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|Articles - March 2010|
|Thursday, February 25, 2010|
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There were nearly 20,000 employees from 303 companies who participated in our 17th annual 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon survey. It might not have been the best year for business, with a bad economy hanging on, but you wouldn’t know it by how our 2010 winners treated their employees. What makes a great place to work? Robust health care plans were important to being a Best Company. This group offers substantial premium offsets and a surprisingly high number of alternative care and wellness plans. It’s also about inspired leadership, collaboration and caring, along with a healthy dose of fun. Congratulations to the class of 2010!
STORY BY BEN JACKLET // PHOTOS BY LEAH NASH
It’s challenging enough to keep employees happy and workplace morale high during the best of times. But what about in the worst of times? How do companies manage to remain great places to work in the worst economy since the Great Depression?
When Oregon Business sent out its 17th annual workplace satisfaction surveys last fall, markets were beginning to recover but job losses and benefit cuts were still rampant. Many of the state’s top companies had endured two terrible years of cutbacks and downsizing. Yet nearly 20,000 employees responded to the survey, and while overall scores were down, largely because of shrinking benefits packages, satisfaction levels were surprisingly high for the companies that made our 2010 list of the best companies to work for in Oregon.
How did they do it?
Office manager Serene Brown, who has worked at Stamp-Connection for five years, says there is “no comparison” between her current job and past ones, including a stint at a different rubber stamp maker that failed during the last recession. “These other companies I worked for weren’t structured in a way to allow employees to succeed,” she says. “The benefits went to the owner first and rarely to the employees, and people resented it. If we don’t take care of the employees, they won’t take care of our customers.”
In the third room back, where the most intense manufacturing is done, three-year employee Kae Saechao begins by saying he considers his workplace “a pretty chill place.” Pressed for specifics, he shrugs shyly and says, “This company turned my life around.”
Stamp-Connection has a long relationship with Alpha High School, an alternative high school in Gresham for troubled teenagers. Saechao is one of several Alpha graduates who have earned a full-time job at Stamp-Connection through that program. He says he appreciates the opportunity to move beyond the poor choices of his past and prove himself as a reliable employee. He also appreciates the fact that when his car broke down recently his boss paid to get it repaired.
With just $1.25 million in annual gross revenues, Stamp-Connection is one of the smallest companies to make the 100 Best. The company won points for offering 100% percent paid health care for families of employees and paid maternity and paternity leave. But the category that vaulted Stamp-Connection to No. 3 on the list of Best Small Companies was decision-making and trust.
The 37-year-old Clark, a stocky, ebullient man dressed in suspenders and a lavender tie, is a matter-of-fact guy, straight to the point, and he makes no attempt to conceal his pride in the tidy little business he has built from scratch. Clark started Stamp-Connection in the back of his apartment at age 28 and moved into a Gresham storefront in 2001 after getting a bank loan for $18,000. The first time the company cleared $1 million he threw a big party that featured 125 people singing a rousing version of Yellow Submarine.
Clark’s background in accounting taught him the importance of best business practices and attention to detail. A stint at a local stamp company that has since failed offered him plenty of examples of how not to do things.
“The prevailing attitude at that company was that employees are a problem that needs to be dealt with,” Clark recalls. “I view our employees as our No. 1 asset … They’re the ones talking to the customers, manufacturing the stamps, putting pride into their work. We need to make sure they’re well taken care of.”
What better way to take care of the team than to boost pay by 6% during a recession?
When business slowed in 2009, Clark did not cut anyone’s pay or benefits. All workers received their usual 3% cost-of-living increases in the spring and those who qualified also got 3% performance-based raises in the fall. The only compensation package that got cut last year was Clark’s.
Caring for critically injured babies is intense work, and intensely well compensated. Northwest Newborn’s neonatal intensive care units feature state-of-the-art equipment for handling patients with complex problems, including one of the few ECMO lung machines for infants in the Northwest. The group’s North Portland administrative offices are stylish and spacious, with large offices for most employees and a posh conference room.
Even in the worst of recessions no one is likely to recommend cutting back on emergency care for prematurely born babies and infants with life-threatening medical complications. Neonatologists earn on average more than $200,000 per year, and top performers are recruited aggressively. The physicians at Northwest Newborn have ample opportunities to move on to different practices elsewhere. Yet turnover is practically non-existent, say doctors and administrators.
“I can’t even imagine trying to dig my CV out to try to find another job,” says chief medical officer Dr. Craig Novack. “I don’t even know where my CV is.”
The same sense of satisfaction — and loyalty — appears to prevail among Northwest Newborn’s administrative team. The 12 admin employees who work under chief financial officer Cheryl Hughes Gaulke offer a cascade of reasons why they love their work: pride in the mission, comprehensive benefits, mutual respect between physicians and administrators, integrity, a great office space, and extreme flexibility. Four-day work weeks are the rule rather than the exception for full-time administrative employees. Support and praise for Gaulke as a team leader is unanimous.
“I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else,” says Kathy Axelrod, a 13-year employee.
Administrative assistant LaNita Bunch, who had to leave her job at Northwest Newborn for four years to live and work in Kansas City, says she felt fortunate to get hired back upon her return to Portland. Her interim position was “just a job,” she says. “You can’t compare it in any way to what we have here.”
Northwest Newborn is a frequent 100 Best winner, and the super-energetic Gaulke and her management team take the findings from the annual surveys seriously. It’s clear from just a few interactions with Gaulke that she does not do things halfway. Ask to speak with a few employees and you will find yourself interviewing a dozen at once. Ask to speak to one of the physicians and you’ll find three interviews scheduled back-to-back with doctors who specialize in saving the lives of infants. That intense attention to specifics from Gaulke and her colleagues is reflected in Northwest Newborn’s consistently high scores across the board in the 100 Best surveys, especially in the benefits category.
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Wednesday, April 01, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
Leaders in Oregon's ag sector gathered this morning in Portland’s Coopers Hall winery/taproom to discuss the role of the region as an export gateway, impediments to exporting products and solutions to containerized shipping challenges.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY KIM MOORE
As momentum grows at the state level to introduce far-reaching environmental regulations, such as carbon pricing and the Clean Fuels Program, Oregon employers continue to go the extra mile to create green workplaces for their employees.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
BY KIM MOORE
A conversation with Gene Pelham, CEO of Rogue Credit Union.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY ANNIE ELLISON
Portland tech veteran Ben Berry is leaving his post as Portland’s chief technology officer for a full-time role producing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) aimed at first responders and the military. Berry’s AirShip Technologies Group is poised to be on the ground floor of an industry that will supply drones to as many as 100,000 police, fire and emergency agencies nationwide. He reveals the plan for takeoff.
Thursday, April 23, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
The entrepreneurial spirit was alive and well at the Oregon Angel showcase, an annual event for angel investors and early stage entrepreneurs.
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
Mohan Nair channels a visionary.
Thursday, April 23, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
On April 1 I attended a forum at the University of Portland on the sharing economy. The event featured panelists from Lyft and Airbnb, as well as Portland Mayor Charlie Hales. Asked about the impact of tech-driven sharing economy services. Hales said the new business models are reshaping the landscape. “But,” he added, “I don’t pretend to understand how a lot of this [technology] works.”
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Tonkon Torp helps seed sustainability at Gunderson.
Oregon-based Environments helps companies create inspired workspaces. “Simply put, we help companies future-proof their workspaces,” says Chris Corrado, president. Since 1988,Environments has witnessed firsthand the changing landscape of business. Native Portlander and Environments founder Corrado says, “We help our clients navigate the complex realities of the workplace today and plan for their future in a very mindful, strategic way. We think of ourselves as their partners in the process.”
One hundred years ago, the Willamette River might easily have been mistaken for a sewer. Unchecked industrial activity and decades of pollution made it unrecognizable compared to the clean river that now flows north for 187 miles from Eugene through the center of Portland.
Sussman Shank LLP served as lead counsel for both the sale of 9 assisted living, memory care, and independent living campuses in Washington, Oregon, and California to a publicly-traded REIT, and the acquisition of 11 single-tenant net lease properties. This transaction was unique because it included both the sale of licensed senior housing facilities and a complicated 1031 tax deferred exchange transaction.
The Oregon Entrepreneurs Network (OEN) will be presenting its third annual Entrepreneurial Summit on Friday, June 5 at Castaway in Portland, Oregon.
On June 13th Mayor Charlie Hales will attend nonprofit organization Dream Change’s inaugural Love Summit and will introduce one of its keynote speakers, Dan Wieden of Wieden+Kennedy advertising agency.