The recipe for a Best Place to Work can sometimes be simple. Start with a tight-knit work force that does whatever it can to help one another. Combine it with thoughtful leadership that cultivates a family environment and never reaches for the less-than-perfect candidate. You can find all those ingredients for workplace satisfaction at Concepts & Associates (asi/166235).
Sonya Holcomb, an accounting manager who has been with the company four years, has seen the proof in her co-workers. “They are walking in the door happy,” she says during a celebratory luncheon at the distributor’s Birmingham, Alabama-based office, “and when they leave, they are just as happy.”
Tim and Lynne Hennessy have found success with national clientele by never once missing an order deadline in their 31 years of business. On the other hand, building a cohesive team has no deadline. Lynne readily admits she will take six months to find the right candidate rather than simply filling a need. A strong applicant will go through several rounds of interviews with the majority of the company to make sure she is the right fit. (And it is usually a she – the 14 employees who work in Birmingham are mostly women.) “When I hire someone,” says Lynne, who oversees operations, “I feel like I am adopting a child.”
Family atmosphere is more than just a buzzword. The Hennessys have brought two of their four sons into the business – oldest brother Tim Jr. and Michael, the youngest. The owners are incredibly sensitive to the work/life balance of their employees. “Their needs are our needs,” says Tim Sr., the president who oversees sales. “That’s what’s it’s all about, helping people when they have a need.” It’s something the rest of the company takes to heart. Employees won’t leave until they’ve checked with others to see if they can help with anything. The company will pitch in with packing and shipping during crunch periods and tight deadlines. “If someone yells help, everyone comes running,” says Kathy Herndon, who has been with the company seven years as a senior client relations manager.
The investment in employees ranges from twice-monthly meetings where no question is off-limits to constant surprise celebrations for birthdays, anniversaries or just because. Tim and Lynne admit that Concepts thrives because of good people – earnest, hard-working, ego-less personalities who rally around each other. “Every company says they are a team,” says Lynne. “We really are a team.”