Ingram’s 2024 Best Companies To Work For


Banks, construction companies and suppliers, medical centers, bioanalytic companies, IT specialists and animal pharmaceuticals, or firms specializing in law, energy or bioanalytics—if you tried, you’d have a hard time populating a full roster of companies that reflect business diversity in the Kansas City region. But those enterprises, and others, while diverse in mission are connected by their embrace of effective workplace design, making them among the Best Companies to Work For in this region.

Our honorees for 2024 again show that size does not matter in an environment where talent is tough to come by, and tougher to keep. From industry-leading compensation packages to sweeping benefit plans for insurance; from support tools to see an employee to retirement and securely past that threshold, from leadership-training programs to in-house universities brimming with educational materials for the entire staff; from civic engagement and corporate philanthropy that strengthens the bonds between business and community, each of these employers has demonstrated a commitment to going well beyond the bare minimum in their bid to secure the brightest minds and most skilled employees. And then to keep them in the fold once they’re on board. 

Since its inception in 2008, Ingram’s Best Companies to Work For program has recognized nearly 150 separate companies—testimony to the quality of leadership that defines the business community here, and to the skills of those executives tasked with creating workplaces designed with success in mind. The company’s, and that of its employees.

This year, we spotlight six of them in the large-company category and four each from the mid-size and small-business ranks. Our hope is that, by their example, they inspire in all employers a burning desire to claim equivalent status.

Large Companies:

With 645 full-time employees—454 of them in the Kansas City area—Academy Bank doesn’t challenge the largest of the players in our large company category in terms of employee head counts. But what it’s doing with and for those employees makes it stand out as an employer. The business case for that is a simple one: engaged bankers and their support staff are the building blocks in a business whose success is grounded in the quality of its client relationships. “Our philosophy revolves around one simple principle: If it’s important to our clients, it’s important to us,” says Teresa Ascensio, chief administrative officer. “We believe that our clients’ financial needs and goals are more than just transactions and accounts; it’s about building meaningful relationships and making a positive impact in their lives through bankers who love what they do.” The bank takes a back seat to no employer with the sweeping range of insurance benefits it offers. Medical, dental, vision, disability and AD&D plans cover physical needs; but additional well-being tools include SmartShopper access, providing cash rewards on standard health procedures; free use of Cariloop’s expertise and advocacy for adoption, child care, and elder care; and BlueKC’s Mindful program of free mental-health resources; and a wellness program with free resources for managing chronic conditions, education on physical and mental health, and rewards for healthy behaviors. Employees enjoy health savings accounts, flexible spending accounts and dependent-care FSAs. The employee-assistance program, meanwhile, can address outside stress factors for staff and families. To support associates’ overall financial well-being, the bank provides a company match to its 401(k) retirement program, and for associates, the Rewards Checking Accounts that come as a paid perk yield discounts on everyday purchases, cell phone protection, and credit/dark Web monitoring. The workspace for corporate employees is still factory fresh, with sit-to-stand desks, private rooms for rest and nursing mothers, a café with TVs and upgraded drink options, and a lounge with TVs and games. “Our investment in our associates is reflected in our strong financial outlook,” Ascensio says. For high performers, leadership development entails a one-year program for high-performers that includes access to senior officers’ insights and expertise, and a group community-outreach project. The HR team also conducts management-training sessions on giving feedback, coaching and delegation, helping new or developing managers learn and practice effective management skills. And the bank encourages associates to support the communities it serves with a robust giving program, paid volunteer hours for every associate, and support for non-profit board leadership.

For the best employers, table stakes in talent-attraction are benefits like a 401(k) retirement plan with company match, paid time off and, in rarer cases, employee stock ownership. But how many companies do you know off-hand that make those perks available to part-time staff? Well, Ferrellgas is one. And, being in the energy niche that it is, there’s an additional benefit you probably won’t find at many other places—discounts on propane not just for employees and their families, but for friends. More than 4,000 employees, roughly 480 of whom are based in this region, “have always been the heartbeat of Ferrellgas, which was founded nearly a century ago as a family-owned business in a small town,” says spokesman Scott Brockelmeyer. “We are an entrepreneurial company at heart, empowering employees to exchange ideas, solutions, and explorations regardless of level or department. We are a data-driven company, and never stop seeking opportunities for improvement and encourage our employees to challenge practices no longer fitting in our constantly evolving world.” A key to constructing that space is work-life balance, he says. “We work cooperatively with our employees to strike a balance, knowing the best customer support begins with well-rounded individuals who are able to achieve and enjoy every part of their life.” The list of company practices to build that staff is deep and impressive: start with employee ownership, which begins after a year on the job through the ESOP. Then start layering on a compensation plan that also includes performance incentives and industry-leading health and well-being plans that include medical, dental, vision, and prescription options for employees and eligible dependents, as well as flexible-spending and health savings accounts that address cost-management. Going further, the employee assistance program with support, guidance, and resources helps strike that work/homelife balance and a wellness credit provides additional money paid to assist with costs of coverage. For peace of mind, there are paid plans for life insurance (with spouse and child life add-ons), short term and long-term disability, a wellness program combined with healthy-living competitions and events. Additional financial security comes from a 401(k) retirement plan with maximum company match equivalent to 4 percent of annual salary (100 percent vested), a tuition-reimbursement program, and select-position signing bonuses. Time-off plans include a healthy eight-hour accrual per month for new employees, paid holidays, paid parental leave, and various positions still qualify for remote working. “Continued education for our employees is a priority with several formats that fit unique needs,” Brockelmeyer says. The company also has monthly live webinars with hundreds of online classes.

We’ve all heard the guidance that says if you take care of the fundamentals, the success will take care of itself. Can there be a better example of that than with the Kansas City region’s newest entrant into the billion-dollar revenue club? Olathe-based DH Pace charted that course with two articles of corporate faith: Living Our Values and Leading by Example. Those, say marketing manager Allison Schach, represent a commitment “to consistently making a meaningful difference in the communities we serve, through a strategy that incorporates professional employees, broad product offerings, customized solutions, reliable service and life-cycle building management.” The private, family-owned company started out as a single location just shy of a century ago, and now has more than 55 offices across the nation. Though a century old, DH Pace really began flying over the past decade, with sales growth of 303 percent. How? By remaining true to its RISE values: Respect, Integrity, Service, Excellence. The Respect piece starts at home, with more than 3,400 employees (over 800 in the Kansas City area), rewarding good work with competitive pay, promoting from within and an intentional approach to hiring grounded in a broad diversity of employees—every age, gender, and background. Smart-building technologies have added to training demands, and DH Pace responds with a state-of-the-art Learning Management System, giving employees training resources that include interactive eLearning content, self-paced videos, articles and handouts, quizzes, and other materials. The learning opportunities are extensive: a catalog with 1,280 courses related to products, professional skills, software and safety. Annual awards banquets, Schach says, take place at each location to celebrate employee achievement, and each division has activity teams—Team Impact—to organize events and activities that focus on community service, health and wellness, employee recognition and team building. “These teams support their local communities and engage employees in activities that support a positive work environment,” she says, and the activities could be family outings, team-building events, employee breakfasts—it’s a long and creative list. It starts with a competitive benefit package: paid time off based on years of service, paid holidays and two paid floating holidays; a 401(k) plan with access to financial advisers; company-paid AD&D and life insurance for employees and their spouses and children, company-paid short-term and long-term disability; supplemental life, supplemental critical illness, and supplemental accident insurance plans; the options for FSA, HSA, or dependent care FSA; and two medical plan options, plus dental and vision.

As big employers go in this region, not many come bigger than HCA Midwest Health—with more than 10,000 full-time employees and 4,000 more part-time. And with that scale comes the ability to design a market-leading workplace. That small army provides care to more patients than any other health system in the region, says spokeswoman Christine Hamele, “and you don’t become a patient’s hospital of choice without also being our colleagues’ employer of choice.” One glittering point-of-pride metric is the company’s turnover rates for registered nurses, a vital stat that speaks to ability to deliver quality, consistent care: just 14.5 percent last year, significantly less than the 22.5 percent national average. That figure, Hamele says, was 19 percent reduction from 2022. At the same time, first-year RN turnover fell 21 percent. Innovation is embedded in development and training efforts, as seen with the new Nursing Leadership Certificate Program, customized for charge nurses to develop their leadership skills for them to thrive as leaders. Last year, 90 nurses completed the program, and more than half have already received new career opportunities, Hamele says. In addition, the HCA Healthcare Leadership Institute offers broad programming to build strategic and operational capabilities, while allowing leaders to network with colleagues. And last year, it provided more than $1.2 million in tuition and student-loan assistance to 511 employees. Compensation is a powerful draw; last year, roughly 12,000 FTEs averaged nearly $82,000 in salary and benefits. There’s also a 401(k) plan with a 100 percent company match on colleagues’ contributions up to—are you ready for this?—a whopping 9 percent of pay, based on years of service. Hamele gets no argument in calling it “one of the most generous plans offered by any health-care company nationally.” And during the pandemic, when hundreds of hospitals and health-care systems were laid off or furloughed staff, HCA introduced a novel program that helped provide paychecks to those unable to work as government mandates halted many elective procedures. Company facilities participate in the Hope Fund, an employee-sponsored foundation that supports colleagues who have suffered financial loss due to catastrophic events, illnesses or accidents, and in the most recent year, it distributed almost $300,000 to support nearly 100 local colleagues. Additional assistance is provided for continuing education outside the nursing ranks, as well. In addition to taking care of its own, HCA Midwest Health has a philanthropic footprint of nearly $640,000 donated to 44 different area non-profits. It also matches employee personal giving up to $1,000 a year each, resulting in another $144,000 in local charitable giving to 170 different organizations.

Along with surgeons and oil-rig roustabouts, lawyers can face some of the most grueling hours in business today. So to get the best—and retain them—executives at top-tier firms know they can’t scrimp on the pay, benefits, workplace design, or even the non-legal talent that supports litigation and transaction specialists. So it goes with Husch Blackwell, the Plaza-area law firm with more than 2,000 employees (about 350 in this area), working at more than 20 offices nationwide. Here, culture dovetails with compensation to drive growth at a firm solidly in the ranks of the AMLaw 100, the nation’s biggest firms. Husch, says firm spokesman Mike Lavieri, offers extensive training, mentorship, and resources to support the professional development of attorneys and staff, but more than that, focused initiatives that support overall well-being. “We understand the importance of work-life balance and provide flexible arrangements that allow us to achieve a harmonious integration of our personal and professional lives,” Lavieri says. Husch Blackwell is home to the industry’s largest virtual office, The Link, which is home to 600 lawyers and staff—additional evidence, he says, that “our technology investments ensure that everyone feels connected, no matter where they are working.” Though distributed across the nation and hybrid in composition, the work force is successful “because collaboration is at the heart of our work environment, as we encourage teamwork and cooperation across business units, departments, and offices,” he says. Compensation structures speak volumes about what makes the profession so competitive: Last year, entry-level lawyers at the firm started between $130,000 and $200,000, based on the market—$170,000 in low-cost Kansas City. The deep benefits roster includes company-matched 401(k)/IRA retirement plan contributions, bar association fees, and home-tech tools and furniture for remote work. Employee health, including domestic partners, is safeguarded with insurance plans for medical, dental, vision and long-term care, and employees can manage the costs of those with health-savings and flexible spending accounts. There’s also life, disability (long- and short-term) and AD&D insurance, and health-club membership fees to promote well-being. In addition to a strong employee-assistance program, the time-off policies cover family and dependent care, parental and sick leave, along with vacation time. Relocation, transportation and parking costs are also part of the plan. The firm’s Dress for Your Day policy provides the flexibility to dress according to individual schedules, and yes, jeans day can even be applied in cases of client meetings when circumstances permit.

Top-of-the-line employers take a good idea, embrace it—then go one better. So it is with Topeka’s Security Benefit, the national powerhouse in retirement services. Start with something random—say, helping working families manage the chore of child care. Security Benefit provides a subsidized on-site child-care facility. How about having a café on the premises? Yes, it has that, too—plus free Starbucks coffee. On a larger scale, consider a 401(k) retirement plan—with profit-sharing wrapped around that. Add it all up, and you have a dynamic workplace for 1,200 Topeka-area employees and 2,000 overall. A wide variety of employee benefits starts with comprehensive health, wellness, and financial benefits—including a robust paid time off structure and 13 weeks of paid parental leave. Security Benefit also offers a hybrid working environment, tuition reimbursement, industry training, and modern campuses, in addition to retirement-focused programs, child care, and caffeine infusions. It is, says spokesman Michael Castino, “a company where our employees can grow their skills and give back to the community while engaging in meaningful work that will help Americans from coast to coast with their retirement needs.” As one might expect from a specialist in retirement services, there’s a 401(k) open to employees upon hire, with a company match of 100 percent on the first 5 percent of eligible earnings contributed. Employees are also immediately eligible for the discretionary profit-sharing contribution. Both plans vest 50 percent after one year of service and 100 percent after two years of service. Health insurance plans include medical and prescription coverage, supported by a health savings account option, and comprehensive dental and vision plans. Employee mental health is supported not just with behavioral health services within the medical plan coverages but through a partnership with Modern Health that provides access to digital courses and meditations, plus one-on-one sessions with a coach or therapist. The company engages with Wellthy, offering family support services to assist caregivers with managing care plans and advocating for loved ones. Additional confidential guidance and counseling services are available through the company’s employee assistance program. Employer-paid basic term life insurance tops a suite of other risk-management tools that include basic AD&D coverage with a supplemental option, optional term, and dependent life, and spousal-optional term life, in addition to short-term and long-term disability coverage. Tuition reimbursement for full-time employees comes to a whopping $5,250 per calendar year for passing grades of A or B in classes (75 percent of that for a C-grade). To promote the collaborative culture it prizes, the company sponsors employee engagement activities ranging from tailgate luncheons to a competitive charity cooking challenge to turkey bowling and seasonal celebrations.

Mid-Size Companies:

For anyone punching a timeclock, a company’s move to employee ownership is the closest thing you can come to a venture capitalist’s successful exit from an investment. All the more impressive, then, when an employer goes from start-up to ESOP in a span of less than 14 years. That was the case in 2023 at Centric, where marketing director Kate Ross touts the “monumental shift” in becoming a 100 percent employee-owned late last year. “This landmark decision means that as the company’s value grows, so does each employee’s financial benefit,” she says. “We believe that this employee-ownership model fosters a greater sense of pride, ownership, and alignment with company goals among our team members.” At the core of everything this construction company does, Ross says, is “our commitment to creating a supportive and enriching work environment for our employees.” That starts with competitive pay and benefits, at levels needed to attract and retain top talent. The benchmarked salary structure is supplemented with performance bonuses, spot bonuses, flexible paid time off, a 30-day sabbatical, paid holidays, maternal and paternal leave, health-care coverage, 529 college savings plan contributions, and 401(k) benefits with a company match. “We also offer health incentives, wellness reimbursement, mental-health resources, and a birthday dinner allowance to ensure the well-being of our employees,” Ross says. To promote staff development, Centric offers extensive job-site, performance, management, and life-skills training on a monthly and quarterly basis. “By providing ongoing opportunities for learning and growth, we empower our associates to reach their full potential and excel in their careers,” she says. And, like other major contractors in the region, community involvement is high on the list of organizational imperatives. “Our commitment to giving back extends beyond our workplace walls,” Ross says. “Through our Give-A-Day initiative, every Centric associate is encouraged to spend a day (paid) giving back to their community through volunteer efforts. That means we are committing over 1,300 paid hours for our associates to volunteer at various charitable organizations and community initiatives.” That, she says, strengthens communities and reinforces company values of compassion and service. Anyone signing on with Centric would do well to embrace innovation and urgency: It was one of the first engaged to build the initial Downtown streetcar line, and it built the region’s first co-working space. You can find its finished products as office, industrial, multifamily and health-care facilities, and it does residential construction, as well. “Centric,” Ross says, “is dedicated to providing our employees with a rewarding and fulfilling work experience.”

With a staff of just 145, this full-service design firm covers a wide swath of this Midwest, serving clients nationwide from its of-fices in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Oregon, and South Carolina. And when it says “full service,” it’s not boasting: In addition to building architecture, it specializes in landscape architecture design, interior design, planning, and mechanical, electrical, structural, and civil engineering, as well as commissioning, community and stakeholder engagement, construction administration, digital experience design, energy modeling, grant assistance, laboratory planning, land development, and sustainable design. That’s a lot of ground to cover for a staff of that size. Getting it done starts with a horizontal organizational structure that ensures board-level staff are accessible to everyone, from long-tenured employees to new interns, says Kristen Ornduff, marketing coordinator. “This allows for sharing of knowledge and experience, which is critical for career growth and advancement. Each project is a collaborative effort that engages employees with varying experience. Training and development are also key success factors, and the firm has mustered four internal task forces dedicated to employee training, development, and wellness, as well as community service. In addition to competitive salaries, Clark & Enersen offers profit-sharing opportunities that allow employees to directly benefit from the success of the firm. “We also offer medical insurance coverage, matching 401(k) plans up to 4 percent (of an individual’s annual compensation), and flexible spending accounts,” Ornduff says. Those are fairly boilerplate offerings in the design world, but Clark & Enersen adds in some unique benefits, including a flexible work week based on a core hours policy—mandatory availability 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 9 a.m.-noon on Fridays—with the flexibility to start or end your day as appropriate to achieve full- or part-time status. It also provides free access to healthy snacks and drinks, and frequent social opportunities. Those factors help produce a culture of teamwork and sense of belonging, Ornduff says. “Our employees can collaborate in person—or virtually—on impactful, diverse project types,” she says. “We also foster an open work environment that reflects our purposefully-driven, horizontal organizational structure. While there are clear lines of coordination, everyone from new hires to board members has a seat at the table to help guide the future of the firm.” Leadership development looks outward as well as inward; Kansas City employees have opportunities to participate in the Greater KC Chamber’s Centurions program, while in-house, a series of courses informs employees about leadership styles, work-life balance, problem solving, communication, project manager, training, and specific disciplines within the firm. 

Last year, KCAS Bio made a concerted effort to hear what the staff of nearly 350 felt about their workplace. This year, the Olathe-based contract-research organization is taking action on that guidance. “Throughout 2023, we continued to promote KCAS University, offering invaluable support for individuals seeking career growth through a variety of learning and development opportunities,” said Erin Page, the firm’s talent and brand manager. “More than 60 percent of our employees actively engaged in one or more of our enriching development programs.” The introduction of mentoring circles this year, she says, empowers every team member to both learn from others and share their own insights and knowledge. A primary focus of the organizational review was on the impact of benefit and wellness programs. “Introducing childcare, elder care, and pet-care benefits in late 2022 has proven to be a significant asset,” Page says, “with employees utilizing these services for over 1,300 hours in 2023. This not only boosts their productivity at work but also ensures that their loved ones are well-cared for.” Those are just a few of the adjustments at a life-sciences firm that punches well above its weight with its workplace design. Health care, of course, is a priority addressed with comprehensive medical, dental and vision plans, with options for disability and life insurance. Going beyond insurance, KCAS Bio addresses physical needs, comfort and well-being with standing desks available, a safety committee, nursing room, on-site mammograms, programs for cancer support and telemedicine—even chiropractic care. It extends that concern into quality-of-life with on-site healthy cooking demos, free massages, an outdoor commons and walking/biking path, and on-site flu shots. Elevating mental well-being paid vacation and holidays, plus two paid personal days, in addition to sick time. KCAS Bio also helps de-stress staff with flexible work schedules, access to legal advice, lifestyle programs, stress-management classes and even a puppy-snuggle day. The recent expansion created a roomy work space of more than 100,000 square feet, and the company has adult and child care benefits, access to 24-hour counseling by phone or text, a PTO Exchange, new and adoptive parent leave, and monthly mental health tips and toolkits. It also offers paid time off to volunteer, along with tutoring services. Financial health is addressed with personal-finance classes, performance bonuses, annual merit increases and a 401(k) retirement plan through which the company matches employee contributions up to 4 percent of annual compensation. Employees are able to purchase equity shares, and those managing the costs of educating their families have dependents’ scholarship availability. Employees are encouraged to volunteer on company time on behalf of their favored charities, and the company’s Giving Tuesday event yields donations to area non-profit organizations. 

Across three generations going back more than 100 years, Price Brothers has staked its residential and commercial development reputation on four attributes: Impact, collaboration, excellence and integrity. It’s hard to argue with the first one on that list: The firm’s impact is immediately visible in any of the 46 communities where it has built more than 11,550 apartment homes and north of 3 million square feet of commercial footage. That’s not a bad track record for a company that started with a single home built and sold by its immigrant founder, Isaac Price, in 1922. For the past decade, Price Brothers has poured enormous energy into development of BluHawk, the south Johnson County multipurpose development that incorporates hospitality venues as well as hospital rooms, retail operations, a 420,000-square foot multipurpose sports and event arena opening this fall and much more. It’s among the biggest development projects ever undertaken in a county defined by development in the post-World War II era. For its 375 employees, says community engagement manager Deena Gage, the attraction starts with comprehensive medical, dental and vision plans, and includes live and disability insurance, pet insurance and an employee-assistance program. Addressing financial well-being, it provides a company match through its 401(k) retirement program, a rent-discount program, and a health-savings account. In addition to paid time off and paid holidays, it engages in a ticket-discount program for employees, and provides volunteer opportunities to bolster community connection. In addition, Gage says, “investing in employee development is central to our philosophy. Through comprehensive training programs and mentorship initiatives, we equip our team members with the skills and knowledge for success.” That includes a mentoring program, on-site and instructor-led training, annual awards and anniversary recognitions. The goal, Gage says, has long been improving the way people live and work across the broad range of commercial properties, planned communities, apartments, and homes. Integrity, she says, is a core value that helps define the company. “Every team member is considered family, fostering a culture of trust and collaboration,” she says. “Upholding Isaac Price’s belief that ‘a company is only as strong as its employees,’ we prioritize transparent communication, strategic planning, and inclusive decision-making, ensuring every individual feels valued and empowered.” In addition to building communities, the firm seeks to strengthen them through its support for charitable organizations—15 of them overall last year, with team members contributing more than 2,000 volunteer hours, and the Roof Over Head program helps families secure housing and job opportunities. 

Small Companies:

Here’s a workplace structure that would have stood out back when BAAR Advisory was formed in 2014—six years before the Age of COVID. This cybersecurity and compliance firm started out as a remote-first company. The firm, says Jonnae Hill, vice president of people and culture, prioritizes inclusivity and flexibility and rewards associates for their roles in the company’s success. In addition to recently launching a unique profit-sharing program, she says, “BARR offers competitive salaries that rank within the top 50th percentile on PayScale, grants Stock Appreciation Rights after two years of employment, provides free health insurance and a monthly home-office stipend, and has partnered with Uber Eats and WeWork to offer other unique perks tailored to remote teams.” That’s a pretty impressive set of qualifications for a company with just 59 employees. And it’s probably a good indicator of why this Fairway company has been able to secure a 100 percent approval rating on Glassdoor—a notoriously attractive platform for disaffected workers. That, Hill says, “is a testament to the leadership team’s efforts to support associates personally and professionally.” As part of that support, associates work without strict schedules or micromanaging, she says, and every Friday, they are encouraged to avoid meetings—yes, avoid meetings— and block out time to focus on their top priorities. Those could include finishing up a project without interruption or getting outside to exercise. That, though, is just scraping the surface of their innovative workplace design. In addition, BARR has an unlimited PTO policy that explicitly encourages associates to take at least 25 days off per year, plus a paid sabbatical every five years of employment, and new parents enjoy at least 12 weeks of PTO to spend with their growing families. On the talent side, BARR has implemented a robust learning and development program that includes regular lunch-and-learn sessions for CPE credit and access to resources like LinkedIn Learning. In addition, BARR recently announced a new “path-to-partner” program to incentivize CPA licensure and open doors for accounting professionals interested in cybersecurity. BARR, Hill notes, was also the first employer in the Kansas City area to partner with Apprenti, a nationwide program that connects members of underrepresented populations with resources, training, and jobs in the technology industry. BARR is also an award-winner for efforts to promote diversity in tech. Last year, it bagged the Central Exchange’s STEMMY Corporate HERO award for its support and advocacy for women in STEM. More than half of all BARR team members are women, and women make up fully half of the firm’s leadership team, even after several years of rapid growth, topping more than 176 percent annually in recent years.


With just 90 employees focused on brokerage services in the nation’s multifamily marketplace, MMG Real Estate Advisors packs a financial punch that would be the envy of many large companies. And despite its size, MMG provides opportunities for exceptional compensation, generous benefits, flexible-work options, and—this is key—a highly collaborative environment that allows and encourages each team members to make the biggest impact. It’s probably no accident that the first link on the site’s careers page is dedicated to income potential. The firm’s primary advising team, for example, locks down 25 percent of the loan fees when MMG originates debt for one of its listed deals—and, no, that’s not split with the company. The 401(k) savings plan includes a 3 percent company matching contribution for all full-time staff, and team members are treated to a generous PTO program complete with dedicated wellness days. For top performers, the firm offers Producers Trips, billed as “legendary” retreats that provide exceptional networking possibilities with other standout producers from around the nation. For junior team members, the associate program helps jump-start career success, providing hands-on experience while working with team members from around the country. At a firm that prizes collaboration, connections can be challenging for remote workers, but MMG supports them with in-person company-sponsored events at least twice each year. The Kansas City headquarters includes an in-office lounge with arcade games and a virtual golf simulator—even a separate floor of bedroom suites for team members visiting from out of state. “Our advisers work collaboratively within one unified market,” says Karisa Cowell, director of advisory operations. “This is the opposite of our industry’s standard; brokers are often restricted to an assigned asset type and limited geographic fence to prevent internal competition. We don’t compete internally at MMG. We collaborate.” Every member of the company, she says, understands the client’s goals for each project and works together to accomplish them. How? Through thoughtful, strategic communication based on daily prep and brainstorming calls for the national advisory team, Monday morning all-hands calls with reviews of the company pipeline, upcoming projects and relevant market news, and weekly meetings of the leadership and operations teams to review progress on individual and company goals and strategies. On the philanthropic side, community service is a top priority. Just one example: Collecting thousands of dollars in donations from MMG team members and giving a matching company contribution to Operation Breakthrough and the JFS Hanukkah Adopt a Family Project. And it offers to match $1,000 of charitable donations per team member per year, encouraging our team members to give back to causes they care about. 

“Sometimes,” muses Valarie Paris, “it’s better to be lucky than smart. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to work at a place that has smart people who can do things a lot of people can’t: Create their own luck.” In going on 23 years with Durvet, first as controller then CFO and now COO, she says, “I’ve seen a lot of changes, from people to processes and procedures, product offerings and growth. The one thing that has remained constant is our mission. Our mission is to be our customers’ best supplier. It’s why we exist—to serve our members.” Few companies in the Kansas City region fulfill that mission with the level of revenues-to-employee found at Durvet, which obliterated the $300 million line this past year on its way to nearly a record $341 in sales. And this, from a team of not quite 60 employees. The Blue Springs animal-drug cooperative is owned by 23 member distributors throughout the United States, with a unique structure that is difficult for some to understand, Paris notes. “Our management practices are built on good ol’ country core values,” she says. “We hire based on culture, fit, and work ethic. Our demographics are similar to one another—kids who grew up on a farm or have farm-like values: Early to bed, early to rise, humble, and do things with integrity. All the things Grandma used to say. And we mean it.” Over the years, she says, the company has strayed occasionally looking for someone with the right skill set. But that experience has only confirmed for the leadership that the fit is paramount. “The fit is what the company is built on,” Paris says. “People ask how we all get along, and the answer is always the same: “We fight like brothers and sisters and then we hug it out at the end of the day.” In recent years, the leadership’s commitment to its team came shining through. In an economy where layoffs and doors closing were seen around the globe, Durvet found ways to open new doors, Paris says, “while also taking care of our employees to ensure that we still receive a paycheck, keeping us safe from outside forces by keeping only essential employees on-site even before the lockdown went into effect.” Adding new products and grabbing opportunities previously outside its grasp kept the business up and running, profitable and with sales that are ahead of budget. And the customers remained happy. “We have improved processes, transformed the way we think and act with our suppliers, customers, and internally,” Paris says. “As we explore the focus of the future and our growth, we have a lot to look forward to in people, technology, and process efficiencies.” None of that, though, will change the essential character of Durvet. “There’s something to be said about the small town, farm kids that most of us here grew up with,” Paris says. “I can only hope the families from my work will reminisce about their time working at Durvet and remember their time fondly, just as I will. It’s an experience I will never forget.”

Even with a team of 15–the smallest enterprise among this year’s Best Companies to Work For—it’s an Us-Against-the-World mind-set at Playfair Data. The Overland Park IT company declares that its purpose “is to positively impact the world by improving how data is translated into valuable insight. To achieve our ambitious mission, we are very intentional in how we go about curating our team,” says Austin Meyer, manager of brand strategies. And it all starts, he says, with the core values of Do the right thing, Continuously Improve, and Work to Live, Not Live to Work. “We function in a hybrid work environment, with the flexibility to work from home, our favorite coffee shops, or from our well-appointed offices in Overland Park, Kansas, and Lake Nona, Fla.,” Meyer says. “This flexibility allows us to grow as a whole as well as individually, with each team member encouraged to take ownership of their responsibilities within their teams.” It attracts talent with competitive pay, 100 percent-paid medical coverage, generous vacation time, as well as ample sick leave, bereavement, parental, and other forms of leave, all fully accounted for, Meyer says. That staff works under what Meyer calls “industry-leading project management protocols and a progressive management style,” creating a unified force through daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly one-on-one and team meetings. In addition, a bi-annual all-hands summit helps hone worker skills and promotes group cohesion. “Our team members are encouraged to accomplish personal and professional goals set during these summit meetings have proved to be a fantastic source of growth for all team members,” Meyer says. To fund that depth of programming, Playfair Data has executed a growth strategy that made it a Corporate Report 100—at No. 18—in 2022 and a Top-10 finisher in that fast-growth competition last year. “Our team is continually encouraged by the growing partnerships we have developed with our clients, training partners, and the many Playfair+ members who choose to grow with us every day,” Meyer says. Philanthropy, as well, is ingrained in the culture. “While many team members enter Playfair Data with service backgrounds or philanthropic interests, Playfair Data has also chosen to support several non-profits in our area, leading to several rewarding and long-held partnerships,” Meyer says. Whether it’s an employee or team in receiving extra support on a tough project, competitive compensation with outstanding benefits, or simply sitting down as a team for a five-star meal provided by the company during one of our twice-yearly Summit meetings, Meyer says, “the small-team, big-business mind-set keeps us moving forward to be the best we can be. Providing our partners with the very best we have to offer lends to a truly unique, encouraging, and world-changing working environment.”