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2019 Best Companies to Work for in Alabama Awards Celebration

Photo by Joe De Sciose

Peachtree Planning Corp. LLC and Edward Jones took top prizes at Business Alabama Magazine’s 2019 Best Companies to Work for in Alabama awards ceremony July 29 at The Woolworth social club in Birmingham.

For the third time in five years, Edward Jones won first place in the contest’s large company category for those with at least 250 employees. Peachtree Planning was a first-time winner in the small-to-medium category for firms with 15 to 249 employees.

Twenty-two companies with headquarters or regional offices in Alabama competed in this year’s event. Peachtree Planning is a Birmingham-based financial planner with offices in Nashville and Atlanta. The national financial services company Edward Jones’ regional office in Foley participated in the contest.

Andy Meehan, Peachtree Planning

Business Alabama Magazine held the competition with The Best Companies Group (BCG), a workplace research firm in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. BCG selected the 22 competitors based on its assessment of each company.

Twenty-five percent of the assessment came from the employers who answered questions about benefits and policies as well as perks such as casual Fridays and flex time. The other 75 percent came from BCG’s anonymous employee engagement survey that polled workers on how much they enjoyed coming to work each day, opportunities for career advancement and whether they felt valued by their employers.

“This recognition is based on employees who consistently have great days at work,” Peter Burke, BCG’s president and co-founder told the audience. “There’s so much that needs to go right in order to create an engaged workforce. There are 1,000 paths to get there. But the winners in this group have figured out their path, and we’re honoring them for it tonight.”

David Greer, Edward Jones

Business Alabama Magazine Editor Erica West delivered the opening remarks and presented the awards at the ceremony. WIAT-42 co-anchor Sherri Jackson was mistress of ceremonies.

Before the awards ceremony began, employees and their bosses gathered for a reception inside The Woolworth’s bar and recreation space, which featured foosball and bumper pool tables and tabletop shuffleboard. Some attendees even took turns Duckpin bowling on the club’s eight lanes.


Small-Medium Employer Category   

First Place: Peachtree Planning Corp. LLC accepted by Andy Meehan, President
Second Place: Rabren General Contractors accepted by Stewart Bray, Project Manager
Third Place: Wilkins Miller LLC accepted by Erin Jones, CPA, Partner

The Other Small-Medium Nominees (In Alphabetical Order)
The American Equity Underwriters Inc., accepted by Michael Lapeyrouse, President and CEO
Avadian Credit Union, accepted by Linda Cencula, President and CEO
Byars|Wright, accepted by Lacey Rae Visintainer, Brand Manager
Crow Shields Bailey Pc, accepted by Joey Bailey, CPA and Shareholder
Eagle Eye Outfitters Inc., accepted by Mark Anderson, Co-Owner
Hartmann, Blackmon & Kilgore Pc. (Representative not available due to a shareholders meeting.)
Roberts Brothers Inc., accepted by Daniel Dennis, President, and Sara Roberts, Director of Marketing
United Bank accepted by Bob Jones, CEO
WaveLink Inc., accepted by Tamela Gibbs, President and CEO
White-Spunner Construction Inc., accepted by Adrienne Freeman, Executive Director of People and Culture

Large Company Employer Category

First Place: Edward Jones, accepted by David Greer, Financial Adviser
Second Place: Jack Henry & Associates Inc., accepted by Mackenzie Kizer, Senior Manager, Technical Product Management; and Rene Perez, Senior Manager, Technical Product and Project Management
Third Place: America’s First Federal Credit Union, accepted by Kyle McDougal, Brand Management Officer

The Other Large Company Nominees (In Alphabetical Order)
Alabama Credit Union, accepted by Niki Mathews, Branch Manager
BBB Industries, accepted by Don Bigler, Vice Chairman
Max Credit Union, accepted by Sandra Stenger, Chief Talent Officer
SH Enterprises Inc., accepted by Michelle Hodges, President
Total Quality Logistics, accepted by Chad McMillen, Group Sales Manager
Warren Averett, accepted by Jennifer Duren, Marketing Manager

Click here to learn more about the companies

2019 Best Companies to Work for in Alabama

Edward Jones Alabama associates participating in the Alzheimer’s Association annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s®.

Broker Firm Edward Jones Retakes Top Ranking Among Big Companies

Edward Jones again is ranked as No. 1 in the large company category of the Best Companies to Work for in Alabama competition, for the third time in the last five years. Regional Leader Jason Kozon, who is a Foley-based financial advisor for the nationwide financial services leader, credits the 97-year-old company’s focus on its employees, clients and the communities it serves. “Employees own the company, so there’s not stockholder pressure for higher and higher profits,” Kozon says of the Fortune 500 company.

Leadership is provided by those who have spent years in the ranks of Edward Jones and have a vested loyalty to the company and its client-centered philosophy. Kozon had praise for top leaders throughout the company’s history and says Edward Jones’ new Managing Partner Penny Pennington is bringing new vision and vitality to the firm. “We are fortunate to have had exceptional leadership during our long history,” he says. “Edward Jones continues to expand and promote from within.”

Benefits provided by the company — including medical, dental, vision and long-term care insurance; paid parental leave for births or adoptions; and tuition reimbursement as well as 401(k) and profit sharing — typically exceed industry standards, Kozon says, and have been expanded and improved over time. One of the top benefits, however, is that financial advisors have the potential of becoming partners in the firm. “Edward Jones takes well care of us so we can take well care of our clients,” Kozon says.

Each Edward Jones office consists of a financial advisor and one or more administrative staff members. Although offices are independent with much autonomy, there is plenty of company communication and support, especially on the regional level, where training and mentorship is ongoing, Kozon says.

“We all want each other to do well because we all benefit from each other’s success,” Kozon says. “It’s collaboration among Edward Jones offices, not a competition.”

Employee solidarity is also built through group activities, such as associates participating in Alzheimer’s Association fundraisers. Edward Jones, the first national presenting sponsor for the Alzheimer’s Association annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s, raised $3.3 million in 2018 through its 3,578 teams across the country. The firm’s total contributions last year topped $6 million, surpassing its 2017 contributions of $4.8 million. “We feel fulfilled to be a part of combined efforts that make such an impact,” Kozon says. “Working together we can do so much good.”

Edward Jones
Jason Kozon, Financial Adviser/Regional Leader
22394 Miflin Rd., No. 202, Foley, AL 36535
Phone: 251-943-3399  |  Fax: 888-860-6265

RunnersUp Among Big Companies

JHA Birmingham employees at a recent employee appreciation event.

2. Jack Henry & Associates Inc.

Jack Henry & Associates Inc., a national provider of technology solutions and payment processing services primarily for the financial services industry, has made a conscious effort in recent years to enhance its employee experience, and the strategy is paying off in employee engagement and retention numbers, says Ashley Hogan, human resources business partner, senior manager.

Whenever possible, the company tries to promote from within and has a company department devoted to that effort. “Our CEO and executive leadership team know our employees are our company’s greatest asset and want to treat our employees with the same level of caring as our clients,” Hogan says. “Our motto is ‘Do the right thing’ and that goes for everyone we serve.”

Among company perks are spot and annual bonuses, as well as quarterly and annual employee recognition programs. Benefits continue to improve based on changes requested by employees in periodic company surveys, Hogan says. One example is the expansion of paid leave for births and adoptions for both mother and father. Another is the removal of the salary cap on the company’s 6 percent company match on 401(k) contributions. “We are continually looking for new and better ways to meet the needs of our employees,” Hogan says.

Rick Keith, Regional Sales
7400 Cahaba Valley Rd., Birmingham, AL 35242-6306
Phone: 205-981-1980  |  Fax: 417-235-4281

Employees recognized for years of service during the 2019 Service Awards Banquet.

3. America’s First Federal Credit Union

America’s First Federal Credit Union, a Birmingham-based community credit union with 19 branches in Alabama, has this year begun offering a popular new employee benefit: access to medical clinics where employees pay no copays for exams, lab work or prescriptions. “We try to keep abreast of the trends and are always looking for the next great thing to offer our employees,” says Audra Weber, senior vice president and chief people officer for the credit union.

Morale boosters include the annual company picnic, which has been held at Oak Mountain and Regions Field. Periodic competitions can pay off with an extra vacation day for the winner. Cash bonuses are provided when certain goals are met, Weber says. “We try to be creative so that our employees better enjoy their work and understand we appreciate their hard work,” she says.

Employees are encouraged to volunteer and are provided with up to 8 hours of paid time off to do so. Tuition reimbursement is available at up to 100 percent, depending upon employee grades. Professional development is offered through three continuing education tracks, including one that develops branch managers.

“We look for people who fit our customer-service culture and help them to be the best they can be, promoting from within whenever possible,” Weber says.  

Bill Connor, President/CEO
1200 4th Ave. N., Birmingham, AL 35203
Phone: 205-320-4000  |  Fax: 205-325-3979

When you achieve a commission milestone at Total Quality Logistics, you receive a jersey. Not only do the jerseys say “thank you” for the hard work, they serve as a symbol of achievable success for junior sales brokers.

4. Total Quality Logistics

National business-to-business freight movement company Total Quality Logistics (TQL) emphasizes clear communication as being a core value of the company, says Group Sales Manager Mackenzie Collins, who is based in Spanish Fort. “One of the reasons our founder and CEO Ken Oaks started TQL was because he was frustrated with the lack of communication and transparency in the transportation industry,” Collins says. “To keep the lines of communication open, our CEO sends out a daily email to everyone in the company with pertinent information for our teams.”

The growing company provides attractive rewards to its hardworking employees, Collins says. “Our HR and employee engagement teams focus on offering the best benefits to our employees,” she says. “From great insurance and 401K matching programs to intramural sports leagues, free meals, work-from-home days and corporate discounts, we make sure our employees have plenty of perks.”

TQL tries to promote from within, Collins says. “We are constantly creating new roles and establishing new leaders as we see fit for our growing company,” she says. “Additionally, TQL doesn’t promote on tenure but on performance, which is a driving force for our younger team players. Promoting managers from within the team sets up our teams for success.”

Mackenzie Collins, Group Sales Manager
26000 Bass Pro Dr., Bldg. E200, Ste. 214, Spanish Fort, AL 36527
Phone: 800-580-3101  |  Fax: 513-722-7534

The Montgomery Accounting Services Division hosted a stress buster cookout lunch for the office. They did the grillin’ and the rest of the office did the chillin’.

5. Warren Averett

The leadership of Warren Averett, a major regional accounting and advisory firm, makes it a priority to help employees create and maintain a healthy work/life balance in addition to offering attractive benefits, says Chief Executive Officer Mary Elliott. That can be particularly difficult during the busy tax season each year. One strategy is to allow staff to access the resources of the firm’s Destin office during spring break so they can get to the beach while keeping their work flow going. “Back in the day, a CPA never could go on spring break,” Elliott says. “We try to provide as much flexibility as possible so that employees are able to enjoy being with family and friends.”

To keep long-term staff members fresh and retention high in an industry where burnout is common, Warren Averett provides a month-long paid sabbatical — in addition to vacation time — after 10 years of service. Then the employee is given the month-long perk after each five years of additional service. “As you can imagine, that has been tremendously popular,” Elliot says. Another strategy is to allow team members to career shift in-house when positions are available rather than having to leave the firm to follow a new interest.

Mary Elliott, CEO
2500 Acton Road, No. 200, Birmingham, AL 35243
Phone: 205-979-4100  |  Fax: 205-979-6313

MAX team members volunteer at a local food pantry.

6. MAX Credit Union

MAX Credit Union works hard to keep its employees, says Chief Talent Officer Sandra Stenger. She points to the average tenure of staff members being greater than 10 years and the average tenure of credit union leadership greater than 20 years. Training and professional development for employees and “onboarding” mentoring of new employees is ongoing with an eye to future career paths, Stenger says. “We try to develop our staff members and promote from within,” she says. “Many of our senior leaders started out as tellers.”

The credit union intranet, including a social media type platform, and quarterly coffee meetings called “breaking grounds,” keep staff members in the loop, says Vice President of Organizational Development Lynnette Cupps.

Employees who are observed providing above-and-beyond service that demonstrates organizational core values are recognized with badges on social media. Staff members are encouraged to offer new ideas for benefits and the like. “We want to keep the lines of communication open and honest with communication going both ways to and from top down,” Cupps says. Based on staff member requests, for example, leave benefits for births and adoptions have been greatly expanded, now including leave for grandparents, as well as mothers and fathers.

Martin Head, Interim CEO
P.O. Box 244040, Montgomery AL 36124
Phone: 334-215-4976  |  Fax: 334-215-2983

7. Alabama Credit Union

Employees are encouraged to be innovative at Alabama Credit Union, one effort that has helped increase job satisfaction, says Brandi McKinney, assistant vice president for human resources. Research teams and employee think tanks look for ways to keep improving the organization. One group, for example, is considering how to unify the company’s wellness and financial health efforts. “We have seen staff members really break out and shine through their contributions to the teams,” McKinney says.

A popular new benefit is the credit union’s student loan repayment program. After six months, employees are eligible for the benefit, which provides $50 per month toward paying down their loan’s principal. “They still pay their regular payment, but when they see how much is going to paying the principal, shortening the term of the loan, they are thrilled,” McKinney says. Another popular benefit is employee access to telemedicine, a medical visit that requires no copay.

Weekly video broadcasts are used to keep employees engaged and informed. Fun credit union events include the annual employee tailgate, Halloween costume contest and Margarita Monday. Community service is supported through 15 hours of paid leave.

“We want to keep showing our employees we care about them by being both creative and thoughtful,” McKinney says.

Steve Swofford, CEO
P.O. Box 862998, Tuscaloosa, AL 35486-0027
Phone: 205-469-5944  |  Fax: 205-650-1000

8. BBB Industries

A collaborative culture without the sharp elbows, a dedicated staff and a work location on the sunny Gulf Coast makes BBB Industries one of the state’s best places to work, according to CEO Duncan Gillis.

BBB Industries is a private company headquartered in Daphne that remanufactures alternators, starters and other parts for OEMs and vehicle after-market industries.

“BBB was founded by a Mobile-based father and his two sons,” he says. “While our company has grown exponentially and evolved over time, it’s important to us that we create a work environment that seeks to maintain our family-centric roots.”

BBB Industries has its own Executive Council that welcomes suggestions from workers. One idea, says Gillis, led to the company establishing a summer hours program where during July and August, staffers can work from home or at the office and log out at 2 p.m., every Friday as long as they work 40 hours that week. The program has proven to increase productivity, he says.

Another new initiative at the BBB Industries’ Daphne office is a pilot program that pairs employees with mentors who can guide them toward their career goals, he says

The employees have health and dental insurance, 10 paid holidays and an employee assistance program. But they also enjoy fun company perks, too, such as birthday lunches, after-hours socials, a Memorial Day cookout and the annual Christmas party at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear.

“BBB wants its employees to feel appreciated,” says Gillis, “to know that they’re valued and reward them for their hard work.”

Duncan Gillis, CEO
29627 Renaissance Blvd., Daphne, AL 36526
Phone: 251-438-2737  |  Fax: 251-438-2828

9. SH Enterprises

From wellness programs to an employee forum, SH Enterprises Inc. offers several initiatives to make it a desirable place to work.

SH Enterprises, with more than 200 Alabama employees, manages entities that include CENTURY 21 Meyer Real Estate, Meyer Vacation Rentals and Starr Textile Services.

“Perks, benefit packages and competitive pay are hard earned and well deserved for each member of our team,” says SH Enterprises President Michelle Hodges.

The company offers a LiveWell program for employees who want to get healthier. LiveWell includes meal plans, blood pressure checks, gym membership reimbursements and one-on-one meetings with a health coach.

SH Enterprises also holds a Spring Celebration event, where employees can draw for prizes, such as a paid day off with $100.

“We also offer a team lunch every Saturday throughout the summer months and host a Fall Family Fun day at The Track amusement park in Gulf Shores so the entire team and their families can let loose and enjoy activities from go-carts to mini-golf.”

Hodges says one way the company identifies benefit options is through feedback from the Employee Forum Group, comprised of one team member from each company and division. The team meets monthly with the CEO or president to discuss recent news, changes or needs and to pick the “Employee of the Quarter” award winner.

“Engage with your workforce,” Hodges says. “Encourage their feedback on ways to enhance the work environment and remove barriers to help them stay focused on what they can impact.”

Sheila Hodges, Chairman of the Board
1585 Gulf Shores Pkwy., Gulf Shores, AL 36542
800-775-8945  |  251-968-6469

Some of the Peachtree Planning Birmingham team at a Best Workplaces Event.

Peachtree Planning Tops Among Small and Medium Companies

Ranking top among small to medium companies is Peachtree Planning Corp. LLC, a financial planner with offices in Birmingham, Atlanta and Nashville.

“Our people make the company so outstanding,” says Sara Boudreaux, vice president and head of recruiting and marketing. “The majority of people who work here are people who are referred to work with us, and people who do business with us refer other people to do business with us.

“Our purpose is to help people make impactful financial decisions and to create security,” says Boudreaux. “Most of our advisors feel good at the end of the day because they have made a difference in someone’s life.”

One way Peachtree achieves that is through matching programs for charities and causes that touch the lives of employees and clients — from the Pound the Pavement for Peter run honoring Peter Hopkins who died at 3 from a Peroxisomal Disorder where advisor Sarah Dozier sits on the board, to the Autism Society of Alabama, where advisor Clay McDowell sits on the Junior Board of Birmingham.

In addition to supporting charitable causes in the communities it serves in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, Peachtree also fosters an atmosphere of teamwork within its walls. For birthdays, staff members always decorate the doors of the honoree, showering that person with cards, cake and good wishes. Work anniversaries are recognized throughout the firm, and a Monday morning memo advises all staff of special events, celebrating new babies or sharing the sorrows of those with a sad event.

“Even though we are all throughout the Southeast, we feel like part of a close-knit family,” Boudreaux says. “We get together as an entire firm two times a year for a fun event. We’ve had picnics at Big Canoe (in North Georgia) with families and kids enjoying egg tosses and water balloons. We enjoy seeing how kids have grown over the years, since we don’t see the children of folks in other state offices every often.”

In September, the whole Peachtree team will gather at Chattanooga Brewing Co. in Tennessee. Different offices hold special events throughout the year, but those times as a team, whether annual or every other year, are considered valuable bonding time.

Instead of gifts to one another, the staff gives to someone in need during the holidays, either adopting a family or choosing a charity for contributions. The company matches those staff gifts, including taking part in local charity events or organizing drives for servicemen overseas.

“If we can make a difference for somebody in a positive way, either helping a company with their financials or helping employees and their families create a sense of financial security, we’ve done our jobs,” Boudreaux says. “Because of the way we operate and care about our staff, a lot of people enjoy spending time together and sharing their lives.”

Peachtree Planning of Alabama LLC
Andrew Meehan, President Distribution, Birmingham
2151 Highland Ave., Ste. 100, Birmingham, AL 35205
Phone: 888-232-7151  |  Fax: 205-930-9430

RunnersUp Among Small/Medium Companies

Rabren team members at the annual golf tournament.

2. Rabren General Contractors

Begun as a modest general contractor in 2000 in Auburn by Mike and Travis Rabren, and now led by Matt Rabren, Rabren General Contractors has grown into one of the state’s largest privately held general contractors, with experience across the industry.

Che Odom, business process administrator for the firm, says the company stands out because “leadership treats employees like family.”

Leadership is transparent about plans for the future and how employees can help to “get there,” Odom says. That includes annual performance reviews that are tied to compensation increases and Christmas bonuses for a job well done, giving employees both incentive and direction for best success.

Employees take part in a lot of teambuilding, often including families, in events like football games and bowling, a Christmas party and the annual Travis L. Rabren Foundation Fundraising Golf Tournament.

“We are encouraged to grow personally and professionally and are given tools and learning opportunities to do so,” Odom says.

Matt Rabren, President & Chief Executive Officer
306 Persimmon Dr., Auburn, AL 36830
Phone: 334-826-6143  |  Fax: 334-819-1760

Wilkins Miller staffers prepare a fiesta for families at Ronald McDonald House.

3. Wilkins Miller LLC

Wilkins Miller Accounting and Advisory Firm is a full-service accounting firm offering financial advisory, wealth management, IT, forensic accounting, litigation and valuation services.

Of course, that means April looms large on the firm’s calendar, but an emphasis on staff engagement and workplace enjoyment is at the top of Wilkins Miller priorities — from community events like a bowling fundraiser for Junior Achievement and meal preparation for Ronald McDonald House and working with Big Brothers, Big Sisters to costume parties and ugly holiday sweater contests.

“We genuinely care about folks and want to be a great place to work,” says Managing Partner Allen Carroll. “Happy, motivated team members result in great service to clients.”

Beyond offering excellent traditional benefits of insurance and vacation time, the firm believes in flexibility in an age when employees struggle to balance work and home life.

“Organizations that are successful for the long term realize the economy is good, and people have choices. Talent is scarce,” says Carroll. “We serve our clients best by having good folks.”

Allen Carroll, Managing Partner
41 W. I-65 Service Rd. N, Ste. 400, Mobile, AL 36608
Phone: 251-410-6700  |  wilkinsmiller.com

Byars|Wright employees gather for the Spring Family Picnic.

4. Byars|Wright

Since 1946, Byars|Wright has grown from a single office in Jasper to four offices in the greater Birmingham area providing commercial and personal insurance, overseeing risk management and insurance needs for organizations throughout the United States. While its services have grown on a grand scale, the company remains privately owned.

Lacey Rae Visintainer, brand manager, says, “At Byars|Wright, we’re a family — and we’re committed to remaining a locally family-owned and operated business. We understand the human element of business and desire for a well-balanced life and family. We foster that belief through encouraging teamwork, kindness, compassion and a positive culture.”

Visintainer believes the atmosphere of challenging, supporting and encouraging one another draws employees closer, which in turn allows them to go above and beyond for clients.

One big perk is having the weekend begin early. The office closes on Fridays at 3 p.m., because she says, “An extra two hours with family or friends is precious time. We celebrate each other’s victories in both life and work. Co-workers organize luncheons, birthday celebrations, cookouts and more.”

W. Haig Wright II, President, Jasper Office
1700 4th Ave., Jasper, AL 35501
Phone: 205-221-3621  |  byarswright.com

5. The American Equity Underwriters Inc.

The American Equity Underwriters Inc. has decades of experience as the program administrator of the American Longshore Mutual Association Ltd., a group of self-insurance funds authorized by the U.S. Department of Labor to provide member coverage under the United States Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Its members are waterfront employers of all sizes.

Maggie Hudson, marketing strategist, says AEU is a great place to work because it’s open and collaborative on multiple fronts and leadership is always open to ideas from throughout the company.

Michael L. Lapeyrouse, president and CEO, says, “We’ve worked hard to build a culture that truly feels like a family, and that feeling extends beyond our employees to our customers and business partners. We hire employees who embrace this type of culture because families deliver on promises, celebrate successes and do the right thing by each other.”

Commitment to the community also makes an impact. As a corporate sponsor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Alabama, the company allows employees one hour a week to be a “big” for a child at an inner-city school and supports numerous Big Brothers Big Sisters events throughout the year.

“We have a summer Day of Service each year where employees go out into our community and volunteer,” Hudson says. “And then we also have a fun environment with periodic luncheons, fun happy hour events, contests throughout the year, and our company-wide Christmas party. Top it all off with good benefits, fair pay, flexible scheduling for personal events as needed and more and it really makes AEU a fantastic place to work.”

Michael L. Lapeyrouse, Chief Executive Officer
32nd Floor, 11 N. Water St., Mobile, AL 36602
Phone: 251-690-4230  |  Fax: 251-690-4299

6. Hartmann, Blackmon & Kilgore PC

Front and center on the website of accounting and business consulting firm Hartmann, Blackmon & Kilgore, there’s a picture of smiling people with an overlay, “Our team is what makes HB&K different.”

Managing Director Dennis Sherrin, CPA, says, “What makes our company great is the people.  Without a great team that is committed to being better than yesterday, we wouldn’t be a best company.”

HB&K serves clients ranging from small businesses and individuals to governments and multi-national corporations. And according to Kari Wolfe, creative content director, its many services to the community make the company even more remarkable. Its service is headlined by the Steak Cook-Off it presents each year to support a local Rotary group.

“We try to really focus on being forward thinking and innovative,” Wolfe says. “Our busy season is insane hours (tax season runs January through April). Even in the busy season, our firm puts an emphasis on work-life balance” — helping employees stay focused and productive for eight hours rather than working until midnight.

Even during tax season, there are relaxing events. During the rest of the year, there might be a Margarita Friday, food trucks or sports bracket contests.

“We try to get people to really spend time with each other and share about their lives so that you’re working with people who can become more than co-workers,” Wolfe says.

Employees are also encouraged to donate time to the Salvation Army Angel Tree, Baldwin County Humane Society, Boys and Girls Club or other organizations that interest them.

“There are so many charities that need help,” Wolfe says. “What they need most is our time.”

Dennis Sherrin, Managing Shareholder
806 N. Section St., Fairhope, AL 36532
Phone: 251-928-2443  |  Fax: 251-928-6921

7. Avadian Credit Union

If you’ve ever seen the distinctive orange armchair television commercials for Avadian Credit Union, you’ve heard impact stories of how the credit union thoughtfully gives back to the members it serves.

Avadian Credit Union began operations in December of 1934, formerly Alabama Telco, with seven charter members and a capital base of $70. It was formed to serve telephone company employees and their families, but has grown from its original charter to embrace members of the communities it serves.

With its trademark of recognizing individual needs in a “people helping people” way, the credit union makes the Business Alabama list of best places to work, in addition to having earned the 2018 Credit Union Journal Best Places to Work and the Birmingham Business Journal Best Places to Work in 2018.

“Connecting with our community and our employees is an important part of who we are,” says Avadian President and CEO Linda Cencula. “We love putting smiles on faces, on the faces of members of our community and on the faces of our employees.”

The credit union takes part in initiatives like a summer kickoff cookout, once-a-month service at the Jimmie Hale Mission and participation in community events like Moss Rock Festival and community Christmas parades. Avadian employees also partner with Vineyard Family Services at a BackPack Buddy packing party, which provides students who need them with nutritious and easy-to-prepare food options to take home.

Today, with more than 78,000 members from branches throughout the state, Avadian has approximately $750 million in assets and is one of the largest credit unions in Alabama. It prides itself on community involvement.

Linda Cencula, President and CEO
1 Riverchase Pkwy. S., Hoover, AL 35244
Telephone: 205-444-3713  |  Fax: 205-444-3745

8. White-Spunner Construction Inc.

“In our industry we work a lot of crazy hours,” says John White-Spunner. “It certainly isn’t a 9 to 5 business.”

White-Spunner is president and CEO of White-Spunner Construction Inc., a general contracting, design-build and construction management company based in Mobile. His company, in business since 1981, has erected commercial and retail buildings, schools and healthcare facilities throughout the United States.

“Our team works hard, and they deserve to be recognized for that,” he says. “We try to do what we can to make life easier.” One key way is helping employees achieve a work-life balance. “Our office is kid friendly,” White-Spunner says. “So if there’s a school holiday, and we’re still working, our employees are welcome to bring their kids to work with them.”

The company also brings a chaplain to the office weekly to pray and talk privately with employees who request assistance, he says. “He’s not a part of the company,” White-Spunner says. “So he’s never going to be critical of anything that’s shared. He’s just there to support and encourage.”

White-Spunner also has an on-site fitness center, and every quarter, the company hosts fun events, he says, from dinners out to ice-cream sundae parties. The company also hosts an appreciation retreat every fall for employees and their families.

Besides the perks, White-Spunner’s employee benefits package includes a family healthcare plan, dental and vision insurance, disability coverage policies and a matching 401k program.

White-Spunner says companies should listen to employees’ priorities and offer opportunities to merge those priorities with their job.

“That creates a culture where your employees are truly invested,” he says.

John White-Spunner, President and CEO
2010 W. I-65 Service Rd. S., Mobile, AL 36693
Phone: 251-471-5189  |  Fax: 251-478-3962

9. Eagle Eye Outfitters Inc.

Established in 1999 by Mark and Susan Anderson, Eagle Eye Outfitters is an independent retail department store in Dothan specializing in outdoor clothing, accessories and supplies, from jeans and leggings to hiking footwear and camping gear.

The company has 45 full-time employees and 31 part-time workers.

“Eagle Eye challenges our staff to be someone great to work with — to be someone that both team members and customers love working with, which means being efficient, communicative, collaborative, personable and willing to work to get things done,” Susan Anderson says.

Unlike many retailers today, the self-described Christian company keeps it doors closed on Sundays. But Eagle Eye Outfitters also gives employees six paid holidays a year once they meet key anniversary dates, Anderson says. In addition, those who complete management training get 80 hours of paid vacation.

Moreover, the company’s employee benefits include store discounts and an up-to-three-percent match toward a Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) individual retirement account.

But besides the benefits, Eagle Eye Outfitters hosts an employee Thanksgiving meal and an “After Christmas” party offsite.

The store, however, also offers its employees the chance to give back to the community through its Volunteer Time Off program, which allows full-time workers up to 40 paid hours a year to volunteer at a local nonprofit organization, church or public school. Part-time workers get up to 20 paid hours annually to volunteer.

Anderson says her company chose the benefits and perks by polling their workers and benchmarking with other companies in the retail industry.

She says, “Listen to your staff.”

Mark Anderson, CEO, and Susan Anderson, CFO
3535 Ross Clark Cir., Dothan, AL 36303
Phone: 334-673-2878  |  Fax: 334-673-2879

10. Roberts Brothers

“Investing in our staff is a consistent focus,” says Daniel Dennis, president of Roberts Brothers Inc., a real estate company based in Mobile.

Roberts Brothers has been in business since 1946, selling homes and rental properties around the Mobile Bay area.

Dennis says its managers endeavor to help employees advance their careers.

“Whether it’s working together on flex hours so someone can pursue a college degree or promoting them to a new department, our managers consistently look for opportunities,” he says.

Last year the company kicked off a new leadership development initiative, Dennis says. It offered employees a six-month stretch to shadow managers and attend managers’ meetings. Each January, the management team reads and discusses a book on leadership and the firm invites motivational speakers and local market experts to make presentations for employees.

Beyond career development, Dennis says the company fosters an “entrepreneurial spirit” among its employees.

“Trying or suggesting new things is encouraged daily,” says Dennis. “When your employees feel safe and secure to try new things and make mistakes, they’re more willing to vocalize better ways to operate.”

Roberts Brothers makes time for fun, too. The company hosts free movie and dinner nights, and, each spring, it treats employees and their families to a company “convention,” which is actually a cruise off the Gulf Coast where the only agenda is relationship-building and relaxation.

Dennis says, “Treat your people as the number one asset on your balance sheet.”

Daniel Dennis, President
3601 Spring Hill Business Park, Ste. 101, Mobile, AL 36608
Phone: 251-344-9220  |  Fax: 251-344-7477

11. Crow, Shields, Bailey PC

The accounting and consulting firm Crow, Shields, Bailey PC, headquartered in Mobile, promotes communication and an open door policy, Managing Shareholder Gina McKellar CPA, says.

Crow, Shields, Bailey PC got its start in 1986 when the founder, Kenny Crow, opened the first office in Gulf Shores. Today, the firm has offices in Daphne and Gulf Shores as well.

“Our millennial team members are very involved in recruiting and offer many recommendations regarding retention,” says McKellar. “The key is to listen to these suggestions and have an open mind.” The firm also gathers feedback through internal and external surveys, firm-wide meetings and one-on-one meetings to determine the kinds of perks employees want.

“Perks and benefits are a waste of time and money if they’re not the ones our team is interested in,” she says.

Current perks include Friday trivia with gift card prizes, happy hour socials, food truck lunches and even cornhole tournaments.

Besides the activities, the firm offers benefits such as wellness initiatives, 401k matching, flexible work hours, telecommuting and paid time off to encourage family time, personal hobbies and community involvement, she says. The flexible work scheduling includes letting staffers have Friday afternoons off during non-peak season months.

She says the firm also provides mentoring and professional development through its membership in the RSM U.S. Alliance, an affiliation of independent accounting and consulting firms.

“Have fun,” says McKellar. “Be open to change and new ideas. Listen to your team members.”

Gina McKellar, Managing Shareholder
3742 Professional Pkwy., Mobile, AL 36609
Phone: 251-343-1012  |  Fax: 251-343-1294

12. United Bank

In business since 1904, United Bank, with its headquarters in Atmore, has branches throughout southwest Alabama and northwest Florida.

Bob Jones, the bank’s CEO, says that although the financial institution offers its employees benefits such as a 401(k) match and a profit-sharing contribution, it also gives employees opportunities to pursue continuing education, team building and making a difference in local communities.

The bank, for example, provides tuition reimbursement for individuals desiring to attend a banking school, such as the Alabama Banking School at the University of South Alabama, Jones says. United Bank also pays for continuing education for those seeking certification in a specialized area, such as commercial lending, marketing or compliance.

Besides the tuition reimbursements, United Bank offers employees other rewards, too. Most recently, to celebrate the success of its credit card program, United Bank offered team members tickets to a minor league Blue Wahoos baseball game in Pensacola. Other perks have included jeans day on some Fridays throughout the year. And, during football season, employees can wear jerseys representing their favorite teams, Jones says.

“At Christmas we have 12 Days of Kindness in every market where we give them a couple hundred bucks to go out and do something nice for somebody,” he says.

Bank staffers also have volunteered with local charities like the nonprofit food bank Feeding the Gulf Coast, he says.

“I think that’s probably the biggest satisfier,” Jones says. “That there’s more than just the job you do. It’s making a difference.”

Robert Jones, CEO
200 E Nashville Ave., Atmore, AL 36502
Phone: 251-446-6100

13. WaveLink Inc.

WaveLink provides aviation and software engineering, as well as technical support, to the U.S. Air Force, Army, Department of Defense and other government agencies. In business since 2001, the Huntsville firm has 51 employees.

WaveLink’s Owner, President and CEO Tamela Gibbs says they meet regularly with employees so employees can discuss their aspirations, expectations and even their frustrations.

“We feel this leads to greater productivity and loyalty,” says Gibbs. “It also helps employees plot a career path because they know where the company is headed and can be told what milestones and achievements are necessary to meet their goals.”

WaveLink demonstrates appreciation for its employees each quarter by hosting occasions for employees to relax with their families — from tickets and concession vouchers to Huntsville Havoc hockey games to the annual Thanksgiving luncheon. Moreover, during those events, the firm awards employees with gifts by lottery draw and service awards for exceptional performance.

WaveLink also offers flex time and alternate work schedules, and the firm provides a 401k profit-sharing option that gives employees a fixed, yearly retirement lump sum based on the profitability of the company, she says.

“The 401k plan cannot be beat,” says Gibbs, “with high profit sharing to the employees regardless of whether employees choose to contribute to their 401k or not, and only a three-year vesting schedule, unlike most companies.”

“We feel that employees expect fairness and programs that tell them, ‘Do good and you’ll get rewarded,’” she says. “It makes a positive impact on the company, with employees working harder to meet and exceed customer expectations.”

Tamela Gibbs, President and CEO
7800 Madison Blvd., Ste. 504, Huntsville, AL 35806
Phone: 256-776-7216  |  Fax: 256-270-9404

Best Companies to Work for in Alabama 2018

The Caddell team

View the list of winners

What makes a great place to work? It’s more than a job. It’s the benefits, the camaraderie, the appreciation for work done well that makes employees happy to come to the office.

Each year, companies around the state offer a glimpse into their office culture in hopes they’ll be named the best among the best companies to work for in Alabama.

To contend for the honors, companies share information about all facets of work life. Do they allow telecommuting? How do benefits stack up against other companies in the same field? Does the company encourage employees to be active in the community? How does it handle the problems that arise?

Companies compile information and submit it to The Best Companies Group.  The Group evaluates the responses from the company, then interviews employees and compares the two sets of information. Participating companies pay a fee for evaluation services to The Best Companies Group.

For the third year in a row, investment firm Edward Jones, which has offices around the state, tops the list of large employers. River Bank & Trust, based in Prattville, is at the top among small and medium employers, moving up from fourth place last year.

These are firms that win praise from their employees.

“We have all the benefits and security of working for a large national company with the friendliness and relationships of a small company, ” says Jason Kozon of Edward Jones.

And they offer good advice.

Total Quality Logistics, for example, offers a standard benefit package company wide, but allows each office to develop a few added perks that work well there — a crawfish boil in South Alabama, for example, and a come to work late/leave early option in Birmingham. “If you want to know what your employees want, ” says Chad McMillan, TQL’s Birmingham satellite office leader, “just ask them and believe what they tell you.”

Providing a workplace that employees value isn’t just good for the employees, participating firms say. It’s good for business.

As Jimmy Stubbs, CEO of top-ranked River Bank & Trust, puts it, “If you take care of the team, the team will take care of business.”

Beyond the honor of ranking high, firms get useful feedback from the process.

The companies honored this year are engaged in banking, investments, insurance, information technology, construction, hospitality and many other fields.

Best Small-to-Medium Size Company: River Bank & Trust

Jimmy Stubbs, CEO of River Bank & Trust, prides his company on caring for its employees.

Most members of today’s workforce want to work for a company that has a strong, positive culture, invests in its employees, supports a healthy work-life balance and values performance reviews, according to a recent study on Entrepreneur.com.

That fits River Bank & Trust like a glove. The company is ranked No. 1 among small and medium sized companies in the 2018 Best Companies to Work For in Alabama competition after being ranked No. 4 last year.  It was also named one of the Best Banks to Work For in 2017 by American Banker.

So what makes River Bank & Trust one of the best companies to work for in Alabama?

“The bank is a home away from home, ” says Chief Executive Officer Jimmy Stubbs. “We provide the basic essentials such as salary and benefits and wrap these in a blanket of care — care for professional growth and care for one another through joyous and difficult times.”

“If you take care of the team, the team will take care of business.”

Taking care of the team includes employee engagement. Quarterly office meetings with executive management allow employees to express their suggestions and concerns candidly in a relaxed setting.

The River Channel, the bank’s intranet, contains birthdays and anniversary announcements with direct links to the celebrating team member’s inbox. Employees receive dozens of greetings and good wishes throughout the course of their special day.

Hard work and dedication are recognized through the Big Fish Award, which honors an employee for going above and beyond, and Teller Appreciation Week, when every teller enjoys special treats.

Other activities in the blanket of care include social events where dinner and entertainment are provided and annual Thanksgiving luncheons. The bank provides the turkey and ham, and the employees bring their favorite homemade dishes.

Team members are given flexible hours to accommodate school events or to take a family member to the doctor. An employer-sponsored Employee Assistance Program is available to provide confidential counseling.

Five-year team members receive a gold lapel pin, and if you’ve been around for 10 years, that pin includes a diamond.

Along with retirement plans, health insurance and educational reimbursement, the bank offers a generous amount of paid leave for vacation, personal and sick time.

The blanket of care apparently is working quite well. Employee turnover is low at 9 percent compared to an industry average of 14.4 percent.

River Bank & Trust
Jimmy Stubbs, CEO // 2611 Legends Dr., Prattville, AL 36066 // 334-290-1012

Small-to-Medium Size Company Runners-Up

Wilkins Miller staffers gear up for laser tag.


W. Allen Carroll, CPA and managing partner at Wilkins Miller LLC of Mobile, says making his firm a great place to work begins with finding the right employees to begin with and getting them “on the bus.”

“We try to do all that we can to create an environment, a culture, that is a fun place to be, working with people that we enjoy working with because we all spend as much or more time with the folks we work with as we do our family at home, ” Carroll says.

Carroll says the firm has a number of initiatives aimed at employee satisfaction, but “we think that it really starts with the right people and then creating an environment within our leadership group of making it a good place to be.”

The firm offers flexible work hours, birthday celebrations and holiday parties and occasional outside-the-office celebrations.

“Folks make a choice to join our firm and continue on with our firm and so we want to do everything that we can to make it a great environment and one that gives them opportunities, that is fun but one that challenges them so they can reach their potential.”

Carroll says the firm’s mission “is to help people achieve, both our clients and our employees.”

Wilkins Miller
W. Allen Carroll, Managing Partner // 41 W. I -65, Service Rd. N., Ste. 400, Mobile, AL // 251-410-6700

The Byars | Wright team catches a glimpse of the eclipse.


“Respect” and “opportunities” are bywords at Byars | Wright, an independent insurance agency in Jasper that represents a number of companies.

President and CEO Haig Wright II says the company shows its employees respect in a number of ways.

“The success of any company is defined by the quality of people who work there, ” Wright says. “Byars | Wright aims to find, and keep, the quality talent and those that hold the same core values.”

Wright says the company holds a number of events each year aimed at building relationships within the company, such as the fall festival at the Wright family farm, and an array of other holiday celebrations.

Workers receive a percentage of any new company growth and there is a multi-level bonus structure. Employees may also have flexible work hours and the company closes each Friday at 3 p.m.

Employees also receive health, dental, life and additional insurance coverage.

“Our benefits are very competitive for our industry, ” Wright says. “I think it has helped us to recruit better talent and to retain employees.”

“The agency endeavors to make employees feel supported, heard and acknowledged, ” Wright says, and uses polls and surveys to get employee feedback.

Wright says the employer/employee relationship at Byars | Wright means less employee turnover and enhanced relationships with clients. “Without much turnover, customers get accustomed to dealing with the same employee and develop positive relationships with that person and that establishes much needed trust for this business.”

Byars | Wright Inc.
W. Haig Wright II, President // P.O. Box 1309, Jasper, AL 35502 // 205-221-3621


Steve Swofford, president of the Alabama Credit Union, credits his company’s team approach to decision making and planning for its perennial appearance on the annual list of Best Companies to Work For in Alabama.

With more than two dozen offices and 275 employees, ACU offers its full line of financial services across the state.

“We communicate aggressively to our teams, ” Swofford says. “Anybody, when they do a big project, has a committee of people that work on it. We take it to another level. We have a process of what we call high performance teams that we put in place for almost every major decision. Teams members come from across the company, because we recognize that everyone has a view point.”

Swofford says the teams have a formal charter that includes goals and a time frame, usually about 90 days. “They come back to senior management and they say ‘here were our options, here is what we picked, here is why we picked it and here is what it will cost’ and 90 percent of the time we adopt. And I am going to tell you that it has improved our efficiency. These teams have made us much better. We perform better.”

Swofford says the teams give employees a “vested interest in what is going on and they feel like they are a part of the whole family-type, mutually supportive environment.”

The Alabama Credit Union offers a 5 percent 401(k) match and profit sharing, as well as a few fun perks, such as Jean Day and wellness picnics that promote exercise and healthy eating. Employees get 12 paid holidays, 12 sick days, several employee recognition programs and two annual employee satisfaction surveys.

Alabama Credit Union
Steve Swofford, CEO // 220 Paul W. Bryant Dr., Tuscaloosa, AL 35401 // 888-817-2002

Rabren workers gather for the charity golf tournament.


Rabren General Contractors Inc., based in Auburn, was founded in 2000 by Mike and Travis Rabren, who were joined in 2003 by Matt Rabren as an owner.

The company has experience in all sectors of the industry, including commercial, healthcare, retail and mixed-use, hospitality, government, student and multi-family housing.

Employees cite owner concern for employees, a learning environment and a sense of being part of the business as reasons the company is a great place to work.

“One of the reasons Rabren is such a great place to work, is that Matt Rabren makes each employee feel like an extended member of the Rabren family, ” says Che Odom, the company’s marketing and business administrator. “We truly know that he thinks about what is best for us when he makes decisions. One example is this year we had a premium increase on our health insurance, and rather than pass that on to us, he chose to have the company cover a larger percentage, resulting in almost no added cost to the employees.”

“It is not only a great environment to work in, but a great environment to learn in. Each person is invested in the learning, growth and success of their coworkers, and this has been a great place to learn, ” says Mercer Clark, a Rabren intern.

“For me, I feel that I don’t just ‘work’ here, but I am truly ‘a part’ of something, ‘a part’ of the business. I have been here for 16 years, and even through the growth of this company, we have been able to retain our values and integrity. It feels good to work for a company where I know that we will always do the right thing, ” says Project Manager Bruce Ward Sr.

Rabren General Contractors Inc.
Matt Rabren, CEO // 306 Persimmon Dr., Auburn, AL 36830 // 334-826-6143


Tax season means long hours for accounting company employees, but Hartmann Blackmon and Kilgore PC, a Fairhope accounting firm, has found a way to help employees create work-life balance during the “busy season.”

The original goal of Project 40™ was to decrease “busy season” overtime, but the initiative has grown to include tools to help employees create goals, focus during their time at the office and even develop healthier lifestyles.

Employees are the core of what has made Hartmann, Blackmon & Kilgore a successful accounting and business consulting firm in the Gulf Coast area for the last 28 years.

Dennis Sherrin, managing shareholder, says, “Building a dynamic team requires a commitment to developing employees.” To accomplish this, the company promotes a variety of internally developed programs to help every individual grow personally and professionally. Some of these include a mentoring program, continuing education opportunities, assistance with attaining CPA licenses, leadership programs and working within each person’s unique set of abilities.

Within the accounting and financial services industry, hb&k recognizes a developing need for consultation services for business owners. Employees are encouraged to be forward thinking when presenting solutions and services to clients. “When an employee develops a niche interest, we strive to encourage them to develop in that area, so they can truly love what they do at work, ” says Sherrin.

Hartmann, Blackmon & Kilgore PC
Dennis E. Sherrin, Managing Partner // 806 N. Section St., Fairhope, AL 36532 // 251-928-2443

ITAC Solutions employees stay pumped and flexible, inside the office and out.


ITAC Solutions, a recruiting firm headquartered in Birmingham, specializes in placing personnel in accounting, information technology, corporate and administrative positions. The firm also has offices in Mobile, Huntsville, Atlanta and Nashville.

ITAC has been a finalist in the Best Companies to Work For in Alabama for small and medium sized firms from 2010-2013 and winner of the category in 2013. It also received the Alfred P. Sloan award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility in 2008 and 2009.

Initially, ITAC focused on IT and accounting professionals, hence the name ITAC. Now the company includes temporary and contract staffing, contract-to-hire and direct hire recruiting for companies throughout the country.

ITAC is led by a management team mostly made up of owners in the business, built on decades of industry and corporate staffing experience, and has branched out to fields like engineering, marketing, human resources and other areas.

“It matters less what I, the founder and managing partner, say what makes it a great place to work, ” says Brian Pitts, “but here is an anonymous quote from a survey that I believe embodies the tone of many folks here.”

“I can’t imagine another company where every owner or manager truly wants the best for everyone — external customers as well as internal employees. We all try to live by our core values… with a helping heart and a strong desire to win while doing right in every situation. We work hard, we have fun and we are there for each other during the good and bad times. ITAC is truly a work-family.”

ITAC Solutions
Brian Pitts, Managing Partner // 700 Montgomery Pkwy., Ste. 148, Birmingham, AL 35216 // 205-326-0004

White-Spunner workers on the job.


Family dynamics is a key consideration at White-Spunner Construction Inc., of Mobile, says Adrienne Freeman, the company’s executive director of people and culture. White-Spunner is a general contracting company, which is on the Best Companies list for the second consecutive year.

“Our owner, John White-Spunner, truly values his employees and his relationships with clients and customers more than he values the dollar. We try to give our employees a family work environment and include them in any decision that is made regarding our employees. We try to consider their family dynamics and we treat our employees like family, ” Freeman says.

Founded in 1981, the company in the early years focused primarily on commercial construction projects along the Gulf Coast. As the firm expanded, the emphasis shifted toward larger and more diverse projects spanning from the Carolinas to Texas.

Today, White-Spunner Construction has completed thousands of projects in more than 20 states.

“We have an average tenure here of about 12 and a half years, ” says Freeman. “White-Spunner has instilled in each of us that we do our business ethically and we treat our people better than we treat the dollar. We make sure to make all of our decisions to the benefit of not only our employees but also our clients.”

In addition to reimbursement for continuing education, White-Spunner offers employees betterment through in-house training and individual career-path plans. White-Spunner’s benefits package includes a matching 401(k), a variety of bonus opportunities and incentives, continuing education and tuition reimbursement, on-site wellness facilities and fully paid insurance options.

White-Spunner Construction
John White-Spunner, President & CEO // 2012 W. I-65 Service Rd. S., Mobile, AL 36693 // 800-471-5189

Edward Jones employees turn out for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Battleship Park in Mobile.

Best Large Company: Edward Jones

For the third year in a row, financial services giant Edward Jones has ranked first among large companies on the list of Best Companies to Work For in Alabama.

The firm is structured to give its employees, called associates, a combination of independence and support in its 13, 000 offices nationwide.

The typical neighborhood office features a financial officer and a branch administrator, who focus on the long-term investment needs of local clients. “But our regional offices have regular meetings, trainings and other events. We all work together to help each other, ” says Jason Kozon, a Foley-based financial adviser who serves as Edward Jones’ regional leader for South Alabama and South Mississippi.

One of the biggest draws to associates is the opportunity to become a partner in the company, Kozon says. The company is a partnership presently owned by approximately 18, 500 partners and 443 principals, with all its net profits paid out to employees in trimester bonuses, annual profit sharing and partnership earnings. “We provide associates with plenty of support from veteran associates in other regional offices, ” Kozon says. “You don’t see the internal competition you do in some financial services firms. When one of us succeeds, we all succeed.”

New Edward Jones financial advisors are given a salary during their early years, so they don’t have to worry about their income and can focus on doing right by their clients, Kozon says. The top-notch benefit package includes medical, dental and long-term care insurance and paid parental leave for births or adoptions. “We have all the benefits and security of working for a large national company with the friendliness and relationships of a small company, ” Kozon says.

In addition to periodic training, regional teams get together for “quality circles” on a monthly basis to share and discuss what’s working and what isn’t in their offices. Four times a year, regional offices will participate in a social and/or charitable event, such as an area Walk to End Alzheimer’s. “Edward Jones supports the Alzheimer’s Association nationwide so we participate in their events, ” Kozon says. “Each associate also receives one paid Day of Caring annually to use to support the charity of their choice.”

The company is concerned about its associates’ health and offers a gamut of programs to encourage it. Employees are presented with a Fitting in Fitness stretch and strengthening guide with free exercise bands. Edward Jones’ wellness program features biometric screenings, premium discounts, and telephone and online health coaching.

“The company cares about each associate and it shows, ” Kozon says.

Edward Jones
Jason Kozon, Financial Adviser/Regional Leader // 22394 Miflin Rd., No. 202, Foley, AL 36535 // 251-943-3399

A quartet of bikes are among the gifts gathered by America’s First Federal Credit Union employees for its holiday toy drive.


Bill Connor, chief executive officer of Birmingham-based America’s First Federal Credit Union, says one of the strongest areas of employee satisfaction is the credit union’s mission. “Our primary purpose for existing is to better our members’ lives versus working for the stock holders of a for-profit company, ” he says.

While some financial institutions are reducing the number of their branches, America’s First is adding, Connor points out. That’s not because the credit union isn’t using technology, like remote banking and other electronic services, but because management knows that many customers want to be able to talk in person for at least some of their transactions. “We are both high tech and high touch, ” he says. “Our employees find great job satisfaction in being able to create relationships with our members.”

The credit union offers a competitive benefit package, including matching employees’ 401(k) contributions up to 5 percent and employees immediately being vested. Annual bonuses for meeting goals are typically awarded around the holidays. Career development and training opportunities abound. In addition, full-time employees are offered eight hours of paid volunteer time. “We post volunteer opportunities each month, ” Connor says. “Those who do volunteer say they really enjoy and appreciate the benefit.”

America’s First Federal Credit Union
Bill Connor, CEO // 1200 4th Ave. N., Birmingham, AL 35203 // 205-320-4000

TQL Team Mobile celebrates three years.


Total Quality Logistics (TQL) may be a national business-to-business freight movement company operating 59 offices, including the Birmingham and Mobile-area satellites, in 26 states, but many of its employee perks are tailored to local preferences, says Group Sales Manager Mackenzie Collins, who is based in the Spanish Fort office. Her office, for example, hosts an annual crawfish boil as one of many employee treats. “The major benefits like insurance and 401(k) are the same across the country of course, but then each office — which is its own micro-culture — has the ability to choose a set of additional benefits, primarily morale boosters, for its employees, ” Collins says.

TQL employees are regularly surveyed and also informally asked about the perks they would prefer and office managers respond accordingly, Collins says. Perks are changed periodically to keep employee enthusiasm about them fresh. In Birmingham, for example, employees currently are enjoying a “snooze or cruise” benefit of choosing either to come in an hour later or leave an hour earlier, says Chad McMillen, Birmingham satellite office leader. “The benefit, which they specifically asked for, has been extremely popular, ” McMillen says. “If you want to know what your employees want, just ask them and believe what they tell you.”

Total Quality Logistics
Mackenzie Collins, Group Sales Manager // 26000 Bass Pro Dr., Bldg. E200, Ste. 214, Spanish Fort, AL 36527 // 800-580-3101

Jack Henry staffers enjoy a light-hearted moment at the office.


It makes sense that Jack Henry & Associates Inc., which primarily provides technology solutions and payment processing services for financial services organizations nationwide, would be able to allow employees to work from home several days per week. The remote workforce is the company’s largest office location, says Tiffany Haynes, general manager of human resources. “Flexible work arrangements continue to be our No. 1 total rewards offering at JHA, ” she says. “We started telecommuting and remote work years ago — before it was cool.”

During the past few years, management and human resources has placed greater emphasis on finding out what employees want and giving it to them, Haynes says. The company’s benefit package is competitive and dress code casual.

“What I hear most is how we care for our employees and their families through our actions, ” she says. “We’re a large company, but it has this family feel to it, and I think that’s a beautiful thing. I always tell people when you come to work at JHA, you get to be part of something bigger than yourself. Employees see how we are here to create meaningful experiences for them and then they go tell their friends to come to work here, too.”

Jack Henry & Associates Inc.
Rick Keith, Regional Sales // 7400 Cahaba Valley Rd., Birmingham, AL 35242-6306 // 205-981-1980

H. Greg McClellan


Montgomery-based MAX Credit Union wants to make sure it’s offering a highly competitive pay and benefit package for its market, says President and Chief Executive Officer H. Greg McClellan. “That’s why we hire an outside third party every year to evaluate how we are doing, and then we make adjustments as necessary, depending on an employee’s job level and experience, ” he says.

McClellan and other credit union managers often meet to talk casually with employees and keep them engaged and involved during morning coffee and doughnuts “breaking grounds” events at headquarters and various branches. Front-line employees and managers are on a first-name basis. “Our focus at the credit union is taking care of our members, but we want to take care of our employees just as well, ” McClellan says.

Benefits include a double dollar match for each dollar employees put in their 401(k) up to five percent, with full vesting in five years. Employees are able to earn bonus days off and have the opportunity to advance themselves along a career path with various training options.

“We want our employees to stay with us for the long haul, ” says McClellan, who has himself been with the credit union for 33 years.

MAX Credit Union
H. Greg McClellan, President/CEO // 400 Eastdale Cir., Montgomery, AL 36117 // 800-776-6776


Although it’s based in Montgomery, Caddell Construction has projects in 34 countries. Because of the highly competitive nature of the construction industry and the current shortage of skilled workers, the company is determined to attract and retain the best workers, says Director of Human Resources Matt Abele. “What really differentiates one construction company from another is your employees, so you have to make sure to keep your people happy, ” he says.

The company offers attractive benefits and morale boosters, including a glamorous Christmas Party. Service opportunities are offered to employees with paid time off for volunteering. Employees and family members covered by their insurance are eligible for the company’s 100 percent free private clinic. “It’s great to work for a company that cares so much about its employees, ” Abele says. “If I have the choice, I hope this will be the company I retire from.”

One of the company’s most popular employee benefits is use of its two beachfront condominiums in Destin, Florida.

Caddell Construction
Eddie Stewart, President/CEO // 2700 Lagoon Park Dr., Montgomery, AL 36109 // 334-272-7723


CGI Technologies and Solutions Inc., based in Birmingham, serves the IT and business consulting services needs of 10 major industries in companies spread over 17 countries. The firm surveys employees regularly to see how they’re doing and funds technology proposals submitted by staff members.

“We strive to create an environment where our professionals, whom we call ‘members, ’ enjoy working together and feel empowered and engaged as owners to build their company and grow their careers. This is what sets us apart — our members make up our DNA and define our unique company culture, ” says CGI Vice President Larry Lilley.

Along with offering a strong traditional benefit package, flexible schedules and comp time, CGI also provides innovative benefits such as pet insurance, access to family autism support services, unlimited sick time and a share purchase plan with no holding period for shares purchased. “The CGI share purchase program is often cited as our most popular benefit, ” Lilley says. “CGI provides a 100 percent match to the member’s contribution, up to a maximum allowable (three percent) cap.”

CGI Technologies and Solutions Inc.
Larry Lilley, CGI Vice President // 300 Riverchase Pkwy. E., Birmingham, AL 35244-1813 // 205-259-2300

Hargrove team members gather for an impromptu planning session.


With headquarters in Mobile and offices spread across the country, Hargrove Engineers + Constructors provides full-service engineering, procurement and construction management nationwide. Chief Executive Officer Ralph Hargrove says his people are driven because they are encouraged to innovate, treated like family and have the opportunity to become owners of the company through its Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

“Every teammate is encouraged to bring ideas to the table and be a leader in their day-to-day operations, ” Hargrove says. “The team can then take pride in the wins and everyone is motivated to overcome challenges.”

Keeping employees happy, engaged, safe and well are all top priorities for the company, which has a high retention rate, Hargrove says.  Employees, for example, can earn points for health-conscious behaviors. “Hargrove teammates are competitive by nature and this spirit carries through everything we do — from projects to workplace wellness, we all respond well to good-natured competition and encouragement, ” Hargrove says.

Benefits are competitive as well, he points out, not among employees but between Hargrove and its competitors. Benefits include both the ESOP and a 401(k) match. The company hosts an array of family events and provides charitable opportunities through its Hargrove Foundation and harGIVES volunteer organization. “Our team operates like a family, ” Hargrove says.

Hargrove Engineers + Constructors
Ralph Hargrove, CEO // 20 S. Royal St., Mobile, AL 36602 // 251-476-0605

SH Enterprises staffers enjoy participating in coastal community projects.


Gulf Coast-based SH Enterprises Inc. serves as the umbrella company for Meyer Vacation Rentals, CENTURY 21 Meyer Real Estate and Starr Textile Services. Within the areas of hospitality, real estate and commercial laundry, company President Michelle Hodges says “our teams each play a role in creating magical memories for families to cherish … and that’s something to be proud of.”

Employees and customers are helping Meyer celebrate its 50th anniversary on social media by sharing their individual experiences #MeyerInspired, she says. “That level of homegrown passion for our mission is truly inspiring and the entire process is a celebration among our team for fostering the experiences and relationships that make our organization a special place to spend your work week, ” Hodges says.

Benefits, which have been chosen in keeping with feedback from employee forums, include a LiveWell Program, with access to the licensed nutritionist on staff for diet and exercise coaching. Numerous employee appreciation events, such as Spring and Fall Employee Luncheons, Employee of the Quarter, Saturday Lunches throughout the summer, Family Fun Day at the Track and Holiday Luncheon, help keep everyone engaged. “Our successes are directly tied to that of our team — we simply do not exist without them!” Hodges says.

SH Enterprises Inc.
Sheila Hodges, Chairman of the Board // 1585 Gulf Shores Pkwy., Gulf Shores, AL 36542 // 800-775-8945

Best Companies to Work for in Alabama 2017

Wilkins Miller employees try their hand at laser tag.

Click here to view the winners

Being a great place to work isn’t just good for employers — it’s good for business. That’s the philosophy of firms that compete for honors as Best Companies to Work for in Alabama.

Each year, companies submit information about everything from telecommuting policies to insurance and 401(k) plans to clever ways to reward great work. The Best Companies Group evaluates the responses, comparing the views of employers with those of employees and comparing both to the policies of other companies.

For the second year in a row, investment firm Edward Jones tops the list of large employers. Accounting firm Wilkins Miller has moved up from second place last year to take top honors among small and medium-size firms.

All eight winners in the large category and all twelve in the small to medium category will be honored at festivities at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham-The Wynfrey Hotel on July 27 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., sponsored by PMT Publishing Inc.

Beyond the honor of ranking high, firms get useful feedback from the process.

Sheila Hodges, chairman of SH Enterprises Inc., notes that, “The end result of this process is a wealth of information that allows our management team to analyze the impact of various benefits, services and processes, as well as additional opportunities the organization may have for creating a stronger work environment to support our team.”

At Main Street Inc., Jennifer Williams says her HR team “will analyze the data by department and compare that to the company averages. We use the data to find issues we could improve on and identify what we are doing well.”

The companies honored this year are engaged in banking, investments, insurance, information technology, law, logistics, hospitality and many other fields. Click here to view the winners.

Best Companies to Work for in Alabama 2016

Wilkins-Miller employees are off to the Dragon Boat races.

 Click here to view the winners

How do you become one of the best companies out there? Many Alabama firms believe a good first step is becoming one of the best companies to work for – so that you have the opportunity to attract and hire the best potential employees – and keep them once you’ve got them.

This year, 16 firms have been honored as among the Best Companies to Work for in Alabama.

Edward Jones, an investment firm with an array of individually managed offices in towns across Alabama and the nation, topped the 2016 list for large companies. More than 300 people work for Edward Jones in Alabama. The company moved up from second place in both 2014 and 2015 to top the list this year.

Welch Hornsby, also a financial services firm, took top honors among small-to-medium firms. The Birmingham-based firm has 26 employees in Alabama.

The firms are ranked after an extensive review by Best Companies Group, which evaluates many aspects of the company culture — such as vacation and sick time, fitness facilities, chances for advancement, community engagement, training, telecommuting and business dress. Employees are surveyed about topics such as their ability to make suggestions or to feel that their contributions are appreciated.

Beyond the honor of being recognized as a great place to work, companies also get feedback from Best Companies so they can respond to any issues their employees raise and move forward as a desirable workplace.

“We work hard to create a work environment that is meaningful and motivating to our associates and are especially proud when we are named a Best Company based on our associates’ feedback, ” says Edward Jones Regional Leader Jason Kozon. “We use the results to validate what is working well and identify areas of opportunity.”

Total Quality Logistics, or TQL, group sales manager Mackenzie Delsing, says: “Feedback from Best Companies surveys is extremely valuable to us. We are constantly taking our own pulse to find out what’s working and what’s not. Last year employees told us our maternity leave policy was outdated. The resulting parental leave policy gives new moms and dads paid time off upon the birth or adoption of a child. The Idea Bank on the Intranet welcomes any and all ideas from employees for making the company better.”

Consistent winner CTS Inc. finds the employee feedback from the Best Companies survey to be “incredibly valuable, ” says CEO Larry Lilley. “We saw a big interest in service, so our community service week was a direct result of the survey info.”

“We’ve been focused on this for a number of years and we always respond in a positive and meaningful way, particularly where we see our employees telling us we can do better, ” says Daniel Pittman, regional manager for the Southeast office of Gray, a major construction firm. “We are nothing without our people, so they drive our desire to be better. This is a great process and has helped us maintain a tremendous work environment.”

Says Bill Conner, president and CEO at America’s First Federal Credit Union: “If we see an area where employees have voiced a concern, we address it during our annual benefit review and try to modify or add benefits that will meet that need. Previous surveys told us that we needed to increase our training opportunities. Our new, multi-layered training programs have been a direct result of the Best Companies surveys.”

And Sandra Stenger, chief talent officer with Max Credit Union, says: “We’re moving the needle in the right direction. It’s good to see the changes we make lead to improvement.” Business Alabama introduces this year’s winners here.

Tom Little and Nancy Mann Jackson are freelance contributors to Business Alabama. Little is based in Birmingham and Jackson in Huntsville.

Best Companies to Work for in Alabama 2015

Employees gather at the new CTS office in Mobile. The company’s main office is in Birmingham. CTS was named the Best Small-Medium Employer.

Click here to view the winners

Employees like open communications, the feeling that they can make suggestions and be heard, and the knowledge that their job makes a difference to the company and the communities in which they take part.

Each year, the Best Companies Group offers Alabama businesses a chance to evaluate how well they measure up as great employers — both in the eyes of their employees and in comparison to other companies across the state.

Best Companies Group surveys officials and employees at participating companies, then evaluates the responses and helps management learn their strengths and weaknesses.

Employers are asked to provide basics about their company, such as average salaries, jobs added recently, layoffs and voluntary departures by staff members, benefit plans and policies regarding vacation time, sick days and personal leave days. The company also answers questions on topics like incentives, community service initiatives, fitness facilities, telecommuting, business dress and training.

Employees take a shorter survey, ranking their reactions to statements such as, “The leaders of this organization are open to input from employees, ” or “Safety is a top priority with this organization.” Employees are asked about benefits, plans for staying with the company and whether they would recommend the company to a friend.

Employees also have open-ended questions that cover such ground as “What makes this a good place to work?” and “What would you do to make working here more satisfying?”

The results of the survey go back to the businesses, so company officials can compare their results — based on anonymous surveys of employees and leaders — to benchmarks for the region and make sure managers and employees are on the same wavelength.

More than a learning process for participating firms, the evaluations are also used to select “The Best Companies to Work for in Alabama, ” and awards are presented to the companies in August in a ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham – The Wynfrey Hotel. Business Alabama introduces this year’s winners here.

Best Companies to Work for in Alabama 2014

The JamisonMoneyFarmer race team takes to the water.

Employees like open communications, the feeling that they can make suggestions and be heard, and the knowledge that their job makes a difference to the company and the communities in which they take part.

The Pennsylvania-based Best Companies Group recently evaluated responses from companies across Alabama who believed their businesses are among the best to work for.

Based on the surveys of both employees and employers, Best Companies Group has released a list of winners.

Click here to view the complete list

Employers are asked to provide basics about their company, such as average salaries for exempt and non-exempt employees, the number of new jobs created, layoffs and voluntary departures by staff members, benefit plans, percentage of health care paid for by the company and vacation, sick and personal day policies.

Warren Averett employees prepare for the Decatur Dragon Boat Race.

The company also answers questions on topics like incentives, community service initiatives, fitness facilities, telecommuting, business dress and training.

Employees take a shorter survey, ranking their reactions to statements such as, “The leaders of this organization are open to input from employees, ” or “Safety is a top priority with this organization.”

Employees are asked about benefits, plans for staying with the company and whether they would recommend the company to a friend.

Employees also have open-ended questions that cover such ground as “What makes this a good place to work” and “What would you do to make working here more satisfying?”

The results of the survey go back to the businesses, so company officials can compare their results — based on anonymous surveys of employees and leaders — to benchmarks for the region and make sure managers and employees are on the same wavelength.

Best Companies to Work for in Alabama 2013

Employees like open communications, the feeling that they can make suggestions and be heard, and the knowledge that their job makes a difference to the company and the communities in which they take part.

The Pennsylvania-based Best Companies Group recently evaluated responses from companies across Alabama who believed their businesses are among the best to work for.

Best Mid-Sized Employer: CTS

Based on the surveys of both employees and employers, Best Companies Group has released a list of winners. The survey results also go back to the participating companies, so managers can make sure they are on the same wavelengths as their employees.

Employers are asked to provide basics about their company, such as average salaries for exempt and non-exempt employees, the number of new jobs created, layoffs and voluntary departures by staff members, benefit plans, percentage of health care paid for by the company and vacation, sick and personal day policies.

The company also answers a series of open-ended questions that include describing its top three bonus or incentive programs, any community service initiatives and health and fitness facilities at the workplace. Other questions regard policies about telecommuting, job sharing, business dress, internal communications and training programs.

Best Small Employer: ITAC

Employees take a shorter survey, in which they rate their satisfaction with various aspects of the company. Employees rank their reactions to statements such as, “The leaders of this organization are open to input from employees, ” or “Safety is a top priority with this organization.”

Employees also rate their satisfaction with compensation and benefits. And employees are asked whether they plan to stay at the company and whether they would recommend the company’s products and services to a friend.

Employees also have open-ended questions that cover such ground as “What makes this a good place to work” and “What would you do to make working here more satisfying?”

The results of the survey are useful to the businesses, the evaluating team says, because the company can compare its results — based on anonymous surveys of employees and leaders — to benchmarks for the region.

Click here to download the complete list

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