that “Each team member not only understand our mission and values, he or she continually improves upon them daily.”
He said that as the firm embarks on this new stage in its journey (the 26-year-old company was acquired by Air Medical Group Holdings last December), the culture remains strong and lives on in all 104 REACH team members.
Three years ago REACH became the first air medical services provider to receive Diamond Certification.
For round-the-clock on-duty employees, flight base amenities include cable TV, Internet as well as a kitchen and full living facilities.
The company maintains high morale by “Keeping its mission at the forefront in a positive, forward-thinking manner. With leadership and organizational policy changes due to the sale, our management team has been tremendous,” another team member said.
Sequoia Senior Solutions
PETALUMA — This progressive service provider helps seniors stay in their homes with the help of 120 highly qualified, carefully screened and well trained caregivers, while also maintaining a flexible, loving and positive work environment.
“Sequoia has a clear vision of its purpose in the community, its staff, employees and its clients. They handle every situation with honesty, fairness and compassion,” a caregiver said.
President Gabriella Ambrosi says, “We hire the best caregivers in the community to serve our clients and provide opportunities to people who love to serve.”
Another caregiver observed, “With more baby boomers retiring, we won’t run out of clients. However, not everyone is able to maintain the standard of living they once enjoyed. My company has created more affordable programs to ensure that almost every person who needs our services can find a plan that fits his or her budget.”
Sequoia has kept pace with the changing business climate by hiring more good people and incorporating the latest technologies — as well as by offering continuing education to deepen skill sets and keep everyone abreast of changing policies and laws.
“Management stays informed about developments in the medical profession in order to pass this info on to us. They are always looking to bring new ideas to the world of caregiving.”
Sonoma Bank, now Argent
SANTA ROSA — The management of Argent Bank works hard to ensure that employees feel valued. Training is at the forefront. Advancement is not just possible, but requested. In the retail sector, managers are more than knowledgeable personal bankers — they are local business consultants.
“I want to perform the best that I can. I believe in this company. Our trademarks are kindness and respect. People are happy here, and why not? They provide a free, light breakfast every Wednesday,” customer service reps said. “Morale is high and communication is a priority. I feel supported 100 percent.”
While Argent Bank felt the pressure of the economic downturn, it adapted to change and recovered beyond expectations. It is now extremely well capitalized with near record profit levels. Since February 2012, the bank has made four acquisitions to grow the company’s footprint.
Northern California Market President Jamie Williams is upbeat. The “bank is a remarkable place because of its dedicated employees who work tirelessly and genuinely care about their fellow co-workers, customers and communities. We’re about people and the dreams they represent.”
The bank increases its staff to deal with the work capacity and makes constant adjustments to improve internal and external relationships.
“Managers face issues head-on, while asking for our feedback and buy-in.”
W. Bradley Electric, Inc.
NOVATO — This 36-year-old company with 220 loyal employees has been hiring since 2011.
Growth is based on long-term client relationships, referrals and by leveraging cross-selling opportunities through the firm’s six divisions.
WBE also takes extra care to reward its people and keep them happy.
“Let’s face it, we’re basically spoiled. From monthly birthday catered lunches, ping pong tournaments, frozen yogurt parties, BBQ’s, contests, giveaways, to the best holiday party ever at AT&T Park with surprise guest Matt Cain, we do great work in a very easy-going, playful atmosphere,” employees said.
Vice President Kevin Bradley reflected on the firm’s success. “WBE nurtures a very talented group of employees who are experts in their respective fields. We make every effort to keep them motivated, educated and satisfied. Clients appreciate a contractor that services all their needs, and does not just reappear for the big projects.”
WBE retains clients for years to come beyond the original projects. Employee tenure averages 9.3 years (three times the national average) and on a 20th anniversary, a free family vacation is awarded.
“We share old-fashion values in an atmosphere that makes you want to work harder,” another worker said. “WBE is known for its quick response, good customer service and positive staff reinforcement. They continue to hug us with special events, rewards and acknowledgements.”
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