Austin Business Journal’s (ABJ) annual Best Places to Work (BPTW) luncheon and awards ceremony was held on June 21, and it was exactly what you would think: a large ballroom chock full of proud and raucous professionals from a wide array of companies and industries having a blast celebrating this significant honor. ABJ compiles their list of BPTW based solely on anonymous feedback from the employees themselves, making the whole process a tremendous way to understand what each company thinks of itself from the inside out.
HireBetter had the honor of interviewing the leadership of many of the BPTW recipients to see what makes their companies tick and, just like at the ceremony, we had a blast. Each conversation was lively and insightful, and the passion they all have to create the optimal work environment to get the most out of their talent and themselves was enthusiastically articulated. You see, they all understand that you could have the world’s best widget to sell, but without attracting, retaining, challenging, and inspiring great talent, the company will never realize its full potential.
So, what makes a company one of the BPTW? We uncovered some amazing themes and, while some might seem self-evident, none can be underestimated.
Without a doubt, the most noted cornerstone tenet in all discussions was the power of transparency. The more the organization fosters true, open communication, the more engaged and focused the employees appear to be.
As Ross Jessup, COO/CFO of Open Lending states, “without real and honest communication, employees will fill in the blanks themselves – and rarely with positive thoughts. The truth is, to remain ahead of the curve, everyone must actively participate, be accountable, and stay engaged. All of our executives have an open door policy that helps create a sense of unity among all levels and departments.”
Let’s be clear, no organization can achieve greatness without fully embracing collaboration across all elements of the business. Everyone must fully understand the purpose of the business before they can effectively execute, and that does not come from a top-down mission statement, but from inside through real collaboration.
Aquila is so focused on collaboration that they have made it the cornerstone of the “Aquila Ethos.” In fact, the development of the Ethos itself is a study in collaboration. During a retreat with the Navy Seals, the entire Aquila team together contributed every word of what was to become the defining statement of the business. Founding Principal Bart Matheney noted that the experience is one his proudest moments, “witnessing the team coming together and being part of something bigger than themselves.”
A great attitude is paramount, contagious, and effective. A great attitude can make the difference between just being a good company and being a great company. A great attitude is crucial for achieving real success and, of course, instrumental in being named a BPTW.
Freedom Solar CEO and founder Bret Biggart is clear that the explosive growth and success Freedom Solar is experiencing has to do with a great product, dedicated employees and, most importantly, the right attitude. In fact, Freedom Solar’s mantra for hiring the best people with the best culture fit is “Attitude and Grit.” According to Bret, “you must be willing to double down on your effort while not just maintaining, but actually embracing a palpable positive attitude with the right mix of fun and devotion.”
OJO Labs Co-Founder and CEO John Berkowitz is obsessive about culture and values, creating a corporate community so they can, in turn, attract the best of the best employees. John calls this one of OJO Labs’ “superpowers.” Talent needs to be enabled to thrive and the best way to do that is to continually raise the water mark together and take pride in the work that you do together.
We also found that the BPTW winners are deeply committed to giving back to the community that is Austin, Texas. Silicon Labs counts company-wide community engagement as a core value that pervades all aspects of the company culture − from leadership engagement in non-profits, to local charity initiatives, to donating 1% of corporate profits to local charities. “Giving back” and “Austin-proud” reinforces the common thread among all of Austin’s BPTW; greatness comes from being part of something bigger than yourself.
In the end, one thing is for sure: all the winners of the BPTW honor fully embrace the power of a positive work experience as the true foundation for their company’s growth and success. We are excited to see how each of the BPTW companies continue to evolve and the impact they will have on the rest of the Austin community!