Best Small-to-Medium Size Company: Byars|Wright
Byars|Wright Inc., an Jasper-based, family-owned commercial and personal insurance company with 52 employees, took first place this year in the ranking of best small to mid-size companies. Mitchell Garnett, director of operations in Gardendale, attributes much of the company’s popularity with employees to its family atmosphere and culture of building relationships. “We may have five offices but because of our culture we are like one big agency,” Garnett says. “Every office has the same goals, vision and roles and truly values cultivating relationships with our communities, customers and each other.”
Garnett says the leadership team of four owners does an excellent job of communicating via various modes so that each employee well understands his or her role and value to the company. “We’re all on the same wavelength of meeting needs and building everybody up,” he says. “If someone is struggling we help them, recognizing we all have to do well as individuals to do well as a company. Our founder maintains an open door policy.”
The company has added more offices in recent years, allowing opportunities for advancement and promotion from within, including new branch manager positions, Garnett says. Employees are also recognized for going above and beyond on a monthly basis with video announcement and prizes. “Our employees are encouraged to recognize the great work of their fellow employees,” Garnett says.
Although the company employs 17 producers, their relationship is collaborative rather than competitive, Garnett says. One sales person, for example, may have the opportunity to work with a customer whose industry is less familiar to him than another salesperson. The one with the opportunity can count on mentoring and support from that more familiar producer. “This is not a sink or swim environment,” Garnett says. “We all help each other to cover all the bases for our customers and provide the best service possible. We realize if we all give 110 percent our customers will be happy and the agency will continue to grow and benefit everyone.”
Byars|Wright builds relationships in the communities it serves through various employee service activities. In response to the Covid-19 crisis, for example, the Gardendale team is partnering with United Way Meals on Wheels and the Gardendale Senior Center to provide seniors the weekly opportunity to drive by the senior center to pick up cartons of milk and a week’s worth of frozen meals.
Byars|Wright Inc. // Haig Wright II // 1700 Fourth Ave., Jasper, AL 35501 // 205-221-3621
2. Wilkins Miller
Accounting and advisory services firm Wilkins Miller was ranked second in the best small and medium companies category, rising up one ranking position from last year. The company employs 75 in its three offices serving Mobile and the Gulf Coast.
Managing Partner Allen Carroll says the key thing that makes the company so great to work for is its employees. New hires are carefully screened to fit in the collaborative, service-driven culture, which has the mission motto of “We help people achieve.” Carroll says, “We get people with the right skills and attitude on the bus to begin with. And then we get out of their way so they do an excellent job assisting our clients.”
Leadership voices its appreciation for team members by often thanking them for their hard work with weekly call outs and listening to them on a daily basis. “We show respect for their views,” Carroll says.
“We are committed to providing continuing education, going above and beyond to invest in our people,” Carroll says. “The way we look at it is that every employee has the potential to be a leader in their position.”
Wilkins Miller // Allen Carroll, Managing Partner // 41 W. I-65 Service Rd. N, Ste. 400, Mobile, AL 36608 // 251-410-6700
3. SPOC Automation
SPOC Automation is not only ranked No. 3 among the best small or medium size companies in Alabama, it was also named one of the best workplaces in the country in May by Inc. Magazine. The Trussville-based company specializes in automation technology for regulating rotational equipment, explains CEO and President Bobby Mason. “When I founded this company 20 years ago, I did so because I wanted to create a workplace where people felt valued and were treated well,” he says.
The company, which now employs 85, took a long look at its core values several years ago and formalized Mason’s vision through its stated Lift Up mission program. “Lift Up is our secret sauce now. We say ‘Lift up yourself, each other, the company, our customers and our community,’” Mason notes.
Team members receive special coins in recognition of great work, with a gold coin for the most valuable employee of the year. “Showing appreciation to your people every day pays huge dividends,” Mason says. “I love my job, and my employees and customers are happy. We all feel good knowing what we do helps the country by reducing energy costs.”
SPOC Automation // Bobby Mason, President & CEO // 7363 Gadsden Hwy., Trussville, AL 35173 // 205-661-3642
4. The American Equity Underwriters Inc.
The American Equity Underwriters Inc., headquartered in Mobile, provides underwriting and claim services for the American Longshore Mutual Association LTD, a group insurance fund.
AEU’s senior marketing manager, Maggie Hudson, says her employer has an “open and collaborative culture.”
“Our leadership really values everyone like family,” says Hudson. “When someone is going through hard times, everyone jumps in to offer support or to help carry their workload in some way.”
Besides providing a family atmosphere, AEU gives its employees opportunities
to volunteer in their local communities, mentoring through Big Brothers Big Sisters or lending a hand to another local charity.
AEU also hosts luncheons for the employees, as well as happy hour events, contests and an annual Christmas party.
In addition, AEU offers a benefits package that includes flexible scheduling.
“We put a focus on our employees as family,” says AEU CEO Michael L. Lapeyrouse. “It’s easy to make decisions on their behalf when you know your employees as people. You know about their families, and you understand what motivates them. We simply try to put our people first in all of our decisions, and people appreciate that.”
AEU // Michael L. Lapeyrouse, Chief Executive Officer // 32nd Floor, 11 N. Water St., Mobile, AL 36602 // 251-690-4230
5. Rabren General Contractors
Rabren General Contractors is a privately held firm headquartered in Auburn that specializes in general contacting, design-build and preconstruction services.
Among Rabren’s employee benefits are paid time off starting at 15 days per year for salaried employees; 401(k) matching; health, dental and vision insurance and access to wellness benefits. The firm also organizes perks, such as monthly team-building events ranging from group food truck lunches to bowling.
And to help Rabren employees succeed in their careers, the firm issues ongoing and annual performance reviews, offers incentives and helps with setting goals. The strategy is particularly helpful for younger workers, CEO Matt Rabren says.
And at the annual Christmas lunch, the firm rewards the workers who demonstrate the six “success factors” that are valued at Rabren: Drives for Results, Strives for Improvement, Solves Complex Problems, Creates Trust with Character and Action, Teams Up and Builds Rabren People.
“We have these success factors that we work around that are molded to fit our culture and brand,” says Rabren. “We call it ‘The Rabren Way.’”
Rabren General Contractors // Matt Rabren, President & Chief Executive Officer // 306 Persimmon Dr., Auburn, AL 36830 // 334-826-6143
6. Roberts Brothers Inc.
Ask Daniel Dennis, president of the Mobile real estate firm Roberts Brothers Inc., what makes a company a good place to work, and he will tell you about the importance of creating a culture of putting people first.
“There’s an old saying that goes, ‘Culture eats strategy for lunch every time,’” says Dennis. “It’s true. Culture matters. In fact, we believe it is number one.”
In keeping with that message, Roberts Brothers Inc. helps new agents sharpen their skills through its training program.
“The ‘Eight Weeks to Success’ program is a step-by-step approach that outlines in detail the specific steps that our new associates should do each day to build the foundation for their career,” Dennis says.
But while the firm strives for success in selling vacation and residential homes, it also finds time to reward associates for their hard work. The firm, for example, hosts an annual convention that brings all the associates together for a group vacation away from the office — a cruise or a trip except when a virus intervenes.
Roberts Brothers Inc. // Daniel Dennis, President // 3601 Spring Hill Business Park, Ste. 101, Mobile, AL 36608 // 251-344-9220
7. Avadian Credit Union
Avadian Credit Union strives to promote a culture of continuous learning for career-minded employees, President and CEO Linda Cencula says.
To help employees advance in their careers, Avadian provides tuition reimbursement and training opportunities, including leadership training, she says.
“We try to make sure that we foster an environment where people always have the opportunity to learn and to grow and develop into whatever their role is,” says Cencula. “So if a higher-ranking position opens up, they’re ready for it if they want it.”
Furthermore, the credit union hands out biannual performance bonuses to reward eligible employees who reach work-related goals and metrics.
“We try to make the metrics process-oriented,” says Cencula, “where if you do the job the right way and follow the process, the results will happen.”
In addition, Avadian rewards and honors its employees each year during what the company dubs as “Delight Week.” During this special employee appreciation period, the human resources department gifts staffers with goodie boxes containing items like t-shirts, throws, magnets and coasters, says Ashley Wilbanks, the credit union’s assistant vice president of marketing.
Delight Week also features cookouts, luncheons and team-building games.
“One of our biggest mantras is that we treat each other like family,” says Cencula, “and I think it fosters the culture that we have.”
Avadian // Linda Cencula, President and CEO // 1 Riverchase Pkwy. S., Hoover, AL 35244 // 205-444-3713
8. White-Spunner Construction Inc.
A state-of-the-art fitness center and wellness pantry, paid time off and tuition reimbursements are just some of the perks and benefits that White-Spunner Construction Inc. offers its employees.
With its headquarters in Mobile, White-Spunner provides general contracting, design build and construction management services in more than 20 states across the United States.
Several perks that White-Spunner provides its employees focus on health and wellness. The company, for example, operates a fitness center at its headquarters and a wellness pantry stocked with nutritious snacks and beverages for the employees, says John White-Spunner, the company’s president and CEO.
“It’s been positive,” says White-Spunner. “We’re providing some nutrition for our people, and they can take breaks and have something healthy to eat.”
In addition, he says the company’s Mobile headquarters is a green building, a LEED silver-certified structure designed to create a healthy and energy-efficient workspace.
“It’s the whole working environment,” says White-Spunner, “the lighting, the sunlight, the openness and the air quality, the quality of the carpets and the paint so they don’t give off emissions. It starts from the ground up, looking at what’s the best place for employees to work.”
And, if an employee happens to feel stressed, the company’s on-site chaplain is available to provide counsel, he says.
“Construction isn’t an easy or passive business,” says White-Spunner. “You need dedicated people, and you need to take care of them.”
White-Spunner Construction Inc. // John White-Spunner, President and CEO // 2010 W. I-65 Service Rd. S., Mobile, AL 36693 // 251-471-5189
9. United Bank
One hundred sixteen years ago, United Bank opened its doors for the first time as the Bank of Atmore. Today, the financial institution has more than 200 employees and operates branches throughout southwest Alabama and northwest Florida.
Employees at United Bank enjoy a host of benefits and perks, including tuition reimbursements; gym and fitness reimbursements; health, vision and dental insurance, and $500 toward their own flexible spending accounts. Furthermore, the bank offers profit sharing and matches up to 5.5 percent of employees’ 401(k) stock ownership plans.
But besides providing the more traditional company benefits and perks, this year the bank gave its employees spending money that they could use to support small businesses in their towns that are struggling to remain open during the Covid-19 pandemic, says Robert Jones, the bank’s president and CEO.
“We’ve given employees $15 to go out and shop locally,” says Jones, “or to buy lunch at a local restaurant to help the communities we’re in.”
In addition, United Bank operates a leadership development program. After all, says Jones, “To have a good customer experience, you’ve got to have a good employee experience.”
United Bank // Robert Jones, CEO // 200 E. Nashville Ave., Atmore, AL 36502 // 251-446-6159
10. Inline Electric Supply Co.
At Inline Electric Supply Co., the workers are part owners in the Huntsville-based business that serves electrical contractors, installers and other industrial customers in Alabama and parts of Georgia and Tennessee.
Inline switched to a 100 percent Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) in 2012, says Bruce Summerville, Inline’s president. He says the ESOP gives employees a “fantastic” retirement to look forward to and offers a powerful incentive to stay with the company.
“As long as we’re operating and having the success that we’ve had,” says Summerville, “it’s a big financial windfall for them.”
Inline workers enjoy other benefits, too, such as tuition reimbursement, an employee assistance program, full medical insurance, dental and vision coverage, accident insurance and short- and long-term disability insurance.
And Summerville says that every other year, the Inline team and their spouses gather at the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa in Birmingham for fun and fellowship.
“By getting to know people,” says Summerville, “it certainly promotes camaraderie and team effort.”
Inline Electric Supply Co. // Bruce Summerville, President // 2880 Bob Wallace Ave., Huntsville, AL 35805 // 256-533-2851
Best Large Company: Edward Jones
Returning as the No. 1 best large company to work for in Alabama is financial services leader Edward Jones, which is based in St. Louis. Alabama is home to 317 of the firm’s 47,000-plus team members nationwide.
Although each Edward Jones office is small, with one financial advisor and one or more administrative staff members, the company successfully creates a big family atmosphere through a vibrant communications and mentoring network, team meetings and special events, says Monroeville-based Financial Advisor Jodi Chambers. “Communication is constantly flowing top down and bottom up through every type channel you can think of,” she says. “Our managing partner, for example, frequently communicates with us through video.”
Like many other Edward Jones employees, Chambers says she appreciates the collaborative spirit of the company. “Our offices may be separate but you always know someone will help you if you have a question or need support. We are all there for each other and want everyone to succeed,” she says. “I have so benefitted from everyone who has coached me over the years and enjoy being able to coach others.”
Company employees often team up like think tanks to work on company goals and initiatives as well as mentor each other, offering a wide variety of leadership and service opportunities throughout the firm. “Leadership and teamwork keeps you engaged,” Chambers says. “I’ve served in a wide variety of leadership roles over the years and have really enjoyed it.”
Employee appreciation is often shown via emails, awards, meetings and special events, Chambers says. Her personal favorite is the annual regional meeting celebration, which is attended by employees and their family members. “Being a mom, I love that my children are able to enjoy the family activities and getting to know my associates’ children,” she says. “The meeting is a great way to celebrate our victories over the year.”
As a mother of five children, Chambers says she also personally appreciates the flexibility of the company’s policy toward work hours. She values being able to meet her clients at times that serve them and also allow her to schedule around her children’s needs and events. “I can be there for that baseball game or that school lunch,” she says. “I’m able to be both a full-time mother and a full-time employee.”
Edward Jones // Jason Kozon, Financial Adviser/Regional Leader // 22394 Miﬂin Rd., No. 202, Foley, AL 36535 // 251-943-3399
2. Jack Henry & Associates Inc.
Jack Henry & Associates, based in Monett, Missouri, returned this year as second place winner for large companies, continuing its tradition of treating its 230 Alabama employees well — including with a newly formalized bonus program — while providing banks, credit union and other enterprises with a full range of software solutions and services.
One of the biggest draws of the company for all of its employees, says Birmingham-based Enterprise Integration & Services Senior Director Mackenzie Kizer, is the emphasis on organic growth of leadership within the company and on promotion from within. He points to the company’s top executive, President and CEO David Foss. “He grew up with the company, taking on a number of roles over the years,” Kizer says. “It makes us feel good to see there are so many opportunities for advancement here.”
Those opportunities happen in part because the company’s services are specialized and employees become more valuable the longer they work for Jack Henry. “Plus the company has seen phenomenal growth.”
Jack Henry & Associates Inc. // Rick Keith, Regional Sales // 7400 Cahaba Valley Rd., Birmingham, AL 35242-6306 // 205-981-1980
3. Bank Independent
Founded in 1947, Bank Independent serves the financial needs of families and businesses across seven counties in north Alabama. CEO Rick Wardlaw says Bank Independent’s culture of servant leadership, a legacy of its founders, is what makes it a great place to work.
“The executive team and I try to set the tone by serving the leadership team and managers,” says Wardlaw. That philosophy extends throughout the company and creates high expectations for its employees, challenging them to continuously grow and learn in their positions. To assist that growth, Bank Independent ensures they have access to resources for professional and personal development.
Wardlaw says Bank Independent’s response to the challenges it has recently faced due to the Covid-19 pandemic illustrates the value the institution places on its employees. “We have challenged ourselves to protect our most vulnerable team members while continuing to fulfill our mission to make a positive difference in people’s lives,” he says. That included rapidly implementing telecommuting for as many employees as possible. Bank Independent recruited individuals who were unable to resume their normal duties right away to sew masks for their fellow team members and local healthcare workers.
Bank Independent // Rick Wardlaw, CEO // 710 S. Montgomery Ave., Sheffield, AL 35660 // 256-386-5000
4. Total Quality Logistics
Total Quality Logistics (TQL) is one of the largest freight brokerage firms in North America. President Kerry Byrne points to the fierce dedication to the company’s core values of integrity, honesty and teamwork as the driving force that motivates TQL employees to arrange the transportation of thousands of loads of freight each day. “TQL continually exceeds the expectations of its employees and makes it a company people are proud to be associated with,” he says.
TQL’s culture is centered on celebrating employee achievements. When sales brokers in the Mobile office achieve certain milestones, they receive a custom baseball jersey. “Not only does this serve as a symbol of success,” says Byrne, “it helps up-and-coming brokers identify who to turn to for advice and encouragement.”
Ongoing training opportunities are available to employees and, as time goes on, topics shifts from basic logistics and sales to account penetration, time management and leadership development.
Employees also get considerable input in the day-to-day operations of the company. “Perhaps the best example of this is our Other Modes and Specialized Services (OMASS) team,” says Byrne. OMASS provides a platform for employees who want to develop new services for TQL customers. It is the employee’s responsibility to vet and test the idea and, if it proves profitable, the OMASS team provides the technology and operational support necessary to implement the new offering companywide.
Total Quality Logistics // Mackenzie Collins, Group Sales Manager // 26000 Bass Pro Dr., Bldg. E200, Ste. 214, Spanish Fort, AL 36527 // 800-580-3101
5. America’s First Federal Credit Union
Birmingham-based America’s First Federal Credit Union (AmFirst) is a full-service, non-profit financial institution with 21 branch locations. “Our employees are truly what make AmFirst a great place to work,” says Human Resources Manager Jennifer McNeil. “We have an amazing work culture, and we are truly a family.”
McNeil is quick to mention the leadership team’s dedication to ensure AmFirst employees are successful in their careers. The company offers flexible scheduling, paid time off for volunteerism and also encourages personal and professional development through a variety of training programs. An Employee Assistance Program offers free counseling, legal and financial advice and resources to support employees’ overall well-being.
Additionally, AmFirst offers a comprehensive benefit package that includes wellness reimbursement and free employee access to a local health clinic.
America’s First Federal Credit Union // Bill Connor, President/CEO // 1200 4th Ave. N., Birmingham, AL 35203 // 205-320-4000
6. Alabama Credit Union
Alabama Credit Union (ACU) is a nonprofit financial cooperative founded in 1956 to serve the University of Alabama. Today, ACU has 34 branches throughout Alabama and North Florida.
CEO Steve Swofford says employee benefits and incentives, approachable leadership and numerous opportunities for advancement make ACU a great place to work.
ACU’s High Performance Teams strategy is designed to help employees develop leadership, project management and communication skills while developing relationships with individuals from different departments and organizational levels. “By identifying talent from within our ranks, we can fill internal positions with people who already know and understand the ACU culture and who can meet the demands of higher-level positions,” says Swofford.
In 2014, ACU adjusted its business hours on Wednesdays, opting to open most of its branches at 10 a.m., to allow employees time to participate in ThinkTank, a series of sessions geared toward professional and personal growth.
“We also place a huge emphasis on community service,” Swofford says, paying employees for 15 hours a year of volunteer work — which contributes thousands of volunteer hours to the community and fosters strong community ties.
Alabama Credit Union // Steve Swofford, CEO // P.O. Box 862998, Tuscaloosa, AL 35486-0027 // 205-469-5944
7. MAX Credit Union
Founded in 1955, MAX Credit Union has grown into a full-service financial institution offering a wide variety of services ranging from checking accounts to investment opportunities, insurance and home mortgages. After more than six decades its priority remains the same — providing stellar customer service that is easy, quick and personal.
MAX is also dedicated to keeping its employees happy. “We literally roll out the red carpet for new hires on their first day and celebrate their first-year milestones with small goodies,” says Natasha Parker, MAX’s human resources coordinator, adding that the average tenure of staff members is more than 10 years. Continued training, professional development and career path opportunities are combined with regular recognition for employee accomplishments.
Parker also points out that the company’s community involvement is a core value that its employees embrace. Following the March 3, 2019 tornado that devastated Beauregard, Alabama, a team of 10 MAX volunteers helped rebuild one of the destroyed homes. More recently, MAX Credit Union and the MAX4Kids Foundation have donated more than $100,000 to local organizations in Covid-19 relief efforts and to help households facing
MAX Credit Union // Martin Head, Interim CEO // P.O. Box 244040, Montgomery AL 36124 // 334-215-4976
Competitive base pay, floating holidays, paid volunteer time and volunteer match, tuition assistance and subsidized child care are among the benefits Brandi Sykes lists as reasons why T-Mobile continues to attract top talent. “That’s just the beginning,” says Sykes, a human resources employee success partner at the company. “We also offer
mobile service discounts, a 401(k) and shared ownership in the company through stock grants and discounted purchases.” The Birmingham call center also features massage chairs, a theater and gaming area.
The company encourages community involvement. Last fall, the Birmingham call center selected Girls Inc. to receive funds through the T-Mobile Regional Grants Program. Call center employees also volunteered at Girls Inc., painting, hosting games and handing out swag. “We also continued ‘Insight Out’ diversity training that built awareness of biases, blind spots and the power of inclusion,” says Sykes.
In addition to a focus on employee growth and development that has consistently resulted in a 90 percent internal promotion rate, Sykes credits T-Mobile’s culture of diversity and inclusion for creating a positive work environment.
T-Mobile // Dave Thompson, Director, Customer Care // 820 Tom Martin Dr., Birmingham, AL 35211 // 205-290-6526