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Becoming Independent

(Two-time winner)

SANTA ROSA – Improving the lives of people with disabilities unites and motivates the 317 staff members of Becoming Independent.

It was formed as a nonprofit in 1980, but the nonprofit’s roots reach back into the 1960s when a group of parents organized a community-based program for their adult disabled children.

“BI is so unique because it came from total grassroots beginnings but still retains the same ethics and management style,” says a staff member. “The same emphasis that the organization places on serving persons and helping them to achieve their potential without focusing on their limitations is applied to the staff.”

Because the heart of BI’s mission is human service, CEO Cami Weaver says the organization endeavors to provide a supportive, inspiring work environment and culture. Ms. Weaver and the chief of services conduct quarterly town hall meetings at BI’s four locations to foster communication and exchange ideas.

Despite major cuts in the organization’s primary funding source, the state of California, “BI has a strategic focus to be the very best service provider in the state,” Ms. Weaver says, “and the entire organization is working toward that mighty vision.”

Bradley Real Estate

(Two-time winner)

SAN RAFAEL – Agents with Bradley Real Estate get all the benefits of working as independent contractors and all the support of a strong, successful company.

Owners Melissa and Rob Bradley manage to keep bureaucracy to a minimum while providing plenty of training, resources and, most of all, leadership to their agents, who greatly admire the owners’ vision and ability to adapt the company to a completely new real estate market and flourish.

“We are given all the necessary tools of the trade and much more. We have the best of equipment, advertising and management,” says one agent. “We are greatly rewarded for our hard work in these difficult times. I have been in this business for 35-plus years, and I have never been appreciated as much as I am here. We are consistently given leads and advice.”

With nine offices and 330 people, Bradley Real Estate is the fourth-largest residential real estate brokerage in the North Bay.

Nevertheless, “Melissa Bradley is never too busy to give of her time, thoughts and experience to her agents.  Her focus is on her team of agents and helping each and every one achieve their personal goals and success,” says another agent.  “Melissa and Rob are a very inspirational and motivational team inspiring success and teamwork in all of us.”

Exchange Bank

(Five-time winner)

SANTA ROSA – As the third-largest bank in the North Bay, Exchange Bank is community bank in the truest sense. The bank has been in business since 1890, and founder Frank Doyle ensured that the bank would remain locally owned. This has provided a tremendous sense of pride and job security for the bank’s 407 employees through one of the bank’s most difficult periods ever.

“This is a caring, giving company that has a long-standing culture of taking good care of employees, customers and giving back to the community,” says an employee. “The company's commitment to community, employees, shareholders is balanced.”

Bank President and CEO William Schrader has held informal luncheons with small groups of employees as one way of keeping employees updated on the bank’s financial picture.

“The last two years have been very challenging for our customers, our employees and our communities but our vision has not changed,” Mr. Schrader says. “The bank’s commitment to community is unwavering as evidenced by our monetary contributions and countless hours of our employees’ volunteer time supporting good works and charities in Sonoma County. I could not ask for a finer group of men and women to have as teammates.”

On top of preserving employee benefits that include health, retirement, free banking services and a childcare subsidy, the bank supports its employees through upgraded tuition assistance, loan programs to help employees address their own financial concerns and a wellness initiative to promote employees’ physical health.

The bank has also continued its long history of supporting community endeavors such as the Human Race, United Way and Blood Bank of the Redwoods by encouraging employees’ active involvement.

“Exchange Bank is very community-oriented, treats its employees fairly and with a great deal of respect and is a great place to work,” says another employee. “Exchange Bank makes you feel like you are a part of their family, not just an employee.”

Redwood Credit Union

(Five-time winner)

SANTA ROSA – As a member-owned cooperative, Redwood Credit Union’s financial success is directly dependent upon serving the needs of its members.

“We know who we work for: our members. We operate in their best interests every day. That makes me proud,” says one employee.

The credit union was started in 1950 by seven county of Sonoma employees and has grown to 150,000 members with 15 locations in the greater North Bay employing 323 people.

Employees describe the company’s unique brand of culture as the “RCU magic” in part because of the company’s mission to support its employees as much as the membership and the community – particularly during the challenging environment of the past several years.

“The spirit of helping people is at the heart of all we do. There is strength when people come together for the collective good,” says President and CEO Brett Martinez.

The company maintains open communication with employees about business challenges and plans for sustaining the organization. Company leadership has enlisted the help of employees in controlling costs and increasing efficiencies to prevent layoffs. As a result, RCU is able to continue full health benefits and training and promotion opportunities for employees, as well as provide performance incentives, flexible spending, education assistance, profit sharing and retirement programs.

“RCU 'gets' that people are the most important ingredient for a business to achieve success,” says another employee. “RCU truly embodies our mission, vision and values in all we do and the decisions that are made.”