Big or small, any company must be pretty special to qualify as a "Top Workplace" on the 2014 Tampa Bay Times annual survey. So imagine the strength of culture, discipline and sense of mission a business must share with its employees to make the list every year.
More than 250 different companies have made the Top Workplace lists since 2010, when this newspaper began its annual survey. But only 18 area businesses belong to the elite club of five-year winners.
What is their secret sauce? What makes the employees of these workplaces keep heaping praise so consistently year after year?
In search of answers, we contacted all 18 companies. In response, we got some insights. But not enough. Even after years of interviewing top executives and employees to shed light on our best run workplaces, a real understanding remains elusive.
I'm not even sure these 18 companies really know what underpins their terrific workplace experiences for their employees.
Every company responding to our inquiries said something similar: We have the best people. We are a family. We know where we are going as a business.
Yawn. That's what even many bad companies claim to be. When you hear this said year after year, you can appreciate the Kumbaya message. But there has to be more than that to be a top workplace, much less one of the 18 elite, right?
At Clearwater's FrankCrum, a family-owned provider of HR outsourcing services, CEO Frank W. Crum Jr. cites good pay and benefits but also mentions a subsidized "world-class restaurant" on the firm's campus. And he mentions another issue that might make a difference in this economy. He says employees feel a sense security in the growing business because the next generation of the Crum family already holds responsible jobs.
At Tampa's Electric Supply, a distributor of electrical and data communications products, CEO George Adams says that to keep their jobs, employees must complete a minimum of 24 hours of supervisor-approved annual training. That constant upgrading, he says, "improves Electric Supply's effectiveness and improves each team member's marketability."
It probably does not hurt that after 42 years, the family-owned business claims it has never had layoffs.
Bank CEO Joe Chillura, who heads Clearwater's USAmeriBank, suggests his bank employees thrive in part because most of them have an ownership stake in the company. "This ties into our entrepreneurial culture, which encourages collaboration and the concept that no idea is a bad idea," he says.
There's another intangible here: Workplace fun. The bank's annual employee meeting featured some of its not-so-buttoned-down executives, including Chillura, in elaborate makeup and costumes for a mock '80s rock concert.
Like sports hall of famers, all 18 companies listed alongside this column have proven their Top Workplace recognition is no fluke. We'll be tracking their next five years of employee responses with great anticipation.
Who will rank among the 10-year winners?
Contact Robert Trigaux at email@example.com.
Why these firms appear year after year on Top Workplaces
* "While 'perks' and 'benefits' have a shelf life, a culture of caring lasts, and that is why we have been a consistent winner. It is all due to our team." – Doug Bishop, CEO, Bouchard Insurance, Clearwater
* "In Tampa, we are especially proud of our open culture where every voice can be heard, and the way our associates are empowered to do the right thing for our customers in every interaction, every day." – Bill Jacobs, director of operations, Capital One, Tampa
* "We keep our patients at the heart of everything we do and foster an environment of collaboration and employee satisfaction." – Dotty Bollinger, president and COO of Laser Spine Institute, Tampa
* "While I'd be mistaken if I knew for sure, there is one thing that I think helps our employees and agents enjoy their workplace: communication. We have a unique situation where I conduct a daily team huddle at 8:30 each morning. ... As you can imagine, coming up with content for a daily meeting can be difficult and leads to an open and honest communication. I feel the result is our employees and agents have a clear picture of what the company is trying to accomplish and how it plans on getting it done." – Craig Beggins, CEO, Century 21 Beggins Enterprises, Apollo Beach
* "I have always wanted Ditek to stand for something special beyond our day-to-day business. Our involvement from the very beginning in youth sports and education have always been important to me and my family, and that includes the Ditek family." – Bob McIntyre, CEO, Ditek Corp., Largo