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Why I Love Where I Work

The good news is that worker job satisfaction in the latest national survey reported by The Conference Board passed the 50 percent mark for the first time since 2005. The bad news in that September 2017 report is that nearly half the respondents are not satisfied.

We wanted to know what people not just like but LOVE about their jobs, and that’s why we asked people to respond to a call to tell us “Why I Love Where I Work.”

You are reading the first of what we think might well become annual articles about what makes some places great places to work and others, well, not so much.

Be aware that this article isn’t evenly faintly scientific. We didn’t do any kind of deep analysis of the answers or compare benefit packages or salaries. And we recognize that there could be vast differences if we looked at age and education levels.

We’d also guess that compensation and other benefits are at least acceptable to those who answered our call.

People from more than 10 companies responded – some in great detail depending on the kind of business (think lawyers and marketing people) – and while the sample is limited, consistent trends emerged. 

We selected 10 companies from the responses.

For example, when we asked about perks, we got some of the expected responses ¬– retirement and health benefits, for example.

But many responded with comments about the culture in the office, parties and celebrations in the office or outside, fun games and competitions among the workers, gestures by management to recognize the workers and the work products, and the caring support of their fellow employees.

A universal reference was to family. People like to feel as if they are part of a close-knit group all working toward a common goal. They like it that companies tell them to keep their life in balance between work and home.

They like it when they believe everyone – managers, owners and other employees – seeks to help all achieve their highest potential.

And they love it when owners and managers ask their opinion, really listen and manage with as light a touch as possible.

Space limitations prevented us from quoting everyone who replied but we included as many responses as possible.

Read on about companies that people truly love.

A&G Piping Inc.

3124 Wichita Court

Fort Worth 76140

Employees: 100

Mechanical service, process piping, plumbing

agpiping.com

A&G Piping Inc. was founded in Fort Worth in 1984 and operates out of a 90,000-square-foot facility. The company custom-makes stainless steel piping and provides a variety of other customized services.

Steve Blackman, an estimator and project manager, praised the supportive teamwork environment that allows people to feel a sense of accomplishment and gives them a chance to stretch their talents.

It’s a relaxed, fun place to work, he says. “The leadership really cares about the employees and the quality of the product. They provide the tools and guidance necessary to make your work project successful and rewarding.”

“This is the best place I have ever worked, by far,” Blackman said.

Other employees agreed. Melanie Mercer said the owners “go above and beyond to guide and support each of us. They encourage growth within ourselves.”

Chris Reiter said the work environment offers challenging tasks but also great role models and leaders “to help achieve business and personal goals.”

Denise Robertson used words like flexibility, friendly, supportive and relaxed, and she said the owners “understand what it takes to be great bosses and they stand behind their employees.”

Ardent Creative

707 W. Vickery Blvd., Suite 103

Fort Worth 76104

Employees: 25 full time, 1 part time

Digital marketing, design and development

ardentcreative.com

“This is a place unlike any other,” says Meghan S. Brooks. “As cliché as it sounds, we’re a tight-knit group, almost like family. Each and every day is different, fun, exciting and challenging. I’m surrounded by the most talented designers, web developers, writers and marketers in Fort Worth, all of whom challenge me to be better than I was the day before.”

Jessica Irvin cites a sign on the wall: “Work to Live > Live to Work.” “At Ardent Creative, leadership values a good work-life balance. It is rare for someone to have to stay late and many of us spend time together outside of the work place,” she says.

Anna Lossau also cites the family atmosphere and tells a story: “The principals set a standard for culture and hire based on fit. When I got married last year, most of my co-workers drove over three hours to attend. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I got so lucky with this job.”

Jay Sauce had two words to describe why he loves Ardent: “The peeps!” But he added that there is “loads of complex stuff to do that’s also fun at the same time. The leadership is easy to work with and understanding!”

Burns & McDonnell

Pier 1 Imports Building

100 Energy Way, Suite 1900

Fort Worth 76102

Employees: 76

Architecture, engineering, construction

burnsmcd.com

Department manager Gustavo Rodriguez says that Burns & McDonnell has a powerful and unique culture built on the backbone of employee ownership. It is a culture, he says, that “drives our success and guides our decisions.”

“We thrive on innovation, and our entrepreneurial spirit is a vibrant force that helps us tackle the toughest challenges our clients face today,” Rodriguez said. “Burns & McDonnell leaders encourage us to think outside the box to pursue new business opportunities. For example, our internal innovation program encourages employees to submit big ideas, develop their ideas into business solutions and then bring those ideas to life. This is just one of the many ways leaders empower people on their teams to take calculated risks and explore creative solutions that propel us all forward as a company.”

The company, he says, lives and works by the MacCulture Principles – shared values that reflect “who we are, what we believe, where we have been and where we’re headed.” The principles are: Safety is First; We Are All Employee-Owners; Client Service Drives Our Success; What We Do Matters; We Boldly Go; One Burns & McDonnell; We Make This Place Great; and We Invest for a Better World.

Rodriguez said it creates a family relationship. “And when the hard work is done for the day, we make time to celebrate. Whether it’s rallying groups to play tag football and giant Jenga, ordering pizza for everyone or going to a happy hour together, our close-knit family atmosphere leads to all kinds of activities outside of our walls, too,” he said.

North Texas employees are committed to giving back, Rodriguez said, by partnering with local schools, Girls Inc. and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History for educational outreach, working with the Trinity Trash Bash and Texas Trash Off, the Salvation Army, Presbyterian Night Shelter, Lena Pope, the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and the United Way of Tarrant County.

Cancer Care Services of North Texas

623 S. Henderson St.

Fort Worth 76104

Employees: 20 full time, 2 part time

Health care

cancercareservices.org

“Our clients are always the No. 1 priority. I have seen individuals in this agency go above and beyond for clients. I love that everyone here is like family and respect and care for one another deeply,” said Blanca Mendoza.

“It is a very relaxed and professional environment. Co-workers are always respectful of one another no matter what. Our leadership team is always willing to listen for ways to help and takes everyone’s opinion into consideration,” Mendoza said.

“You have the ability to have your own working style, the environment favors honest feedback with a focus of succeeding as a team,” said Justin Carter.

“I love working for a local nonprofit, and I am proud of the fact that Cancer Care Services was founded in Fort Worth 71 years ago,” said Melanie Wilson, president and CEO. “I love working with passionate people who are devoted toward supporting cancer patients, caring for caregivers and empowering survivors.

“I love working for an agency where everything is provided for free to clients! I love that we serve everyone affected by cancer in Tarrant, Parker and Hood counties. I love our mission because I am a cancer survivor, and I have also been a caregiver for loved ones with cancer, so it’s very personal to me,” Wilson said.

Northern Realty Group

1253 W. Magnolia Ave.

Fort Worth 76104

Employees: 30 (agents, office manager and office assistant)

Real estate

northernrealtygroup.com

“I very simply love working in my hometown of Fort Worth. I’m proud to play a role, at any capacity, in the economic and property development of my city,” said Michael Karol. “We work efficiently together as a team to handle transactions for locals.”

A plus is being able to work in “the progressive and charming area of Fort Worth that is the Near Southside,” Karol said.

“My broker, Will Northern, is knowledgeable about Fort Worth’s real estate market. He also serves on Fort Worth’s Zoning Commission and is a very active member of multiple groups including the Greater Fort Worth Association of Realtors,” Karol said. “We, as a group, love our community!”

Janet Field agrees.

“It feels atomic to be at the epicenter of abundant growth in Fort Worth with an established group of Fort Worth natives and imagineers at Northern Realty Group,” Field said. “Our broker [Will Northern] is well-respected and smart. He is active in the community, available for our guidance and sets the pace for our collective productivity.”

Whitney Rodriguez cites both the size of the firm and the Near Southside location as perks. “Because it’s a boutique brokerage, we are all very close,” she said.

Karen Holcomb described Northern Realty in a series of words: accessible, approachable, inclusive, supportive and relaxed.

PAVLOV Agency

3017 W. Seventh St., Suite 400

Fort Worth 76107

Employees: 30 full time, 4 part time

Advertising and public relations

pavlovagency.com

Gunnar Wilbert is still a relative newbie at PAVLOV Agency, but he doesn’t have any doubts about his decision to accept the job in later summer as social media coordinator.

“I have a personality that can’t be put into a routine,” Wilbert wrote. “Growing up, I always feared the thought of the work world because I assumed it would be monotonous. At PAVLOV, however, I’m put to the test with different types of tasks each day and am constantly challenged to grow to keep up with this continuously evolving industry.”

His primary responsibilities are social media and public relations writing but the agency puts him into situations that expand his skills, such as working with focus groups and working with the lighting on photo shoots.

Wilbert says he appreciates the perks available – a matching 401(k) and 100 percent premium-paid health insurance – but another benefit is the creative ways the company deals with culture and morale.

One is fantasy football.

“While I like to let my 10-3 record speak for itself, I think any competition is good for building camaraderie,” Wilbert said. “We don’t do these things to escape responsibility, but because we understand that company culture is a priceless asset.”

Southwest Office Systems Inc.

13960 Trinity Blvd.

Fort Worth 76040

Employees: 54

Office equipment sales and service

sostexas.com

“SOS has been a positive place to work at for over 50 years,” said John Welch. “It is a culture that strives to give back to the community both in the service we provide and also by the extra-curricular activities many of our employees have in the community.”

He and others spoke of the family-like atmosphere and the constant involvement of the owners.

“We are like a family, very close group,” Welch said. “I feel security and have always had room for advancement. We work as a team to provide the highest level of service to our clients.”

Southwest Office Systems was founded in 1964 by Victor Puente Sr. as a two-man typewriter repair company. Rapid growth led to sons Buddy and Vince joining their father in 1972.

“Our team performs with excellence, providing our clients a level of service they cannot duplicate with any other vendor. We all have similar values and have respect for one another,” said Vince E. Puente Sr.

Scott Johnson said the company is fun but also serious and takes care of the employees, And, he noted, it is “family-owned and -operated and debt free!”

It is, said Karl Duncan, “the best company I have ever worked for.”

“We are treated like family and we are treated fairly and the owners listen to our feedback and our ideas. The owners know your name and say ‘hi’ to you and ask how you are doing when they see you,” Duncan said. “They really care about us.

“They lead by example and they are actively engaged with us and care about what we have to say. Our work environment is wonderful, and they are always bringing in snacks for us and doing things to keep us happy,” he said.

Texas Secure Title Co.

2800 S. Hulen St., Suite 201

Fort Worth 76109

Employees: 57

Real estate services

texassecuretitle.com

Texas Secure Title Co. is, said Leona Scarafiotti, “the best company I have ever worked for.”

“The culture of the employees from the top down is top notch,” she said. “Upper management cares about employees as people not a number. They have created a culture based on customer service but also employee satisfaction. They are committed to helping every employee in their career development no matter where they want to go.”

Fellow employee Lizzie Angle agreed.

“The environment is very supportive and great leadership is demonstrated through empathy,” she said. Core values, Angle said, include “Smile, have fun and lighten up. Acknowledge and recognize one another.”

Texas Secure Title Co., headquartered in Fort Worth, also has operations in Arlington, Colleyville, Fort Worth. Hurst, McKinney, North Dallas, North Richland Hills and Weatherford.

Varghese Summersett PLLC

300 Throckmorton St., Suite 1650

Fort Worth 76102

Employees: 13 full time, 4 part time

Criminal defense law firm

versustexas.com

It’s the team that makes Varghese Summersett so special, said Deborah Bankhead. “We all ‘click’ and our diverse talents complement one another in a way that I have never experienced in my professional career,” she said.

It’s a family-like environment, where employees assist each other whenever necessary and are in tune with each other’s goals and actions.

One perk she especially likes is schedule flexibility, “We live by an ‘as long as the work gets done’ attitude as opposed to clock-watching,” Bankhead said.

And it is the leadership.

“Our leadership is great because we are all leaders, each in our unique way. Each member has value and is valued. Everyone’s office door is open for questions and answers. These round table discussions give each person value while pursuing the most creative, efficient route to success,” said Anna Summersett.

“My workplace offers the best of both worlds,” said Steve Jumes. “I couldn’t imagine a higher standard being achieved in such a supportive, friendly and fun environment. Our organization is very flexible in accommodating personal and family demands. Our leaders are highly intelligent, highly organized and highly ethical.”

It also could be the location.

“We have a gorgeous space on the 16th floor of One City Place in downtown Fort Worth and we all have beautiful offices, which is nice,” said Melody McDonald Lanier. “Because most of the space is glass, we see and interact with each other all the time, which real builds relationships and really creates a team atmosphere. We really treat each other like family, not co-workers.”

And it’s kid friendly – perhaps surprising for a criminal defense law firm.

“As a working trial lawyer and busy mother of two, I appreciate that my children are welcome (and encouraged) to come to work with me when necessary,” Letty Martinez said. “Although what we do is very serious, the environment is very warm. It is a team atmosphere and that starts from the top down.”

Lanier agreed. “We are also encouraged to put our family first, which is so important when we have something significant going on in the lives of spouses, children or relatives,” she said. “I feel lucky every day when I walk into work.”

And there is the mentoring.

“As a young attorney, being in an office with an open-door policy and working alongside lawyers with decades of experience is incredibly beneficial,” said Rachel Taft. “The environment is friendly and supportive, no matter whether it’s a good or bad day.

It’s rare in the legal industry to find lawyers working so closely together and I’m very grateful for that opportunity.”

“Our leadership team always puts our needs before their own, whether that means sacrificing their own profits to afford us stellar benefits, or going out of their way to make sure we are fulfilled in our goals for our individual career paths,” Bankhead said.

VLK Architects, Fort Worth

2821 W. Seventh St., Suite 300

Fort Worth 76107

Employees: 69, 3 part time

Architecture/interior design

vlkarchitects.com

“I truly love working at VLK Architects,” said Haley Thurston. “It is incredibly motivating to work alongside such talented, diverse people dedicated to serving our clients and the community. The atmosphere at VLK is friendly and supportive, a rare find in a deadline-oriented field. The many opportunities VLK provides to participate in the development of our communities creates a fulfilling sense of purpose. Building relationships is always at the forefront of what we do, making our hard work worthwhile.”

Thurston noted that VLK Architects comprises 91 percent design professionals, 57 percent parents, 60 percent community volunteers, 51 percent community board members, 65 percent pet owners, 57 percent outdoor enthusiasts and 0.015 percent solo performance at the Vatican before the Pope.

“I love to watch the collaboration on a project between a diverse range of co-workers and see the end results,” said JoAnna Sweetser. “It is a collaborative and encouraging environment that is promoted by leadership. The tools are provided to allow employees to succeed. VLK Architects makes a true investment in and commitment to its employees.”

Clinton Schiver cites high expectations, high performers and projects that have a positive impact on the community and says that “everyone here works together to improve our company and projects, not to outshine each other.”

“Even with tremendous growth, the culture of the company has been so strong it is still prevalent and takes root in new hires on Day 1,” Schiver said.

“The work environment at VLK is such that I look forward to coming to work every day because it feels like a family,” Cindy Schallawitz said. “The leadership is the best in the business and fosters so many great values in their people, not the least of which are passion, integrity and excellence in creativity

“I hit the jackpot when I was hired at VLK a little over a year ago. I couldn’t ask for a better company or people to work for,” she said.

Brad Minton speaks of “opportunities to grow within a certain position, or in my case, create my own position based

on my skillset.”

Josh Inge likes the location, which makes after-work activities easy, and the office atmosphere. “Everyone is very calm and focused. The leadership is approachable and practical,” he said. “VLK is a great place to work.”

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Paul Harral
Paul is a lifelong journalist with experience in wire service, newspaper, magazine, local and network television and digital media. He was vice president and editor of the editorial page of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and editor of Fort Worth, Texas magazine before joining the Business Press. What he likes best is writing about people in detail and introducing them to others in the community. Specific areas of passion are homelessness, human trafficking, health care and aerospace.

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