Abbey, Weitzenberg, Warren & EmeryFIRST-TIME WINNER

SANTA ROSA -- This 91-year-old law firm has an open, positive and nurturing environment that fosters dialogue, and where everyone listens to divergent opinions.A year of milestones; how the winners were chosen; facts and figures of winners over the yearsBest Places to Work 2012 winner profiles20--50 employees51--100 employees101--250 employees251--500 employees501--1,000 employees1,001-plus employeesWinners: 20--50 employeesListed alphabeticallyAbbey, Weitzenberg, Warren & EmeryBank of NapaBKF EngineersBurr Pilger MayerCardno ERICodding EnterprisesDal Poggetto & Company LLPFrank Howard AllenFriedemann Goldberg LLPGhilotti Brothers, Inc.Ghirardo CPAHeffernan Insurance BrokersInn Marin & Rickey’sInnovative Business SolutionsM.A. Silva USA, Inc.Marizco Landscape Management, Inc.Metier, Ltd.Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Sonoma CountyO’Brien Watters & Davis, LLPPetaluma People Services CenterPlay-Well TEKnologiesPrivate Ocean Wealth ManagementQuattrocchi Kwok ArchitectsQuieTrack Insurance ServicesSchurter, Inc.Scott Technology Group Inc.Smith Dollar PCSummit EngineeringTLCD ArchitectureValley Tire & BrakeVantreo Insurance BrokerageVasyli, LLCWoodruff-Sawyer & Co.Wright Contracting, Inc.

According to one employee, "This is a very respected firm and excellent place to work with a top-notch team of attorneys who take the time to mentor younger attorneys."

CEO and President Richard W. Abbey said, "Everyone works hard advocating for our clients and has fun while doing it. Our team is more than workmates -- we are friends and genuinely care for each other. We throw great parties, too, and have an active, ongoing commitment to the community. Every trial victory is celebrated together by the entire firm."

Other employees said, "Every one of our 30 colleagues gets along. When a person is 'slammed,' someone will always offer to help. We all take pride in what we do. I feel fortunate to work with such great talent. We believe we are the best law firm in the county."Bank of NapaTHREE-TIME WINNER

NAPA -- "The family atmosphere at Bank of Napa always makes you feel welcome to be here and be yourself, which helps us be more productive," one staff member said.

"From executive management levels to staff levels, every employee has the ability to make a difference in our organization -- and they do make a difference," said Tom LeMasters, president and CEO.

Employees describe the company culture as friendly, relaxed, hard-working and efficient.

"We have great leaders who care and lead by example. Ours is a positive, flexible and fun workplace where management believes in the importance of family and the value of work--life balance. Happy families make happy employees and happy clients!"

When asked what makes your company great, an employee said, "The dedication and loyalty of my co-workers."

Another said it is due to the personal, caring attitude within the bank, and working as a team to meet goals.  "Everyone is important here, staff as well as customers."BKF EngineersSECOND-TIME WINNER

SANTA ROSA -- BKF takes care of its employees by providing great benefits, free food, fun parties, companywide bonuses as well as profit sharing.

Staff members say career opportunities are very real. Most of BKF's principals started as entry-level engineers or interns, and most project managers were promoted from within.

"BKF is awarded many of the most sought-after, high-profile projects in the greater Bay Area, as we design the infrastructure for a sustainable future," President and CEO David LaVelle said. The company is based in Redwood City and has an office in Santa Rosa. "We encourage employees to achieve civil engineering excellence by being creative and innovative."

About 80 percent of BKF's projects are repeat business. Expanding markets are adding even more assignments, resulting in hiring back former employees.

"It is a positive company that allows flexible schedules and understands the importance of family," an employee said.

Good teamwork, accurate scheduling and a clear delegation of project tasks result in on-time delivery within budgets.

"BKF is socially and financially successful. Who wouldn't want to be part of that?" another employee said.Burr Pilger MayerSEVEN-TIME WINNER

SANTA ROSA -- Adhering to founding principles and core values contributes to BPM's success as a full-service accounting, audit and tax consulting firm.

 "Our client-service approach is relationship-driven and totally focused on the client's success," according to Carol O'Hara, managing partner of BPM's North Bay region. "Regular communication with all staff members is essential."

 In the words of one employee, "A very positive attitude fills the office with lots of laughter and shared fun from all levels of staff and management. Our focus on giving back to the community makes me proud to be part of the team."

Officers and managers are on the boards of directors of more than 10 nonprofit organizations. The entire firm packs boxes at Redwood Empire Food Bank and helps maintain Kids Street Learning Center and Hanna Boys Center.

"BPM cares about its people, clients and community more than any other company I have worked for," an employee said, echoing responses from several.Cardno ERISECOND-TIME WINNER

PETALUMA -- This fast-growing environmental consulting firm is viewed by employees as having a strong sense of direction, vision and concern for clients and people.

"The sense of camaraderie is the best part of working here. Everyone is very understanding and appreciative," an employee observed.

"The company goes above and beyond to make sure that employees' personal needs are met. Management truly understands that we all have lives outside of work and that sometimes the paths cross each other. We have flexible work schedules."

Genuine care and commitment to each other and Cardno ERI clients is a hallmark of the company. "Our culture can be described as team-oriented, a family environment with employee empowerment and recognition for safety," said Keith Romstad, division manager.

Company employees support Friends of the Petaluma River and participate with Mentor Me Petaluma.

"Everyone has a sense of personal commitment to make sure that each guest and client is welcomed and their needs are met," an employee said.

Codding EnterprisesTHREE-TIME WINNER

ROHNERT PARK -- "The people at Codding are great communicators and managers; it's a family. Greenness is very important to me and future generations," an employee said. "Our organization has an environmentally friendly vision."

Chairman and CEO Brad Baker said, "As a step to engage, retain and boost morale, we developed an Employee Engagement Program led by employee volunteers who organize celebrations, recognition and other events on behalf of the staff during work and nonwork hours."

These events have included days for bringing a child or dog to work, company picnics, holiday parties, monthly potluck lunches, casual dress Fridays, health screenings and lunchtime health roundtable discussions with physicians and nutritionists.

"We have a great group of positive people. The work atmosphere is friendly with terrific benefits," employees said. "Everyone has mutual respect for each other."

Another added, "It's a family-owned business, so everyone knows each other very well. Managers are flexible when it comes to family and child care issues and will let you change your shift schedules."Dal Poggetto & Company LLPSIX-TIME WINNER

SANTA ROSA -- Creating an enjoyable work environment based on open communications, as well as encouraging initiative, teamwork and innovation, are the goals of this accounting firm, according to Jon Dal Poggetto, managing partner.

"Our firm has a progressive and innovative approach to staff development, client service and technology deployment," an employee said. "It is a great combination of people and perspectives."

The average employee has more than 11 years of service, more than half the firm's 20 years in business. About three-quarters of upper management are minorities and women.

"We are appreciated as individuals and take pride in the quality of work produced," an employee said. "We have an expectation of everyone giving 100 percent."

Another commented, "There is a great level of professionalism without losing sight of the fact that we all have families that are our first priority."

The company shows its appreciation towards it employees through activities and outings.Frank Howard AllenTHREE-TIME WINNER

NOVATO -- Employees recognize that this real estate company with a history spanning more than a century has strong leadership and a commitment to excellence.

"Our employees stay with us for a long time, and we have had very little turnover," said Noreen Smith, president and CEO.

Employees appreciate the honesty and fairness of the people who work there.

"Management is always grateful for the contributions of employees and shows their appreciation," an employee said. "The office environment is particularly tight-knit and supportive, thanks to the culture that management has fostered."

Another noted the pride of ownership that pervades the organization. "The agents are good to us. I see the owner as a leader in the community. The training we receive is phenomenal. We get a lot of praise."

Employees acknowledge the active involvement of management with the staff. "I find the owners of the company and executive management to be caring and attentive and supportive to employee needs. I always feel they have my back."Friedemann Goldberg LLPSECOND-TIME WINNER

SANTA ROSA -- This law firm has very high standards, in which "good enough is not. Our people accept this and thrive on it," said John Friedemann, managing partner.

"Everyone takes pride in the fact that they and their co-workers perform their jobs at the highest levels. We are lucky to have assembled a team with the right attitude to deliver excellence daily."

Employees report they are treated with honesty and fairness and a job well done is always rewarded.

They say the company runs like a well-oiled machine. "Management keeps everyone happy and motivated to perform at their best. The partners interact with us so we all feel equal. Everyone's opinion is valued."

Staff members acknowledge co-workers' skill sets. They said their firm has "smart, intelligent, experienced people who do good work and pay close attention to client needs."

Another said, "I love what I do and trust the people I work with. They appreciate, motivate, train, listen, develop, respect and -- most important -- they say, 'thank you.'"Ghilotti Brothers, Inc.THREE-TIME WINNER

SAN RAFAEL -- At GBI, employees help determine the company's path to success. Communication travels both top-down and bottom-up, employees said.

"In addition to our annual business-planning session with all administrative personnel, we added a strategic-planning element that gives us a long-term vision and road map employees can engage in and be committed to," said President Mike Ghilotti.

"Camaraderie is apparent at GBI," an employee observed. "This atmosphere encourages pride in personal work as well as the development of the company as a whole."

Family-owned and -operated for three generations, "GBI has an open-door policy where you can speak your peace at any time," another said.

"Everybody is always in a good mood, even when things are hectic, and we keep calm when the pressure is on."

Employees are proud of the work that GBI does through its Giving Back program, which contributes to the Boys & Girls Club, Gilead House, Marin Food Bank, Blood Bank of the Redwoods and Warm Wishes.


NOVATO -- At Ghirardo, being a "team" is the No. 1 priority.

"We don't think of it as just talk," an employee said. "We all live it out every day. There is always someone to help you, encourage you and to laugh with you. We are serious about our professional client work, but we really enjoy being with each other and taking care of each other."

Managing partner Jerry Ghirado said, "We reward employees based on personal performance and provide mentors, in-house training, regular team meetings and keep everyone informed and involved."

Employees continue to go the extra mile as they live up to the Ghirardo brothers' founding principles of excellence, team spirit, fairness and great customer service, which continue to define their company.

"When I walk into work each day, I am respected and appreciated for who I am and the work I do. I can work in the secure knowledge that I don't have anything to fear about my position," an employee said.Heffernan Insurance BrokersSIX-TIME WINNER

PETALUMA -- "I am inspired by how our employees help each other, our clients and our community," said President Michael Heffernan.

"Heffernan habits" define its culture: answer the phone and emails, have fun, know your clients and foster your relationships, do good as well as smooth the path and be respectful.

Employees said, "The most successful individuals in the firm are open, assist others in achieving success and are truly happy for them when it happens."

Since 1988, the firm has donated more than $2.5 million. The Heffernan charitable giving program for 501(c)3 nonprofits includes dollar-for-dollar employee matching gifts, the Garee Lee Smith Scholarship Awards ($5,000 for educational expenses), volunteer time (four paid days annually) and large grant donations to a nonprofit from the Heffernan Foundation ($2,500--$5,000).

"I never felt that I mattered at work until I came to Heffernan. Here, our opinions are respected and used in decision-making. Everyone feels equal, regardless of title," an employee said.Inn Marin & Rickey'sFIVE-TIME WINNER

NOVATO -- When business owners work hard, employees say it is good for morale and sets a pattern for everyone to follow.

Owners Robert and John Marshall offer employee rewards, such as a $50 "sell out" bonus and "dine and dip" dinners by the pool for the staff and their kids. "Our philosophy is every employee is family," they said.

Employees agree. "We make the hospitality business a way to pamper our guests and provide them with value for every penny they spend with us," one said. "We excel in providing good food and excellent customer service."

For some, Inn Marin and Rickey's is a home away from home.

"Because of the nature of my job, I spend many hours there, but I always leave work rejuvenated, excited and fortunate to be a part of such a wonderful company. John Marshall is the best boss I've ever had. He is honest, fair and has integrity -- three necessary qualities for a work environment one can be honored to be a part of."Innovative Business SolutionsTHREE-TIME WINNER

ROHNERT PARK -- IBS is a company where everyone cooperates, listens and wants to be there "with lots of smiles and happy faces," in the words of an employee.

Co-owners Dave Tieken, president, and Bob Reynolds, CFO, view their firm "as supportive, collaborative and stable. We go the extra mile to meet client needs and provide support."

 Employees concur. "Bob and Dave not only say the well being of their employees is most important, they prove it on a regular basis," one said. "At times, they bypass profitability to ensure workers are not overstressed, and so we can take the time to make our client's experience the best it can be."

Management availability is key. "The owners are so easy to talk to. If there's a problem, it gets resolved quickly," an employee said.

"I love coming to work every morning! I have a strong bond with my co-workers and feel honored and lucky to work for those who care about employees. My company is not great; it's awesome!"M.A. Silva USA, Inc.SECOND-TIME WINNER

SANTA ROSA -- While always looking to improve processes and products, employees say management at this supplier of bottles and corks for the wine industry cares about what they are going through and is willing to help, whenever possible.

"Our company is a comfortable place to be," one said, reflecting views of several. "We are praised for our achievements and successes. The president comes out to greet and talk to you and ask how it's going."

President Neil Foster said, "All team members focus on the best quality and outcomes for our clients. Even during challenging economic times, we improved our benefit package and retirement plans, and still gave raises."

M.A. Silva has a "fun committee" that plans a full calendar of year-round activities to foster a positive work environment.

"We all are given responsibility and accept accountability without worrying about dire consequences," according to an employee. "Everyone respects each other's differences, both at work and outside. This is, hands down, the best company I have worked for."

Marizco Landscape Management, Inc.FIVE-TIME WINNER

SANTA ROSA -- "We want to make a difference when it comes to improving our environment, and we have a wonderful group of 48 people to work with and help us achieve our goal," said President Pierre Marizco.

The company gets high marks for having open lines of communication and is seen as a firm always striving to do better.

"It's a workplace where everyone receives full appreciation for a job well done when it is warranted," an employee said. "We all work together as a team."

The firm had to make difficult decisions to survive over the past few years, from slashing benefits to being challenged on how to work more efficiently.

"But the great thing is that our opinion mattered, and collectively as a team we've managed to make it work," one employee said.

"We made it through successfully by cutting costs, getting competitive bids on all services and by looking back at how we have done business in the past to see how we could improve."Metier, Ltd.SECOND-TIME WINNER

HEALDSBURG -- A sense of ownership exists throughout Metier, and everyone takes pride in contributing to bettering its flagship software product (PPM Central) and services.

"The attitude toward creating a rich, dynamic and rewarding workplace permeates a culture of continuous improvement," an employee said.

According to CEO Douglas Clark, Metier believes strongly in investing in innovation. "In early 2011 we were awarded our eighth industry patent and have experienced double-digit growth in 2012."

A lot of thought goes into what life is like for staff members. "The benefits are out of this world!" an employee said. "We have a lot of fun together doing everything from bocce tournaments to wine tastings, waffle breakfasts, salsa dancing and brewing our own beer."

Company perks include unlimited leave, flexible schedules, telecommuting, cell phone reimbursement, technology bonuses such as smartphones and tablets, and discounts on equity lines, free banking and free access to financial advisors.

"I'm allowed to grow here in ways I haven't been able to find at other companies," one said. "We're constantly evolving."Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Sonoma CountyFIVE-TIME WINNER

SANTA ROSA -- Employees say this company is one of a kind. "I'm always excited to tell people about our accomplishments," one said. "It's not just a plumbing firm taking care of clogged pipes, we have a RICH code of values -- Respect, Integrity, Customer focus, while Having fun in the process."

Tuesday morning meetings are for more than "housekeeping." "They motivate and pump us up to be the best we can be and teach us valuable, everyday life skills," a worker said.

President Saunda Kitchen said, "Our team strives to deliver great customer service and are always willing to help anyone, including each other. We promote from within and loyalty speaks volumes. If you perform at the job, you earn the title. All managers started at entry levels."

Minorities and women make up 75 percent of upper management.

"We receive training and direction based on a clear purpose and vision," an employee said. "Owners do an amazing job of constantly motivating us to reach both individual and company goals."O'Brien Watters & Davis, LLPFOUR-TIME WINNER

SANTA ROSA -- Celebrating 30 years of providing excellent legal services to the North Bay, O'Brien Watters & Davis employees work hard, have fun, share credit for successes and help each other cope.

"We often have tight deadlines and the stress level can be high. Our mission statement ends with the statement, 'to have mutual respect and support for one another,' which I believe is the key element in a great place to work," said managing partner Michael Watters.

"It's a true team atmosphere where we all have each other's back and no one gets thrown under the bus," an employee said. "We're all treated as valuable members. Management goes above and beyond to make the workplace pleasant and welcoming."

Another said, "I've worked here over 24 years. This is my family, and I am treated just that way. When someone is in a crisis, everyone steps up to help. I have never worked at a place where compassion and kindness for the employees is so prevalent."Petaluma People Services CenterFIVE-TIME WINNER

PETALUMA -- This nonprofit organization takes pride in its role of helping to change peoples' lives.

"We're dedicated to improving the social and economic health of our community by providing programs that strengthen the dignity and self-worth of the individual," said Executive Director Elece Hempel.

"We try to laugh about something every day. It's hard, given what we do, but a good laugh helps us realize we're in this together."

 PPS is thankful for community support -- donations and volunteering -- that enables it to continue providing quality service for so many.

The agency has served a record 9,000 clients so far this year, despite losing staff and program funding.

"My clients are unemployed, and we do a good job of making them feel part of our daily community," an employee said.

Others said, "There is a caring attitude toward employees and compassion for those we serve. I like my job and love working with my clients. We all share solidarity of purpose."


SAN ANSELMO -- According to employees, Play-Well is all about showing kids how to have fun, while having fun in the process.

 "We're doing inspiring work," one worker said. "Getting children interested in engineering and science is incredibly important. I feel we are accomplishing that. All of my co-workers are friendly, passionate, and love their jobs. I'm proud to tell people what I do."

Others said the company is great because, "it not only encourages employees to excel in areas of strength, but also to create new areas of innovation based upon those strengths while fostering individual problem solving. I feel extremely valued as a member of this team."

President Tim Bowen said, "Play-Well is a value-driven company and the best place to work that I have experienced. I make it a point to meet each of our 200 employees across the country to show my appreciation and share ideas."

Another employee observed, "The environment here is upbeat, and people are always happy. It is the only place where work can be play."Private Ocean Wealth ManagementSECOND-TIME WINNER

SAN RAFAEL -- This award-winning independent wealth management firm each year hosts two planning retreats, where employees help shape the future of the organization. It also gives everyone a chance to get to know each other outside of the day-to-day work environment.

"We share a friendly, fun and professional atmosphere and have wonderful people to work with," an employee said.

Chief Operating Officer Susan Dickson observed, "It is our people who make us great. They are highly skilled and fully understand the importance of collaboration and superior client service."

When an employee becomes a new parent, Private Ocean arranges for meals to be brought to the family. The firm also has an annual retreat weekend, in which families have fun and get acquainted in a casual setting.

"We have very reasonable hours and a comfortable work environment," one said. "The firm is willing to pay for employee education, and there is a focus on self-improvement with opportunities for growth and advancement."Quattrocchi Kwok ArchitectsFIVE-TIME WINNER

SANTA ROSA -- Mark Quattrocchi, CEO, and Steve Kwok, CFO, believe their most important asset is people.

"We launched a mentoring program to match senior staff with younger professionals, along with a continuing education program providing opportunities for professional growth to all staff regardless of their role."

An employee said, "There is a real pleasant feeling in the office that makes it very comfortable. Alternative problem-solving approaches are encouraged and appreciated."

Employees adjust to work in the pipeline. "We share workload projections at monthly staff meetings -- breakfast included -- in an open forum," one said. "Afternoon snacks with a cold drink are unexpected surprises that make the staff smile."

Company events include an annual sketch contest, holiday party, summer gathering and organized lunchtime art projects.

 "The company was dedicated to keeping everyone employed during very difficult economic times," an employee said. "And when a co-worker or family member has health issues, everyone is willing to step up and be there for support."QuieTrack Insurance ServicesFIRST-TIME WINNER

SANTA ROSA -- Staying the course and weathering strenuous times motivates employees and inspires loyalty.

"I tell everyone we're all in this together, and we will come out of it together," said President and CEO Kevin McGuire. "When things go wrong, we don't blame anyone. Instead, we find solutions from those closest to the issue. We seek to catch people doing the right thing, not the wrong thing."

Workers are happy at QuieTrack. "Everyone gets along and enjoys working together," one said. "This positive energy makes coming to work great. We are treated fairly and praised openly."

Belt-tightening begins at the top. "Our leader told me that he will always be the first to sacrifice and strive to avoid layoffs and compensation cuts to his staff," one said. "He kept his promise."

Building up staff and customer morale will see a company through all challenges, employees said. "Kevin continued to pay year-end bonuses, and when gas prices hit $5 a gallon, he gave everyone $500 to help put gas in their tanks."Schurter, Inc.SIX-TIME WINNER

SANTA ROSA -- Celebrating three decades in business as a leading innovator, maker and distributor of electronic components and systems for the clean and safe supply of power and ease of use of electrical equipment, Schurter takes steps to ensure that employees are satisfied in their jobs.

"We have an incredible team of hardworking, dedicated people who genuinely care about each other and the success of the company," an employee said.

"Customer first" is the company's motto. "I've worked with many organizations, and I have never felt such a total commitment to customer service and employee recognition," another worker said. "The company goes out of its way to make employees feel needed and appreciated."

President and CEO Bruno Schurter said, "Salary cuts that had to be made during the toughest times were fully compensated later. We make it a point to recognize and reward employees at companywide meetings through our Extra Mile program. We also award quality-related performance bonuses, anniversary bonuses and offer tuition assistance and training."

Scott Technology Group Inc.TWO-TIME WINNER

ROHNERT PARK -- "We increased the level of communication so everyone knows how we're doing, the challenges we face and the successes we're experiencing, so everyone is on the same page," said David Scott, president and CEO of this copier sales and support, managed print and electronic document management company.

 "Our leaders are very open with information. We always know exactly where the company stands financially. Employees clearly see how our hard work directly affects the prosperity of the company. Management keeps us well-informed and -rewarded, often with early days and picnics," employees said.

The company launched a new awards program for nonsales employees who find savings, create revenue or go out of their way to care for customers. Winners get a certificate, public recognition and a coupon good for a paid half-day off.

"There is a real sense of belonging and teamwork," one said. "I feel the firm's greatest strength is total access to decision makers and information."Smith Dollar PCTHREE-TIME WINNER

SANTA ROSA -- Smith Dollar is a premier, woman-owned real estate and financial services law firm and "a dynamic company on the forefront of developing law," as one employee put it. "It's an exciting time to be part of this company."

"Smith Dollar successfully assembled a team of the most experienced attorneys and qualified staff in the North Bay, all of whom have helped us develop and rapidly grow our industry-leading practice," said President Rachel Dollar.

"We really came together through the growing pains and work on very interesting projects that keep everyone's energy up. We are expanding and doing well."

Managers create a positive and encouraging environment and make an effort to constantly improve employees' technical skills.

"Every firm claims to be a family company, but Smith Dollar delivers," an employee said. "We really do look out for each other and engage in regular social activities outside work. Management honestly cares about the staff and doesn't just play lip service to the idea of promoting a good workplace."Summit EngineeringSIX-TIME WINNER

SANTA ROSA -- An atmosphere of creativity and individual expression permeates Summit Engineering, combined with a positive sense of accomplishment, respect and support by management for the individual.

"Everyone cares deeply about their work," said President Greg Swaffar. "No one is perfect, but that doesn't stop us from giving our best to our clients, our projects and each other."

Summit pays the employee portion of dental and vision coverage for those with seven-plus years of service, and the employee portion and partial dependent premiums for medical insurance. It also pays all the premiums for employee life, AD&D and long-term disability insurance, and matches 401k employee contributions up to 3 percent.

"We laugh a lot, sometimes at ourselves, and enjoy monthly 'wine-down' gatherings, quarterly bowling, office Olympics, golf, kayaking and other events," one said. "Free breakfast is provided at the end of each work week, and we get every other Friday off."

"Ours is a friendly, warm and considerate environment that promotes personal and professional development," another said.TLCD ArchitectureSECOND-TIME WINNER

SANTA ROSA -- TLCD employees said the company provides "a relaxing and productive work environment and an inviting, warm culture."

"We have wonderful people with lots of great experience," one said. "Our culture encourages interaction and creativity. The work itself is something I'm very proud of."

TLCD places a high value on how the built environment affects people and impacts the community.

"We are a highly collaborative, progressive and forward-looking group of 38 professionals working together to conceive and deliver exciting, innovative and high profile architecture -- such as the Museum on the Square and a variety of educational, medical, civic and transportation-related projects," said senior principals Alan Butler and Don Tomasi. "These projects enrich the community and make TLCD a rewarding place to work. We also provide a robust personal development program for employees."

Staff members said, "Our firm also is committed to sustainability, excellence and to delivering high-quality design services that set TLCD apart. It is a place where all ideas are heard and valued."Valley Tire & BrakeSEVEN-TIME WINNER

SANTA ROSA -- Valley Tire & Brake is an example of the American Dream. John McGill Jr. built today's business from a one-man shop to a full-service center with 29 employees and more than 30 free loaner cars.

Today his son, President John McGill III, builds on "Big John's" simple formula: treat customers and employees as they want to be treated.

"I feel like I am an important part of the company," one employee said. "It's a fun, productive atmosphere that makes me love to come to work."

Mr. McGill said, "We invest in the highest quality people and making sure they have the tools and environment to be successful. Our employees put us head and shoulders above the competition. They make the difference."

Another employee said, "We work for customers, not just for a paycheck. Quality work is more important than anything else, when it comes to repeat business. I've been here 17 years and still see the same customers coming back."

Vantreo Insurance BrokerageFIVE-TIME WINNER

SANTA ROSA -- "The climate is open and accepting at Vantreo," an employee observed. "You can be yourself. Management wants everyone to succeed and expand his or her education. They develop a career plan for you and work with your unique abilities."

President Lynne Wallace said, "We are an insurance concierge that is uniquely defining and raising the bar for our employees. Vantreo is focused on increasing intellectual capital for all stakeholders."

Transparency, integrity and a drive to pursue excellence for its clients and staff are the hallmarks of the business.

"Constant change and improvement are part of our dynamic culture, as are out-of-the-box thinking, having a friendly and concerned attitude, and becoming awesome problem-solvers, while also having a sense of humor," employees said.

Workers are urged to get involved in the community. Today, employees support more than 40 nonprofit organizations.

"We are committed to excellence for each other as well as clients," one said. "Success is measured in the value we provide to friends, family, business partners and the community."Vasyli, LLCFIRST-TIME WINNER

SAN RAFAEL -- This friendly footwear company creates stylish shoes with podiatrist-designed orthotic technology under the Vasyli Medical, Orthaheel, Orthastyle and VAS brands, which are distributed across four continents and in more than 20 countries.

Employees who work here want to make a difference. "I believe in our products and the way they literally improve our customers' quality of life," one said. "In similar fashion, our company promotes a healthful lifestyle, openness, energy and a work--life balance. We have a great team and products that really help people."

C. Bruce Campbell, chief operating officer, said, "We've taken a number of steps to ensure a positive work environment. These steps include enhanced benefits, providing a comfortable, professional and fun-filled office setting and by hosting a number of company events and an annual awards dinner."

Employees said, "The management team leads by example and is very caring and personable. It filters down to us all. The culture can be described as positive, creative and hardworking, with a strong record of rewarding and appreciating team members."Woodruff-Sawyer & Co.FOUR-TIME WINNER

NOVATO -- The supportive environment and sense of purpose at Woodruff-Sawyer builds trust and respect for employees at this firm, which offers innovative insurance, employee benefits and risk management solutions.

"We are all owners of the company and take great pride in our work," an employee said. "Everyone is willing to pitch in to help. That doesn't happen without good leadership."

Jim Settles, senior vice president and practice leader for North Bay benefits, said, "The Novato office opened in 2005 with two people from San Rafael and has grown to a staff of 24. Since then, we've had only one retirement and one resignation. We hire great people, give them best-in-class resources and a team environment that promotes personal development, accountability and flexibility."

Another employee said, "My co-workers are wonderful to spend days with. No office drama equals a happy work life."

The staff is seen as caring, professional individuals with common goals of doing a great job and having a good time. Wright Contracting, Inc.FIRST-TIME WINNER

SANTA ROSA -- The recent escalation in construction activity has allowed Wright Contracting to rehire competent employees and hire new professionals.

"The longevity and dedication of our experienced staff is what has sustained this company for the past 59 years," said President Mark Davis. "Some have been with Wright for 15 to 20 years.

"As a family-owned company, Wright has established a solid foundation of integrity, superior service, quality work and dedication to detail in building over 800 landmark projects. We try to treat every client as if they are our only client."

An employee said, "We bring our personal touch and skill sets to each task at hand. Everyone strives to get the job done right the first time -- no shortcuts."

Wright is generous to employees and the community. Lunch is provided for the office staff every day, and there are golf tournaments and holiday dinners.

"The company encourages us to participate in charitable causes and has made substantial contributions to over 70 nonprofits," another worker said.