Ingram’s Best Companies to Work For

By Ian Ritter

Taking Innovation to a new level

Vacation time used to be a thing.

It was something workers would use sparingly, save up for, and count the days on their calendars awaiting that blessed arrival. That time was a necessary commodity, like wine is in France.

Some firms on this year’s Ingram’s Best Companies to Work For, though, seem bent on taking away the sweet sting of vacation anticipation with a perk called “unlimited vacation time.”

That and other employee benefits are becoming increasingly common—and popular with Millennials and their non-traditional approaches to office life firmly in the workplace. But fueling that kind of benefit innovation is an extremely tough and competitive hiring environment created by historically low unemployment levels and by technology. The ability to work anywhere at any time at some companies, due to high-tech advances, is changing our understanding of what it means to take time “off.”

Like taking the stress out of worrying about vacation time (you still need approval before you use it, by the way), a lot of these benefits are focused around overall employee wellness. And with today’s economy, in which headhunters and recruiters are constantly contacting workers to poach good talent, it’s more important than ever to keep them healthy, happy and excited to come to work.

Other ways companies are doing this: By making things their employees traditionally do away from the office part of their work culture. Many now have gyms in their office buildings, and employees can work out together and possibly trade ideas. Some offer on-site medical services, like flu shots and health screenings. Several have frequent outings to restaurants, professional sporting events and food brought to the office.

This also carries through to other benefits. Many of the Best Companies to Work For pay for 100 percent of employees’ health-insurance premiums. Tuition reimbursement and the payment of classes for professional licensure is not uncommon. Dress codes are often non-existent or at least only put into effect for appropriate occasions.

Corporations in the Kansas City area have always been generous when it comes to giving back to the community. One can simply look at the life story of recently deceased local business icon Henry Bloch (see page 20) as just one example of this, and a majority of Millennials find that important when choosing a firm. This year’s Best Companies have that covered, giving dollars and time to social causes around the metro region and well beyond.

What all of the 13 firms in the large, mid-size and small-business categories, have in common is that they are growing, both in revenue and headcount, which likely means there are less people in the area hoarding vacation time.

Large Companies

(l-r): Steve Edwards, Chairman and CEO; Stephanie Hasenbos-Case, Chief Human Resources Officer.

Black & Veatch

As one of the country’s largest employee-owned companies, Overland Park-based Black & Veatch is lasered in on the development of its people. And there are lots of ‘em: More than 8,500 locally and 10,000 globally. The firm’s management prides itself on being employee-owned and says it gives the company a leg up on hiring, retention and overall performance due to its wage growth and more deliberate employee security than other firms. For beginners at Black & Veatch, there is a program called Fast Start, which provides new hires with advisers who assist with their first year on the job and help them build relationships with others in the organization. Another program, called ASPiRE, provides tools and concepts to help employees be more effective and productive. Black & Veatch also has several specialized training opportunities and offers employee resource groups (ERGs), including Young Professionals, Women’s Network, Global Fusion, Christian Friends Network, Pride, Merge (for military), EBONY (for people from cultures of African origin and ethnicities). “We believe our continued success depends on the diverse skills, experiences and backgrounds our professionals bring to the organization,” said Steve Edwards, chief executive officer. “Members of our ERGs are able to expand their professional network and gain greater visibility in our organization. ERGs help to further business objectives by lending their unique perspective to drive innovation and business opportunities as well as cultural awareness and employee engagement.” Among the company’s benefits are profit sharing, tuition reimbursement and a wellness program that includes spouses and domestic partners. There is also a fitness center at the Black & Veatch world headquarters, and there is a Black & Veatch Credit Union that offers low-interest loans. Aiming to offer flexible schedules, the company has a 9/80 option (nine workdays over two weeks, with five days off.) The firm, which had revenues of $3.5 billion last year, also does a lot of work to give back to the community. Through its Black & Veatch Foundation, it contributed $1 million last year toward STEM education and disaster relief and another $1 million toward United Way groups in 2019. In the past 35 years, Black & Veatch and its employees have given $28 million to United Way efforts. Other organizations that it helps include the Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City, Junior Achievement of Middle America, public-television station KCPT,
KC STEM Alliance, Museum at Prairiefire, Engineers Without Borders and WaterAid.

Seated, (l-r): Scott McAdams, Senior Vice President and Chief Audit, Compliance and Risk Officer; Jenny Housley, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. Second row, (l-r): Erin Stucky, President and CEO-Elect; Danette Wilson, President and CEO; Mark Newcomer, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Back row, (l-r): Chad Moore, Vice President, Strategic Partnerships and Network Operations; Greg Sweat, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer; Jason Spacek, Vice President, Chief Innovation Officer; Ron Rowe, Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer; Tom Nightingale, Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer; Kim White, Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City

It makes sense that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City has a strong employee-wellness program. The insurer’s workers are eligible for health, dental and vision coverage on their first day of employment, and there are plenty of opportunities to improve wellness while at the office. Blue KC has an on-site fitness center that is open 24/7, and 17 group-exercise classes are offered there every week, everything from high-intensity cardio to chair exercises. “Employees who regularly use the on-site fitness center get to know one another, leading to enhanced teamwork back at workstations and in meetings,” said Danette Wilson, Blue KC’s president and chief executive officer. “This builds teamwork and connectivity among employees and leads to increased productivity and morale.” The company also offers 12 weeks of Weight Watchers at Work meetings, has walking work stations, on-site massages, on-site health screenings and flu shots, nursing rooms for mothers, cooking classes and several other programs. Blue KC also strives to boost employees’ career health with a program called Blue YOUniversity, which “is committed to placing each employee in the driver’s seat to manage their professional growth and career aspirations,” Wilson said. The program has three components: Starting at Blue, for new employee onboarding; Developing You, which fosters growth in current roles; and Leading Blue, to help team heads learn additional skills to help them grow and lead teams. Blue KC’s work force is made up of just over 28 percent minorities and 68 percent women, in part as a result of diversity and inclusion programs, and workers engage in regular feedback surveys querying them about company culture. Outside of the office, Blue KC and its employees do a lot to help better the Kansas City community. Last year its workers logged 10,000 hours of community service through initiatives like National Volunteer Week. The company also has two of its own programs, Well Stocked, which strives to enhance hunger awareness, and The Caring Program for Children, which supplies durable medical equipment to area kids. “Volunteering provides invaluable resources to often understaffed and under-supported organizations throughout our community,” Wilson said. “Giving back through volunteerism helps employees feel committed to the company they represent, brings together and strengthens teams and provides an opportunity for employees to learn about organizations they may not have interacted with otherwise.”

Front row, (l-r): Allison Miller, Sr. Associate; Polly Thomas, President of Employee Benefits; Tricia Fickel, Senior Human Resources Director. Back row, (l-r): Rob Kaelin, Regional President Midwest/West Operations; Jeff Carlstedt, Senior Managing Director.


Employee development is top-of-mind for the management of financial-services firm CBIZ, both nationally and in its Kansas City office. The company has several programs that allow associates to develop their careers in the company, as well as offer feedback to management on how it can improve that process.  At the core of that is its Great People, Great Place (GP2) employee program which hosts activities and gatherings to promote camaraderie in the workplace. One initiative that came out of GP2 locally is a Green Team that has started initiatives to make the office more sustainable, with several recycling routines. “It’s really meant to encourage employees to stay here and have a role in making CBIZ a great place to work,” said Polly Thomas, president of employee benefits, pointing out that though it is a national program, each office has a point person who creates unique programming, events and philanthropic services. The latter include the company’s “summer of giving,” which provides workers paid time to devote to the needs of various organizations. “We have more recruits deliberately asking about our volunteer programs, what programs they have to bring associates together and what kind of voice will they have,” Thomas said. In addition, an internal young professionals group helps foster collaboration and bring together associates from the company’s varying business lines. The group was an idea of younger CBIZ employees who came up with the program so that they could bond beyond work through networking and collaborations with other young professionals. CBIZ also has an employee engagement survey, the results of which business division leaders use to come up with a strategic plan and can become central to new directions the firm might consider. Included are questions about leadership, the benefits packages, and different programs the company offers. “It’s an important part of what we use to evaluate what we’re doing,” Thomas said. “We get some good ideas that come out of that simply by asking.” Last year’s survey found that 84.2 percent of employees found the company favorable, 86.3 percent considered their work meaningful and 75.4 percent had overall job satisfaction. Percentages in all three categories have risen the past two years. So did CBIZ’s year-over-year company-wide revenues, by 7.8 percent, to $922 million. 

Front row, (l-r): Emily Bailey, General Counsel; Rex Newcomer, Chief Executive Officer; Rhonda Johnson, Director of Human Resources; Alex Newcomer, Division Manager; Cassie Goodman, Vice President – Training and Development. Back row, (l-r): Trice Alford, Chief Marketing Officer; Brian Gillespie, Chief Financial Officer; Tom Palmer, Chief Financial Officer; Steve Pascuzzi, President – Local Market Groups; Nelson Newcomer, Executive VP – Newcomer Foundation; Stephanie Smith, Vice President Operations; Brad Newcomer, Chief of Staff; Chris Mann, Chief Information Officer.

D.H. Pace Co.

D.H. Pace Co. is an Olathe-based distributor of doors and other building products designed to improve the safety, security, productivity and customer convenience of the facilities in the communities it serves. The company’s roots go back to 1926, and it also focuses considerable resources in supporting community organizations with an emphasis on programs that directly affect the lives of people in need. “Our culture is built on service, so our teams get excited about programs and opportunities to help others,” the company declares. “It gives our organization a chance to connect with the community and make a positive difference in the lives of people around us.” Local Activity Teams in each division organize events and activities like walk and race events, as well as blood drives, fundraisers, and food and gift drives. D.H. Pace also distributes a portion of its profits to, and actively participates with, community organizations that support education, human services, housing and health-related needs through the Newcomer Family Foundation. One example is a multi-year work-study program for students from a local, private inner-city high school. Students work on a rotating basis to fill the role of a full-time employee in a job-sharing arrangement. The participants’ earnings go directly toward the cost of their education, and the students gain valuable work experience in a professional environment. D.H. Pace’s sales reached $548 million in 2018, up from $435 million in 2017. The company has a diverse work force of more than 2,500 employees, double the number from just four years ago. D.H. Pace offers extensive training programs for its employees, providing over 47,000 hours of annual training in 2018. “We find that our investment in training programs and employee growth initiatives accelerates professional development, strengthens team performance and provides greater long-term carrier opportunities within our organization,” the company says. This includes in-person classroom sessions, hands-on training and online resources which incorporate videos, quizzes, articles, news updates and more features. It focuses on recruiting qualified candidates who are team players, interested in growing their skills and share the company’s commitment to community service, and those individuals come from a variety of experiences and all walks of life. “We are blessed,” D.H. Pace says, “to be an organization that is diverse, growing and working hard to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”

Mid-Size Companies

Front row, (l-r): Megan Schmitz, Director of Human Resources; Stephanie Couture, Administrative Director; Millie Brink, Director of Talent Acquisition, Jeff Stolper, Director of Financial Planning; Angele Fox, Director of Campaign Management; Seamus Smith, Director of Legal Services; Kathy Bexten, Director of Risk Management; Jim Williams, Chief Investment Officer. Second row, (l-r): Ken Pyle, Chief Compliance Officer; Jeff Aleshire, Director of Operations; Jonathan Knapp, Chief Operating Officer; Candace Varner, Director of Tax Services; Chat Scruggs, Chief Technology Officer; Cole Harper, Director of Emerging Wealth; Bob Nonemaker, Managing Partner, Creative Planning Benefits; Ben Polich, Director of Trading; Katie Nave, Director of Quality Assurance/Compliance and Social Media. Not pictured: Peter Mallouk, Bob Pascuzzi, Craig Seiler, Kevin Johnston, Veronica Mallouk.

Creative Planning

Teamwork at Creative Planning goes beyond board meetings and client presentations. It’s instilled in the company’s social fabric that encourages fun not  usually associated with the number-crunching reality of wealth planning and the stress of managing an asset portfolio of $37 billion. When business goals are met, employees are taken on company-wide vacations, oftentimes out of the country. Creative Planning has barbecues, food truck days, an annual family picnic, a tent at the American Royal and regular firm-wide parties and other events including, bean bag and bocce ball tournaments (there is even a company bocce court). The buildings also have two outdoor balconies with views of the Overland Park area. “We work hard, and we work in teams, so we are looking for as many opportunities as possible to bring everyone together to get to know one another, get a break and to celebrate accomplishments,” said Peter Mallouk, the company’s president. “We are always looking for new ways to come together.” Creative Planning’s physical offices also offer that opportunity. Completed in July 2018, the two buildings at Nall Avenue and Interstate 435 feature collaborative indoor/outdoor work spaces, large break rooms, a cafeteria and an on-site Starbucks. The company takes care of its employees with 100-percent-paid health and dental insurance and treadmill work stations. Creative Planning also has an extensive community service program. Every Thanksgiving, the company pays for, packages and delivers 500 to 750 meals to families around the area, in a partnership with Higher M-Pact. It also works with Giving the Basics to purchase and package necessity items for families. All of the company’s profits from life, disability and long-term care insurance go to charities, and its Creative Planning Foundation gives to more than 100 causes a year. There are regular blood drives at the firm’s offices. “We know we are working with people who are successful or have a path to success and want to do our part to help those who need a little help while they work towards that path,” Mallouk said. “We also have a lot of younger employees, and to their credit, they want to work at a company that has a social conscious, gives back to the community and offers them opportunities to contribute with their time.”

(l-r): Adam Miljavac, Controller; Ken Ideker, Senior Vice President; Paul Ideker, President; Roger Ideker, Chairman of the Board; Cody Phillips, Vice President.


Health insurance is vital in the construction industry, and St. Joseph-based Ideker makes sure that its employees are taken care of, with 100 percent medical paid for by the company. In addition to that financial perk, workers have the option of putting 5.5 percent of their total compensation toward a profit-sharing program. Meanwhile, average employee total gross pay rose 18 percent year over year in April, from both a higher employee count and salary increases. Atop that is a bonus structure that ties performance to compensation and puts employees in the driver’s seat to help control costs and manage their projects efficiently. Ideker’s 131 employees are able to share ideas with top management. With an “open-door policy,” the company’s leaders are open to team members bringing them their problems, solutions and new ideas. Management uses the analogy of a football team when speaking about how the company operates. The President has asphalt, concrete, and quarry division managers who have plant superintendents working under them, and they lead each of its crews out in the field, much like a team of assistant coaches. Further career development comes from training in many subjects, including safety, software, new technological advances, and heavy machinery operation and repair/maintenance. “We do a lot of training and promoting from within,” said Paul Ideker, the firm’s president. “We find this to be the most fruitful because if we can find people with good work ethic, attitude and ability, we can develop and retain talent better.” Management also says that happiness in the workplace leads to success in the workplace, and it aims to hire and retain highly motivated individuals with a positive attitude and “can-do” mentality. That attitude has given the firm projects involving well-known surfaces in the region, including parts of Interstate 35 and Kansas City International Airport. When it comes to giving back to the community, Ideker contributes with what it does best. The company has donated paving projects to area schools and churches as well as the public streets of Mosby, Mo. It also gives to United Way, and groups involved with area schools, teachers, youth reading and sports, abused and neglected children, cancer research, river levee improvements, fire safety, agriculture, the local chamber of commerce, the arts and a local air show. Ideker offers paid time off and funds to Christmas shop and wrap presents for under privileged families in the local school systems.

Mariner Wealth Advisors

Front row, (l-r): Anne Dorian, Senior Vice President, Regulatory Compliance; Marty Bicknell, CEO & President. Second row, (l-r): Chris Cook, Senior Vice President, Information Technology; Kenny Pointer, Senior Vice President, Operations; Cheryl Bicknell, Chief Operating Officer & Chief Strategy Officer. Third row, (l-r): Christa Spencer, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications; Kara Stoecklein, Senior Vice President, Human Resources; Brian Leitner, Chief Practice Management Officer and Head of Wealth Management; George Fernandez, Vice President, Practice Management. Back row, (l-r): Jeff Poe, Chief Financial Officer; Brian O’Regan, Head of Corporate Development; Katrina Scott, Chief Investment Officer.

When considering employees’ health, Mariner Wealth Advisors treats their future with as much care as it does the financial progress of its high-net-worth clients, for whom it manages $24 billion in assets. The company does so by providing several on-site health services that would typically require a doctor’s appointment. Overland Park-based Mariner, founded in 2006, boasts a wellness suite at its headquarters that offers on-site flu shots, health screenings, chiropractic and acupuncture services and space for nursing mothers. Additionally, it has partnered with Cigna, its health-care provider, to do biometric screenings of employees and their spouses and maintain wellness. And more: The company pays for 90 percent of the cost of health premiums and offers a no-cost telemedicine service. “We are committed to caring for our associates with a holistic focus on their well-being,” said Marty Bicknell, chief executive officer. “We believe it’s important to ensure our people receive the highest quality care and do our best to provide convenient on-site access to wellness resources.” Management also hopes that the new headquarters, which opened in 2017, contributes to employee wellness. It features an open environment with natural light, height-adjustable desks at all work stations, as well as walkable desks, collaborative work spaces and a company kitchen with fresh fruit delivered weekly. “It’s a highly energized space, and it makes people happy,” Bicknell said. “A positive, comfortable and functional work environment is important to attracting and retaining our talented people.” Similar programs are also available at Mariner’s growing network of offices around the country. Among new locations this year through acquisitions and organic growth are Charlotte, N.C.; Cincinnati; Des Moines, Iowa; and Marin County, Calif. There is also flexibility company-wide. Employees start off with 20 days of vacation, and there is a Dress for Your Day policy, letting workers wear attire appropriate for what activities they have scheduled. Importance is also placed on giving back to the Kansas City community. Employee contributions to charity are matched dollar-for-dollar by The Mariner Foundation, and to date, the entity has given $4.7 million to various groups and organizes charitable events as well. Last year it contributed $1 million. Employees are also given two days of paid community-service time. “We believe caring for our communities involves more than financial contributions, which is why our associates lead and organize numerous community service projects and work days throughout the year,” Bicknell said.

Front row, (l-r): Missy Ragsdale, Human Resources Director and Principal; Brad Clark, Senior Architect and Senior Principal; Jon Knight, Senior Architect and Senior Principal; Gina Stingley, Marketing Strategy Director and Principal; Scott Fatheree, Information Technology Director and Associate Principal; Bob White, Communications Director and Associate Principal; Earl Santee, Managing Principal. Back row (l-r): Bob Gillcrist, Senior Architect and Senior Principal; Bruce Miller, Senior Architect and Senior Principal; Kevin Hagan, Chief Financial Officer and Senior Principal; Todd Voth, Senior Architect and Senior Principal.


Clients aren’t likely going to get exciting about choosing an architecture firm with a drab headquarters office. Populous doesn’t have that problem. The Kansas City-based architecture firm’s motto is: “We create spaces that bring people together,” and management believes that its South Plaza office, which the company opened in 2015 in the former Kansas City Board of Trade building, is a great employee attraction and retainment tool. Its large windows provide ample natural light, bright colors and open spaces with pleasing angles throughout the building. “It’s evident when the staff is walking around that people are enjoying what they’re doing,” said Missy Ragsdale, the firm’s director of human resources. “It’s an environment that lets you engage.
It allows us to bring our people together.” Populous, which was founded 36 years ago and is celebrating 10 years under its current brand name after splitting from parent HOK Group, is also bringing its employees together through the hiring last year of Talent and Learning Manager Steven Patterson, who serves as a career guide throughout the firm’s nine offices, providing customized training programs for each employee. He created a learning-management system called “Rocket” that helps employees further their careers and development and has helped them elevate their presentation skills for both internal meetings and those with clients. And the firm has added 40 hours of training per year for certification. “It’s so important for our staff to know where they’re going and what else there is for them besides us teaching them to become excellent, talented architects,” said Ragsdale. In addition, Managing Director Earl Santee has instituted a program that makes the advancement process transparent, with all employees reviewed at promotion time by a company committee. They also get to see the process behind why an employee has been chosen for advancement. “They’re not check-the-box things,” Ragsdale explained. “They’re: How are you developing in your career here? Are you becoming the best you can be? Are you meeting the criteria that we’ve set in place for these officer levels? It was to create a roadmap for people and their development.” These and other strategies are apparently paying off for employee productivity at Populous. Last year, the company took in $208 million in global revenue, and increase of 31.5 percent over 2017, and opened new offices in Dallas and Washington.

Small Companies

Front row, (l-r): Jesse Overright, Director of Engineering; Kristin LaBatt, Studio Leader; Danee Greenwald, Senior Recruiter and HR Generalist; Alyssa Guenther, Studio Leader; Kate Brock, Director of Strategic Partnerships; Ryan Schaar, Chief Executive Officer; Andi Hubbard, Studio Leader. Back row, (l-r): Chad Wessel, VP of Finance; Matt Bulmash, Studio Leader; Lance Hemenway, Chief Creative Officer; Ryan Irwin, Studio Leader; Michael Storey, Studio Leader.

Amply Media

Amply Media, based in Kansas City with 65 employees, is growing rapidly. Revenues for the media and entertainment company rose to $42.5 million last year from $34.3 million in 2017—just a year after it was founded in 2016. So, to keep things in focus as a team, the company organizes several out-of-office activities at restaurants and sporting events. “Let’s face it, it’s due to our amazing people that we’ve been so successful.,” says Ryan Schaar, the company’s chief executive officer. “We have frequent, out-of-office events so people can get to know each other on a personal level. We believe these strong relationships create a more positive and effective culture for our employees.  It’s that sort of culture and camaraderie that we’re very proud of here at Amply.” With the fun also comes a great deal of responsibility. Amply employees, which run about 40 different entertainment Web sites that have more than 100 million subscribers, can take ownership of projects and test new products and concepts. Workers are responsible for submitting ideas, starting initiatives and then managing them through their life cycles. “When any of our employees have an idea they want to try, we make sure they have the resources and tools necessary to create a basic trial-version of their concept and test it accordingly,” Schaar says. We encourage our employees to step up and find our company’s next big win. In fact, we believe giving our people ownership and responsibility over their ideas, job, and goals, helps us attract and keep the very best and brightest people in the industry. Amazing, talented people want to be trusted and have ownership of their role, and here at Amply, we encourage them to do just that.” Among the perks that Amply has, which includes a casual dress code and catered lunches twice a week, is unlimited vacation time so they can balance their professional and personal lives, as long as employees are getting their work done. “Our culture is based on individual ownership, entrepreneurialism, and delivering results which drives our people to work outside of normal business hours,” Schaar said. “We provide unlimited vacation as a way to instill trust and confidence in our employees while also providing them with an amazing benefit to thank them for their hard work.” Meanwhile, the company’s building boasts on on-site gym, free vending machines with snacks and beverages (including beer!) and a competitive health plan.

Seated, (l-r): Chris Marshall, CEO/President; Sarah Etzel, Chief Financial Officer. Standing, (l-r): Jan-Eric Anderson, VP Chief Strategy Officer; Paul Behnen, Chief Creative Officer; Shelly Deveney, Director of Operations; John Kuefler, EVP, Chief Digital Officer.


A renovated office can make a big difference. That’s what the leadership of Lawrence-based advertising firm Callahan found out after it remodeled its headquarters, a 150-year-old former grain warehouse downtown, in April. “It certainly energizes everyone,” remarked Chris Marshall, the firm’s president and chief executive officer. The collaborative work areas that were put into place as a result of the facelift are being regularly used, as are recycling stations throughout the office. A growing number of employees take advantage of these features. Callahan grew its headcount by 20 percent last year to about 60 associates, due to increased work with Elanco Animal Health, Cici’s Pizza, Toyota, and new accounts, including Lee.com, PetAg and Elevate Pet Nutrition. As the number of employees has increased, so has overall business. This year Callahan jumped from number 17 to number 14 in Ingram’s Power Book revenue rankings for advertising and marketing firms. Last year, the firm came in at $44.1 million, well up from $16.7 million in 2017. Since many of the expanding 40-year-old company’s employees don’t live in Lawrence, Marshall says that one of the most effective ways the company retains employees is by letting them work from home once a week. “We tell people to use their time smartly and be efficient,” he says. “There’s a lot of trust right now, and that makes it easier.” Meanwhile, health and dental insurance is primarily company paid, workers have a profit-sharing benefit in which they are 100-percent vested when enrolled, and the company has an extended-illness benefit, which is paid leave for an employee with a chronic condition or a family going through a debilitating health issue. The average length of employment at Callahan, where half of the workers are women and 11 percent are minorities, is seven years. Some of that could have to do with feeling appreciated, says Marshall. Callahan has a quarterly program it calls “Highest Best,” in which it recognizes an individual, or team, in front of the staff as being peak performers. There are also monetary benefits involved, but Marshall says that winners are equally appreciative of the acknowledgement in front of their peers. “Everyone wants to know that they’re doing a good job and wants to be recognized for it,” he stresses. “It makes everyone want to work even harder.”

Front, (l-r): Madeline Chestnut, Marketing Coordinator; Kara Bush, Interior Designer; Rebecca Roberts, Architect. Standing, (l-r): David Amstutz, Interior Architect; John Gaar, Architect; Dave Williams, Architect; Ellen Foster, Architect; Erin Foxworthy, Architect; Joe Mika, Architect; Kimball Hales, Architect; Jessica Reed-Schultz, Architect; Casey Culbertson, Architect; Matt Christensen, Architect; Alex Callow, Architect; Jason Hansen, Architect; Greg Finkle, Architect.

Finkle + Williams Architects

Finkle + Williams Architects might be in the business of designing memorable buildings, but the Overland Park-based firm’s management also hopes to create leaders. “Although we provide regular professional development opportunities and encourage (as well as financially support) our co-workers who are committed to serving in leadership positions in various professional and community organizations, we view leadership as a more fundamental human characteristic,” said co-owner Greg Finkle. “People want to follow those who are thoughtful toward others, have a strong work ethic and contribute to the success of a project or common goal in meaningful ways. We look for people who have the potential to be difference-makers and then try to create opportunities for them to make an impact.” Part of the way Finkle + Williams does that is through leadership training and tuition and certification reimbursement. Management views the investment in employees the same as investing in the company’s heath and stresses the motto: “When one person is flourishing, we all benefit.” A lot of that has to do with a mindset of putting others first and trusting employees to make their own decisions. In addition, there are no company titles. “It’s the equivalent of not having our names on our jerseys!” Finkle says. “In addition, we try to give everyone a voice and recognize people individually for the value they contribute to the firm.” Meanwhile, that philosophy of helping others achieve is done outside the workplace as well. The company does pro bono design work for several nonprofit organizations. The most recent example is the Healing House Addiction Recovery Community Center, in Kansas City. Greg Finkle is also one of the founders of Giving Grove, an endeavor that plants fruit trees in communities with poor access to fresh foods. Employees named several perks working for Finkle + Williams in a recent company survey. The firm has a free workout facility, flexible PTO and time to get projects completed. There are also several company events and outings, as well as office lunches. On the benefits end, the company pays for 85 percent of employee medical premiums, including family plans and offers tuition assistance for licensing programs and community volunteering and leadership education. “They make you feel appreciated and valued,” one employee said.

(l-r): Barrett Vahle, Partner; Brad Wilders, Partner; Todd McGuire, Partner; Rachel Schwartz, Partner; Todd Hilton, Partner; Patrick Stueve, Partner; George Hanson, Partner; Steve Six, Partner; Norm Siegel, Partner.

Stueve Siegel Hanson

Employees have a vested interest in the success of law firm Stueve Siegel Hanson and its performance for its clients. The team is awarded bonuses every year based on the financial performance of the company as a whole. If things go well, this could equate to a staff attorney seeing his salary double—even triple—as long as there is collective success. “Our model is unique and very simple—under our risk-sharing fee arrangements—if our client wins, we win; if our client loses, we don’t get paid,”  said Patrick Stueve, a partner at the firm. “This aligns our interest with our client’s interests and has allowed us to develop strong, trusting relationships with our clients—many of whom are large privately and publicly held companies doing business all over the world. Because we have recovered over $2 billion in relief for our clients over the past nearly 20 years, we have a wonderful list of happy, repeat clients.” Based in the Country Club Plaza, employees look forward to several regular events, such as outings to see the Royals and Sporting KC, holiday celebrations, and an annual party in conjunction with the Plaza Art Fair. The office is adorned with custom artwork, and the breakroom is stocked with a variety of snacks and beverages. “We have done a number of things to underscore the importance of having fun together as a firm and encourage down time for all our team members to recharge for our demanding jobs at the firm,” said Stueve. And as long as the hard work continues successfully and is completed, the firm’s employees have unlimited vacation time. Besides Stueve Siegel’s “work hard/play hard” office environment, its employees also go all in when giving back to the community. The firm’s attorneys log thousands of pro bono legal hours to organizations and causes around the area, as well as individuals who cannot afford legal representation, given them the same service that they would paying clients. ”Like all clients, we feel that pro bono clients should be fully represented and we devote significant time and resources to the legal needs of those who cannot afford to pay for representation,” said Stueve. “Our firm is passionate about supporting the communities where we work and live and has benefited from working on these projects and continues to be involved with local organizations to help those in need.”

Seated, (l-r): Amie Hankel, Director, Team Engagement; Michael Kanaley, Managing Director, Operations; Matt Heimsoth, Managing Director, Finance. Back row, (l-r): Laura McCarthy, Director, Client Partnership; Mike Hauser, Managing Director, Creative & Technology; Anne St. Peter, Founder; Lily Maxwell, Director, Client Partnership and Regional Director, Midwest.

Global Prairie

Marketing firm Global Prairie strives to operate under six virtues: gratitude, candor, teamwork, resilience, optimism and growth. The Kansas City-based B Corporation catalyzes its employees to meet those expectations with strong benefits that include a commitment to paying team members on average at the 75th percentile of its industry, access to an employee stock-ownership program, and a $500 annual wellness stiped that can go toward gym memberships or similar endeavors. There is an unlimited paid time off program at the firm, and eligible employees have the opportunity to take eight-week sabbaticals. Career development of employees is also emphasized. Employees are assigned mentors on their first day, and some company leaders are sent to business programs at Harvard University, The Wharton School and others. “We believe our growth as a company is directly tied to the growth-mindset of our team, and so, we invest heavily in the mentorship and development of our team,” said Global Prairie Co-Founder Anne St. Peter. “One of the highest compliments we can receive is when a relatively new colleague reports they have grown more in one year at Global Prairie than the previous 10 years at a prior company combined!” Family is a major focus, with a new-parent policy that allows 12 weeks for maternity leave and eight weeks off for newborn bonding and foster care or adoption. Each of its nine offices has a nursery, and new parents can bring children to work until they reach six months of age. “One of the beautiful aspects of being an entrepreneur is that you have the power to create workplace culture,” St. Peter said. “As working parents, my co-founder and I dreamed of a workplace that recognized and celebrated the fact that we were parents first.” The company also pays for infertility treatment and adoption-assistance programs. Much of this policy was modeled after outdoor-clothing company Patagonia, St. Peter said. Global Prairie makes a big commitment to helping civic and non-profit groups, putting 10 percent of its profits toward those entities and letting team members volunteer for up to three weeks at organizations with a vision they are passionate about. Associates’ work in philanthropy is taken so seriously that it is taken into consideration in their annual performance reviews. “Global Prairie was founded on the belief that business should be a force for good,” St. Peter said. “In a world that increasingly recognizes the need for purpose and profit to be on a level playing field, B Corp is a badge of honor that validates our purpose, unites our team, and attracts world-class talent that share our values.”