Features

The 2014 100 Best Companies to Work For: Best in Class Awards

A look at some of the best workplaces in Minnesota — and what makes them so beloved by employees

By Caitlin Hill
Friday, June 6, 2014

Note: This page is part of the 2014 100 Best Companies to Work For. Make sure to check out the full list of companies as well as the recipients of the Ultimate Office Awards.

People spend about one-third of their lives at work—so for a company looking to attract top talent, it helps to score high marks in employee satisfaction. In our third annual survey, we asked Minnesotans what's important to them when it comes to their work life, and what makes their company a great place to be. The 100 Best were chosen using data gathered from an anonymous employee satisfaction survey administered by an independent research group. Only the top Minnesota companies as judged in areas such as work environment, employee benefits, and employee happiness were selected for inclusion in the list.

Note: A small company is often defined as having fewer than 100 employees, a medium as 100 to 499, and a large as 500-plus. Given our focus on smaller companies, for this project we've defined small as up to 35, medium as 36 to 99, and large as 100-plus.

BEST IN CLASS: LARGE (100-PLUS EMPLOYEES)

Gold: Anytime Fitness
Anytime Fitness was founded in 2002 by Dave Mortensen and Chuck Runyon and opened its first club in Cambridge, Minn. Today, the fitness club chain encompasses more than 2,000 clubs worldwide. Currently headquartered in Hastings, Minn., Anytime Fitness is especially appreciated by employees for its emphasis on work-life balance and exceptional leadership. 

With a belief that a healthier, more motivated workforce is a happier, more productive workforce, Anytime Fitness encourages its employees to invest in their health. Employees remark that it’s “refreshing to work at a company that values work-life balance” and encourages employees to “focus on hobbies outside of work.” Employees say they are continually impressed by the company’s leaders, who foster a work environment based on respect, ownership, authenticity, accountability, and fun. (And high-fives and hugs from company leadership are not a rarity either.)

One of the most anticipated Anytime Fitness events is the annual conference, where franchisees, corporate staff, vendors, and members from across the globe can learn from experts in the field and connect with others in the Anytime Fitness family.

Silver: Room & Board
For more than 30 years, Room & Board has been helping people furnish their homes with the help of its modern furniture and classic designs. In addition to helping customers create beautiful spaces, the Minneapolis-based company has also created a top-notch workplace for its employees. 

Room & Board not only cares about its employees from a career standpoint, but also on a personal level. Employees say the company “understands that when you have healthy employees, it’s a lot more productive.” With that in mind, the company continues to offer new options for employees in the health and wellness realm.  Room & Board is also known for being transparent with its employees, and showing its appreciation for their commitment to the company on work anniversaries.

In addition to a competitive benefits package, employees also appreciate more unique company benefits such as an on-site, state-of-the-art fitness center and personal trainer, an on-staff certified financial planner, and access to personal travel planning.

Bronze: Sport Ngin
Founded in 2008, Minneapolis-based Sport Ngin provides web software and mobile applications for youth, amateur, and professional sports. With its growth in recent years, Sport Ngin employees remain passionate about their jobs and the company’s direction, with that passion represented “in the world-class technology products [they] develop, sell, and service every day.”

In addition to its competitive pay and benefits, employees appreciate the software company’s open, entrepreneurial culture and creative environment. Co-founders Justin Kaufenberg and Carson Kipfer have helped cultivate a positive company culture through setting up team-building events, keeping the lines of communication open with employees, and ultimately creating an environment that encourages people to do their best work. “The founders are present and active within all aspects of the company, including leading our weekly ‘Donut Thursday’ staff meeting and keep the staff up-to-speed on all areas of our business,” one employee noted.

Employees also enjoy a number of office perks during the workweeksuch as pool and ping pong tables, free beer on Fridays, and a rooftop deck.

BEST IN CLASS: MIDSIZE (36 TO 99 EMPLOYEES)

Gold: Intertech
As the demands of technology continue to increase, Eagan-based Intertech continues to cultivate a strong company culture that employees are proud to be a part of. Since its inception in 1991, Intertech has grown to become the largest combined software developer training and consulting firm in Minnesota.

Exceptional benefits such as a three-month paid sabbatical for every seven years of service, a flexible work culture that allows a majority of employees to work from home one or more day a week, and a signing bonus for home office-related expenses are all part of why Intertech employees enjoy working there.

However, it’s the positive culture, celebrating of mutual successes, and opportunities for growth that continue to impress employees across the company. “The company culture encourages learning, flexibility, and empowers its employees to work autonomously,” noted one. The transparency of management is also highly valued at Intertech, as company leaders communicate what’s happening through weekly newsletters and monthly meetings.

Silver: Power Objects
For Minneapolis-based technology firm Power Objects, living by its company values is something that is not only important to leadership, but also something that’s appreciated by employees. In fact, employees say it’s apparent that the company makes decisions based on its core values, which include: think team, love what you do, live the technology, do the right thing, and add value.

With a mission to leverage technology and help clients solve business problems through Microsoft Dynamics CRM solutions, the company has garnered a group of passionate employees. “[Power Objects] has created a workplace where people aspire to bring success to the organization,” noted one employee. The company also assumes a flat organization hierarchy, giving employees daily access to senior leadership.

“Part of what makes Power Objects such a great place to work is the strong team-oriented culture,” said one employee.

Additionally, employees appreciate other benefits, such as the free “get to know somebody” lunches, treadmill desks, and the option to bring their dogs to work. The technology company also boasts a competitive benefits package with a 401K match, bonuses, and fully paid health insurance premiums for employees.

Bronze: Orion Associates
Golden Valley-based Orion Associates is a management services firm that provides financial, human resources, and training services. Committed to creating a healthy, sustainable workplace for its employees and a culture of volunteerism, the company’s average employee has worked there for more than eight years.

Employees note that this longevity is in part because of the company’s desire for continual improvement. “Orion Associates continually strives to be the best that it can be for its employees,” said one employee. One way the company does this is through creating an encouraging atmosphere that values growth and teamwork.

Orion Associates also places a high value on volunteerism and giving back to the community and the world. It encourages employees to take part in giving back through their own volunteer activities, making it easier with flexible schedules, paid time off, and company recognition of volunteer activities.

“Our company really recognizes its employees for good work, length of service, and community service,” noted one employee.

BEST IN CLASS: SMALL (UP TO 35 EMPLOYEES)

Gold: Skywater Search Partners
Founded in 2013, executive search firm Skywater Search Partners in Minnesota has already garnered a reputation as a great place to work among its employees.

Employees appreciate the work-life balance, which is grown from a culture that encourages people to “work hard, play hard, and give back.” Additionally, employees say everyone in the company from the top to the bottom cares about their fellow co-workers both personally and professionally, contributing to the company’s family-style atmosphere.

Company owners are known for being “in the trenches with us every day, working a full desk while continually leading our company to improve and grow in the local market,” employees say. Further, the continual engagement with company leadership helps employees feel comfortable sharing information and asking questions. 

Employees also enjoy going to events and activities together, including things like employee dinners, company softball team games, trips out on Lake Minnetonka, and 10-person PIG basketball games played daily in the office.

“We really enjoy being around each other, and the company fosters an environment where everyone can have success,” noted one employee.

Silver: Stoneridge Software
Founded in 2012, technology company Stoneridge Software in Minneapolis helps clients achieve efficiency through Microsoft Dynamics products. In its two years in operation, the company has developed a collaborative work environment where employees are happy to help each other out. Employees say that company leadership has been helpful in fostering this environment with their open approach, and by “including the entire organization in shaping and defining company values.”

With many employees working remotely, the leaders at Stoneridge Software have implemented a communication structure to make sure all employees are kept up to date. They do this through weekly conference calls on general company business, as well as other standing calls on specific topics, which are led by different employees. Quarterly meetings also bring all employees together in one location to build camaraderie and provide an opportunity to work on team-building skills.

“Stoneridge Software is a young company, but it is off to a great start in establishing a corporate culture where people care about each other, are happy to work, and want to stay,” employees say.

Bronze: aimClear
Online marketing agency aimClear may be small, but it’s making a big impact on the world of digital marketing with its expertise in integrated strategies, social and search demographic targeting, and message testing. Founded by Marty Weintraub in 2005, the company now has offices in Duluth and St. Paul.

Employees love the aimClear workspace, and appreciate daily in-house training opportunities. aimClear also boasts a number of office perks such as monthly fine wine tastings, a Food Network-caliber gourmet kitchen, fitness classes, and even a washer and dryer so employees can do their laundry at work. The company also stocks the kitchen with food so employees don’t have to worry about packing breakfast and lunch during the work-week, as well as hosts family-style meals often.

Employees’ opinions are also widely valued. So much so that hiring new employees is a collaborative effort to make sure that the candidate fits the company culture. Employees also say they appreciate the ability “to affect change within the company.” 

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