Circle Bank

(Four-time winner)

NOVATO – The employees at Circle Bank’s five-branch network are proud of the 20-year-old company’s mission to support local businesses and local communities as the real financial engines of this country.

“I have worked for big banks in the past and without question Circle Bank really builds its business around its communities,” says an employee.

Circle Bank has announced plans to open a new location in Corte Madera in 2011 and is building a new headquarters building in Novato, to be completed in 2012. The bank has been profitable every quarter since 1997.

“Our culture is based on providing for our community, supporting each other and working as a team toward common goals,” says the bank’s President and CEO Kimberly Kaselionis. “We focus on retention and rewards.”

In addition to competitive compensation and benefit packages and bonus awards, employees appreciate the bank’s strong leadership that actively engages them and encourages their participation in community nonprofits.

“Our leaders have a clear vision of where they want our company to go, and they do a great job of sharing that vision,” one employee notes.

At the same time, “the company strives to listen to feedback and implement ideas of staff.”

Coast Landscape Management

(Two-time winner)

NAPA – Coast Landscape Management provides landscape maintenance and enhancement services to commercial, industrial and homeowner association clients throughout Northern California.

The 53-person company has avoided wage cuts while maintaining full employee benefits and company events during a difficult economy.

The company’s success and stability is due to “the passion for the work, dedication to quality and customer service, a strong and stable position in our industry and great people who get the job done without taking themselves too seriously,” according to one staff member.

CEO Kelly Solomon co-founded the company in 2005 with Lebo Newman and Rob Solomon, all veterans of commercial landscaping.

“Coast Landscape Management is committed to being a leader in our industry while providing an enriching work environment for our employees,” Ms. Solomon says. “The company is as good as its employees. We have a team atmosphere that is held together with honesty and integrity in everything we do.”

Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

(First-time winner)

GREENBRAE – The 90-person staff of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage’s Greenbrae office appreciate the cohesive team environment and the company’s good management during the difficult housing market of the past few years.

“The company has been ahead of the pack, cutting costs when we knew the market was in a decline,” one employee says. “That has helped many more people keep their jobs.”

The Greenbrae office is part of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage’s San Francisco-Peninsula Region, the second-largest residential brokerage in the North Bay with 354 agents, led by President Rick Turley.

“We are in a unique situation in that our employees’ ‘clients’ are our sales associates and their clients,” Mr. Turley explains. “We work hard to support them and help them succeed. Our company culture is a fun, supportive environment in which we all delight in the accomplishments and successes of others.”

The company continues to recognize top performing agents with an annual luncheon and to host employee appreciation luncheons regularly, as well as the annual company picnic.

“Upper management is fair, collaborative and involved,” says an employee. “They have engaged all levels of employees to do their part to ensure that we come out of the downturn as a healthier and stronger company.”

Filtration Group Inc.

(Three-time winner)

SANTA ROSA – The 84-person local Filtration Group Inc. plant is part of a global operation that produces 40 million air filtration products per year for the HVAC, gas phase, turbine, clean room, paint and filter media markets. Founded in 1942, the company is now the largest privately held filter manufacturer in North America.

Although Filtration Group Inc. had to reduce its work force in 2009, “all employees were given very good support and opportunities to keep their jobs,” says one employee. As a result, “the company has continued to provide a high quality product and ship to customers on a timely basis.”

Cross training among departments and participating in the California Employment Development work-share program are some measures the company adopted to maintain full-time, benefited employment, says plant manager Alison Huber. The company also bolsters morale with employee barbecues, on-site ESL classes and safety and attendance recognition.

“The company fosters and promotes team spirit, a culture of respect and works very hard to maintain a high level of employees' morale,” notes another employee.

First Community Bank

(Five-time winner)

SANTA ROSA – Nine local business leaders founded First Community Bank in 2004 to provide commercial real estate, construction and small business lending with local autonomy. Since opening the first branch in Santa Rosa in 2005, the bank has expanded to eight branches in four Bay Area counties and employs 72 people in the North Bay.

Employees like working for a bank that has a direct stake in the economic health of the communities it services.

“As an employee, I feel completely supported by this company. We know how to keep our clients happy and, in turn, that makes a very successful company,” writes a staff member. “Employees who work directly with clients are given the ability to make decisions and take action on the spot to satisfy a client. That in itself is huge in the banking industry.”

“First Community Bank encourages and rewards employee excellence,” says bank President Kathy Pinkard. The company has created incentive compensation programs and promotes from within. “We focus on community, employee health and satisfaction at work. We have a good time, even during the rough times.”

“First Community Bank really cares about their employees and the communities that they are located in,” observes another employee. “They are very involved in the communities and encourage their employees to participate as well. I feel very fortunate to be working here!”

Golden Living Center of Petaluma

(First-time winner)

PETALUMA – The Golden Living Center provides both short-term rehabilitation services and longer-term skilled nursing care. The 100-employee facility in Petaluma is part of a nationwide network of companies offering integrated senior health care services including nursing home care, home health care, hospice care and assisted living.

“I am proud to work here because we support not only each other but our community,” says a Petaluma employee. “People smile when I tell them where I work.”

The company has worked hard to retain and reward employees through monthly staff appreciation events, safety incentive programs, length of service awards, weekly staff meetings and frequent social gatherings. Since 2008, employee turnover in Petaluma has gone from 70 percent to 10 percent.

“We support a culture of accountability,” says Constance Smith, manager of the Petaluma facility. “We empower our people to accelerate change to ensure our future success. We are open to feedback and willing to face our problems.”

Because employees are so committed to the residents, they particularly appreciate having a voice in the facility’s delivery of services.

“The managers listen to all of us. We have weekly meetings, and my boss always asks if I need anything or if I have any ideas for making things better,” says another employee. “We have really good support.”

Marizco Landscape Management Inc.

(Three-time winner)

SANTA ROSA – Marizco Landscape Management Inc. provides landscape management services to commercial clients such as shopping centers, business parks, wineries, hotels and resorts, and multi-family residential complexes. The company specializes in green landscaping design utilizing advanced water management and conservation.

MLM has received numerous professional awards for its work, including California Landscape Contractor Association special recognition awards for the past three years.

“I am a true believer that our employees are the main reason for our success,” says owner and President Pierre Marizco. “If you keep your employees engaged and motivated, everything else falls into place because they care.”

In addition to health and vacation benefits, MLM rewards its employees with surprise bonuses, barbecues, golf days and an annual appreciation picnic.  “Everyone here works together to reach the same goal,” notes one of the company’s 55 employees. “There is a clear understanding of what goals we are trying to reach as a company and what we each need to do to get there.”

Moss Adams LLP

(Three-time winner)

SANTA ROSA – Moss Adams LLP has provided accounting services to North Bay clients across the spectrum of industries including agriculture, food processing, wineries and vineyards, construction, real estate, manufacturing and technology.

The Santa Rosa office, opened in 1981, is one of 21 locations nationwide. Moss Adams LLP is the 11th largest accounting and consulting firm in the U.S., established in 1913. The parent company’s long history and venerable reputation has provided a sense of stability for local staff members.

“When the world seemed to be collapsing, I never worried that our doors would close. I felt secure,” says one employee.

The company has adapted to the business environment by tailoring client services to address financial planning, cash flow management and forecasting to help clients make the decisions necessary to perform as well as possible in the current environment, says Managing Partner Ty Pforsich.

“From a staff perspective, we continue to focus on providing our staff with interesting, challenging work with opportunity for advancement and personal career growth,” Mr. Pforsich adds.

To that end, the company offers performance coaching, continuing education reimbursement, leadership development and more.

“Our company offers each employee the ability to craft his or her own career,” notes a staff member. “We are given the tools to succeed.”

Nova Group Inc.

(Two-time winner)

NAPA – “I attribute our success to our people,” says Ronald Fedrick, president and CEO of Nova Group Inc. “You need to have good management and a good corporate structure, but more than anything else you need to have good people.”

Started in 1976, Nova Group is a general engineering government contractor specializing in hydrant fueling, waterfront and utility construction. The company employs 93 people in the North Bay.

Employees attribute the company’s success and stability to its strong, experienced leadership.

“Nova's executive management team are great leaders and role models,” says an employee. “They are experienced, and they are good communicators whose moral business choices flow through the entire company.”

The company has maintained a steady stream of federal contracts and backlogged projects throughout the recession by developing new partnerships and investing in employee knowledge and training.

“Nova has managed to keep growing through this recession because the company has a set of organized goals that all employees strive to reach,” notes another employee. “They have tried to find solutions to make us competitive in the marketplace. They have also involved employees and encouraged us to offer our opinions and ideas.”

Panamax LLC

(First-time winner)

PETALUMA – Panamax LLC develops power management products for audio/video systems including home theater, professional audio and music, broadcasting, audio/video recording, OEM and office equipment.

Just before business took a serious downturn last year for the 35-year-old company, President Bill Pollock met with employees to inform them of the challenges ahead and the need for companywide furloughs to avoid layoffs.

“The program was immediately understood and embraced by all employees. It was done as a preventative measure as opposed to a reactive one and gave us all a feeling that we were in it together as opposed to layoffs,” recalls one of many appreciative employees who mentioned this.

Fortunately the company successfully avoided layoffs and restored everyone to full-time schedules within six months.

Panamax has established its company culture based on a “trifecta” of trust, mutual respect and individual accountability, says Mr. Pollock, who starts his work day with a walk though the company to speak with every employee.

“Company goals, financial results, ongoing progress, successes and failures are all shared with employees,” says another employee. “We have a great product and our employees take pride in delivering quality to our customers.”

Petaluma People Services Center

(Three-time winner)

PETALUMA – The effects of a faltering economy are magnified for a nonprofit such as Petaluma People Services Center working in health and human services. The need for these services increases sharply at a time when funding becomes more of a challenge.

“PPSC is an agency that is the safety net of the community. Our mission is to help empower people, and our employees are a reflection of that,” says Executive Director Ron Kirtley. “Every day I am amazed with the quality and professionalism of the staff.  They give of themselves to each and every client they have.”

Founded in 1974, PPSC provides services in five core areas: senior support, homeless prevention/housing support, employment and training, counseling and paratransit for the elderly and disabled. The agency’s staff of 52 including therapists and social workers coordinates 34 different human services programs on behalf of its clients. Last year, PPSC worked with more than 7,000 people in the Petaluma area.

The volunteers who help PPSC continue to deliver services are also part of what makes the agency a great place to work, employees say.

“It takes teamwork to keep things running smoothly, especially now when the economy is so bad,” says a staff member. “We are dealing with growing demands on our time. We have had to get creative in how we serve our clients. We all pull together to work harder so that we meet the needs of our community.”

Sonoma Technology Inc.

(Four-time winner)

PETALUMA – Sonoma Technology Inc. provides air quality and meteorological products, services and measurements for government, industry, university and nonprofit clients.

A majority of the company’s 55 staff members are atmospheric scientists, engineers, programmers, analysts and other technical specialists.

This means that employee-owned STI is “not run by the profit motive but more by interest in the nature of the work,” explains a staff member. “We produce high-quality work in a team atmosphere and get recognized for our contributions.”

“STI is a great place to work because it is run in an open and ethical manner,” says Lyle Chinkin, company president. “Staff has the opportunity to work on projects that really make a difference in the lives of our clients and the public.”

The company has done well even in a poor economy because of a diverse client base and projects that are associated with environmental issues.

“Our company is positioned well to adapt to the needs of our current and future clients,” notes an employee.  “We are on the technical edge and continue to evolve as needs change.  This allows us to stay ahead of the curve.”

Summit State Bank

(First-time winner)

SANTA ROSA – Summit State Bank employees take great pride in the bank’s strong commitment to local communities and to personalized customer service.

“It's a pleasure to work for a company that truly cares about its customers and makes a difference in our community,” says an employee.  “Our ‘Summit Way Service Standards’ show our unwavering commitment to our customers.”

The company culture is captured in 10 service standards that are displayed on every employee’s desk, explains bank President and CEO Tom Duryea.

“We all share a common understanding that in order for the bank to perform well and reward our staff with career advancement opportunities, we must remain firmly committed to providing the best customer service experience.”

The bank gives out service awards at quarterly dinners and buys lunch for whole departments and branches in recognition of achievements. The company also reimburses employees’ educational expenses.

“Summit State Bank has an experienced and seasoned management team that places a strong emphasis on giving employees the tools and empowerment to accomplish the goals of the bank by rewarding the individual contributors both in pay and with special awards for jobs well done,” one employee notes.

Started in 1984, Summit State Bank employs a staff of 60 in four Sonoma County branches.

Umpqua Bank

(First-time winner)

NAPA – It was employees, rather than executive leaders, at Umpqua Bank who created the company’s vision to be the “World’s Greatest Bank.”

Founded in Oregon as a community bank in 1953, the company has grown to 184 locations throughout Washington, Oregon and California, including eight stores in Napa and Sonoma counties. The bank currently employs 74 associates in the region.

Umpqua’s approach to community banking is to create a company culture of ownership at each location. Branch locations are called “stores.” Employees are referred to as “associates” and empowered through training, support and motivation to provide a unique banking experience for customers.

“We value our associates and their contributions to our success,” says Kellie England, senior vice president and regional manager of community banking. “At a time when most companies are reducing benefits, we have implemented new recognition programs, training opportunities and enhanced rewards for associates.”

Associates are also encouraged to become involved in their communities through the bank’s Connect Volunteer Network that allows them to receive up to 40 hours per year of paid time off to volunteer with local nonprofit and public organizations.

“Umpqua values contribution to the community as much as they value contribution to the company,” says an associate.

Vintage Sonoma

(First-time winner)

SONOMA – The employees of Vintage Sonoma share a strong sense of mission and professional commitment to the work they do.

Vintage Sonoma is an assisted living community with a specialized memory care area for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

“People work here because they enjoy what they do, feel like they are valued, know they make a difference in the lives of others every day and are part of the Vintage Sonoma Family,” says an employee.

The Sonoma facility is one of 20 Vintage Senior Living communities throughout California.

“Our employees share a common goal, which is to provide our residents with the best possible care and service,” says Becky Givens, executive director of the Sonoma location. “Our culture is very family-like. We work together, we play together, and we take care of each other.”

Playing together includes regular employee gatherings and outings, as well as volunteering with local nonprofits and community projects.

To take care of employees in a tough economy, Vintage Sonoma has added employee safety, recognition, and training programs while take cost-cutting measures such as offering transfer opportunities and reduced hours to avoid staff layoffs.

“My company strives to be on the leading edge,” notes another employee.

“We are offered training and development to further enhance our ability to do our jobs.”

Winzler & Kelly

(Four-time winner)

SANTA ROSA – At a time when many companies are cutting back, engineering and environmental consulting firm Winzler & Kelly recently launched a licensed general contracting subsidiary to expand the company’s capabilities.

“We have an outstanding senior leadership team who is adept at recognizing changes in our industry before they happen and positioning us to be ready to take advantage of those changes,” notes one staff member.

Winzler & Kelly, the largest engineering firm in the North Bay, employs 92 people.

“Winzler & Kelly has enjoyed being an integral part of the North Bay for over 30 years,” says President and CEO Iver Skavdal. “We have designed its roads, water distribution systems, parks, vineyards and more. Everyone at Winzler & Kelly is dedicated to improving the lives of others, including our co-workers, our clients and our communities.”

In addition to providing full benefits for employees and dependents, the company offers other perks such as car and mobile phone allowances, flexible spending accounts and a wellness program.

“There are lots of factors that make this company great, but I think these things all stem from the fundamental idea that the employees are the most valuable asset,” says an employee. “A tremendous amount of effort is made simply to take care of the employees. There's a strong sense of friendship and family among coworkers, and I think that helps people work better together as a team.”