Charlotte's Top Workplaces 2020

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TRUE HOMES

Building Community True Homes builds affordable homes and a work environment that feels like family By Virginia Brown

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n 2007, Nick Bacon left his corporate law career in Indianapolis to join the team that started True Homes. The following year, newly settled in the Carolinas with a new company, the housing market crashed. Today, as the company’s corporate counsel, Bacon points to leadership’s “strength of character” and a willingness “always to do the right thing” as key traits that kept True Homes afloat during hard

It genuinely feels like I’m around family and friends…when I was interviewing, it was important to me to land somewhere where it was a good culture fit. It’s fun coming to work! — Lyncel Earley, senior HR manager times and led to its growth into one of the largest builders in the region. True Homes builds semi-custom homes at a range of price points, throughout the Carolinas with a greater mission to “provide an opportunity for more life.” For the 5th year running, the company is a Top Workplace.

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“It genuinely feels like I’m around family and friends,” said Lyncel Earley, senior HR manager, who has been with the company for six years. “When I was interviewing, it was important to me to land somewhere where it was a good culture fit. It’s fun coming to work!”

Of that culture, Bacon added, “When I moved down, none of that existed yet,” he said. “I was excited about the opportunity to help create that.” Now with locations in seven markets across the Carolinas, and more than 220 employees, Bacon said, “I think it would surprise people that we’re

not much more corporate than we are. We still are a flat organization, with few levels and a real relationship with everyone.” A wellness committee helps organize softball tournaments, game days with employees’ families, and more. “This morning, I had a coffee cart and donuts at the corporate office,” said Earley. “From the top down, our employees are the number one asset.” The company also offers employees a financial wellness program, and rewards associates with $250 toward an emergency fund once the program is completed. An EAP program, 401(k) match, and one week of paid summer camp (up to $350) are all in the benefits package, plus full-time associates are eligible for a discount on a new home built by the company. To share in the company’s success, True Homes also created the US Reward. For all builds above the company’s targeted

pace — this year it was 1,600 homes, for example — the surplus is shared with all employees in bonus form. “It’s a collective win for the entire organization,” said Bacon. The company encourages its employees to make meaningful charitable gifts and, through the True Foundation Matching Gift Program, contributions four times employee donations, up to $1,000 after a year of employment. Employees also get paid to spend a full workday volunteering. They’re also working to tackle the area’s affordable housing crisis. One recent build, Wyntree, in Cabarrus County, features threebedroom townhomes for $177,000, well below the median home price in the Charlotte area, according to Zillow. “Home building is a noble profession,” said Bacon. “There’s a critical shortage of affordable housing, and we are very intentional about making a real effort to fill that need.”


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SKOOKUM

A Culture of Trust At Skookum, employees know they are appreciated — and sometimes ride around on scooters By Virginia Brown

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t Skookum’s uptown Charlotte office, the conference rooms are named after killer robots, an engineermade arcade game decorates the hallway, and it’s likely that there’s a scooter, shoulder massager, or Nerf gun lying around. “We're a smart and successful company, but we're also a really fun place to be,” said Recruiting Manager Khala Johnson, who’s been with the company for just over

two years. The small technology solutions agency has been around since 2005 — cofounders James Hartsell and Bryan Delaney met when they were roommates at UNC Charlotte — but, Johnson said, “We’ve been able to maintain the vibe of a startup, and I think our employees and clients appreciate the relaxed, laidback feel.” Skookum means strong, brave, impressive, reliable, hard-working, good-hearted, and excellent in qual-

ity. And with all those positive attributes, Johnson points to a humble working atmosphere, devoid of egos. “You could be sitting in a large meeting or making coffee in the kitchen…and would have absolutely no idea if you were talking to a software developer, a designer, an administrative assistant, or the president of the company,” said Johnson. “And we love that.”

SEE SKOOKUM, PAGE 18

We're a smart and successful company, but we're also a really fun place to be. — Recruiting Manager Khala Johnson


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OLDE MECK

Beer with Benefits Small business winner The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery (No. 4) takes its beer — and benefits — seriously By Virginia Brown

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harlotte’s beer boom began when John Marrino started brewing German-style beers in March 2009. Today, The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery (OMB) boasts a tap room, restaurant and 1.5-acre Munich-style biergarten, the southeast's largest, and draws flocks of fans to its Lower South End location on Yancey Road. Award-winning favorites include Mecktober-

fest, a Märzen-style amber lager, and the Hornet’s Nest Hefeweizen. As serious about beer as OMB is, the company is also dedicated to its people. Not only does the brewery offer employees medical plan options and contribute 75 percent toward employee and dependent premiums, but they offer vision and dental coverage, and cover 100 percent of longterm disability. “Most restaurant em-

ployees don’t have health benefits,” said OMB HR Manager Dylan Manion. “It’s important for us to set ourselves apart.” Manion, who has served in the Marine Corps infantry and “loves coming to work” at the brewery, has been known to visit employees around the office quizzing them on the company’s core values. If successful at naming them, he’ll hand out $100 cash. They also provide a 401(k) retirement plan with a 4 per-

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cent match. But the most buzzedabout benefit? Well, beer. Employees drink free draft beer onsite (while off duty) and also get $55 monthly packaged beer stipend. “The beer encourages people to get together when they finish their work for the day,” said Manion. “Beer being the great social lubricator, you may have a beer with a sales rep, a dish washer — it helps us to be inclusive and transparent.” And since lifting a pint glass to your mouth isn’t exactly quality weight training, OMB also offers employees an onsite gym, free of charge. Prost to that!

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TOWNSQUARE

Inspiring the Next Gen Through innovation, recognition, and personal engagement, Townsquare Interactive cultivates the next generation of tech professionals By Virginia Brown

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harlotte’s proximity to colleges and universities is a major reason why President Tim Pirrone petitioned to keep the Townsquare Interactive arm of Townsquare Media in the Queen City. Townsquare Interactive opened in the Ballantyne area in 2012, and since then has grown to roughly 540 employees in its uptown office location. Eight years later, nearly 70 percent of the digital marketing company’s employees are 30 years old or younger. Emily Gomez has been with Townsquare Interactive for six years. “We’re one of the most peoplecentric marketing companies in the space,” said the marketing strategist. “We help small business own-

ers with web-based solutions to help them meet their goals.” With a focus on companies with fewer than 10 employees in smaller markets — Evansville, Indiana, and Casper, Wyoming — Townsquare champions the small business. “We saw the need there for web-based solutions at an affordable rate,” said Gomez. “Our employees take a lot of pride in that. It means helping a family, a community.” At the heart of it all: People. “We really lean on our relationships,” said Gomez. “Each client has one-onone contact with Townsquare employees, so each client knows exactly who they’re going to talk to.” Pirrone, who also won a 2020 Top Workplaces Special Award for Leadership, is known for making daily rounds at the office, talk-

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ing to employees and hearing them out. But due to the high density of the Uptown Charlotte office, Townsquare employees are working from home through January 2021. “When the global pandemic hit,” Gomez said. “He took time to call each employee, to check in on how they were feeling working from home.” Others agree. “Tim knows me by name and makes me feel like he cares about me as an individual,” said one employee of Pirrone. “He thanks me for the work I do, and it makes me feel seen and appreciated.” Townsquare kicks off each new year with a State of the Union message. “It’s really exciting,” said Gomez. “We talk about what we did last year, what we could have done differently, and where we’re going to go.”

Daily shout-outs for little successes — a phone call that goes well, for example — and on a monthly town hall meetings, Pirrone recognizes employee milestones. For work anniversaries, managers send personal notes highlighting the ways their employees have grown that year. “Recognition is highly motivating for our team,” said Gomez. “We foster a culture of celebration and innova-

tion, and that's really attractive to young employees,” said Gomez. When it comes to employee flexibility, Townsquare sometimes moves out of the way. The design team has “innovation days,” in which they are encouraged to deviate from their day-to-day role and simply get creative. They also offer employees training opportunities to learn and train industry and interpersonal skills The company offered a virtual wellness program during the Covid-19 pandemic, packed with meditation and fitness classes and employee-led yoga and mindfulness practices.

“Especially this year, creating a sense of holistic well-being has been crucial,” said Gomez. They also offer an Employee Assistance Program, in which anyone in the employee’s family can access mental health. Employees also receive volunteer time off, access to pet insurance, and a free on-site gym. As a member of Townsquare Media, they have access to discounts ranging from sporting events to hotels and more. “We want to put our people first,” said Gomez. “We believe if you pour into your employees, the rest will take care of itself.”


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HOOPAUGH GRADING

Doing What It Takes Site developer and midsized company winner Hoopaugh Grading Company (No. 4) offers employees guaranteed pay and professional development By Virginia Brown

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harlotte is a construction company’s dream. With dozens of major construction projects underway every day, from large-scale office and retail to major residential builds, the need for reliable construction is great. Hoopaugh Grading Company specializes in site development in North and South Carolina. Rated a

Top Workplace for the last three years, the company got its start in 1953, and today employs over 400 people in the office and field. Some noteworthy projects include MSC Industrial Supply Co. headquarters in Davidson, NC, and Highland Park multi-family residential project in Charlotte. Vice President of Operations Brandon Lindsey joined the company in

March, 2018. “I had been in the industry for about 20 years and had worked with contractors all over the Carolinas,” he said. “It was always clear that there was something special going on at Hoopaugh.” According to Lindsey, shared values provide a common thread for employees, according to Lindsey. “A lot of times it’s just a set of words on a wall, but for Hoopaugh, those values are the cornerstone of the

culture.” Dependability, respect, integrity, and simplicity are all tenets of the company’s core. And there’s a reason why Hoopaugh also received a 2020 Top Workplaces Special Award for being

doers: They do what it takes. Off Nations Ford Road, less than a mile from Hoopaugh’s main campus, is a training facility with simulators and large classrooms. HGC Academy

provides apprenticeship opportunities to students coming out of high school and college. A three-year program shows them a career program 3-year

SEE HOOPAUGH, PAGE 18


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ATLANTIC BAY MORTGAGE

Community First At small business winner Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group (No. 2), community involvement means business By Virginia Brown

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or the fifth year in a row, Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group won a 2020 Top Workplaces Award in the small business category. Charlotte market leader Christopher Brown, who’s been with the company for five years, said the reason why is simple: investing in people and community. “It’s really all about our core values that we live every day,” said Brown. “We genuinely care about each of our employees and catering to their needs — chipping in and helping out when their family needs assistance.” Founded in 1997 by Brian Holland, the privately owned national mortgage lender, head-

quartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia, has grown to over 800 employees across 10 states. Atlantic Bay employs 48 in the Charlotte area. “It’s not about how many loans you closed, we try to invest in each one of our folks.” Through its Atlantic Bay Cares program, the company has donated more than $2 million to charities and participated in events that promote the passions of its customers, employees and neighbors. Especially poignant for Brown, who lost his father to lymphoma, the company partners with the Roc Solid Foundation to bring joy to kids who are battling cancer. Through Play It Forward, children ages 1 to 8 get a

custom playset in their backyards, and, with Atlantic Bay’s support, the organization delivers “ready bags” — backpacks filled with toiletries, blankets, a tablet, games, and more — to families to get them through unexpected hospital stays within 24 hours of a cancer diagnosis. Atlantic Bay employees can choose their own meaningful cause, too, from picking up trash to cleaning up creeks and streams. They’ve also partnered with Men’s Shelter of Charlotte to Habitat for Humanity. Every employee gets a paid vacation day to volunteer how they see fit, and they organize a com-

SEE ATLANTIC BAY , PAGE 18


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CHARLES SCHWAB

Communication is Key With weekly and quarterly updates and a robust firm intranet known as “The Schweb,” Charles Schwab proves as leader in transparency By Virginia Brown

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or National Customer Service week in early October, Charles Schwab CEO Walt Bettinger recorded a video message to the company’s front-line client services employees just to say thank you. Every quarter, Schwab’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Peter Crawford, among other senior leaders, address employees in updates. “They update us on

finance metrics and big initiatives,” said Jeff Norton, Vice President of Sales & Client Relations in Schwab’s Charlotte office.

“The Schweb” is the company’s informational intranet, created to share important information and company stories with

21,800 employees across 10 major hubs and 360 branches in 45 U.S. states. These types of communication efforts are com-

monplace at the investment company, which employs roughly 65 in its SouthPark office, Norton said, which is why Charles Schwab is the winner of a Top Workplaces Special Award for Communication. With over $4.5 trillion in total client assets and 14.3 million brokerage accounts, and especially since the Covid-19 pandemic created uncertainty and anxiety for investors, communication with clients is key, too. “Clients are as disrupted as our employee base,” Norton said. “We’re all going through this together.” With 95 percent of the company’s employees working from home due to

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the Covid-19 pandemic, Norton said, “The health and wellbeing of our employees is first.” From midMarch to May, Schwab leadership also sent out weekly emails with pertinent company updates. Additional perks give employees a 28-day sabbatical for every five years spent with the firm. That’s in addition to regular time off. “People spend time with their families, go to national parks, go on safaris,” Norton said. “There are no guidelines; it’s so employees can get away to recharge, and better serve our clients with energy.” Since the Covid-19 pandemic, they’ve implemented a few additional well-

SEE SCHWAB, PAGE 17


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Top Workplaces 2020 A list of the top workplaces in the Charlotte area as determined by employee surveys Rank

Size

Company

Year Founded

Ownership

Sector

Headquarters

Charlotte Employees Years on Area in the list Locations Region

1

Large

Allstate Insurance Company

1931

Public

General Insurance

Northbrook, IL

4

2282

4

2

Large

RoundPoint Mortgage Servicing Corporation

2007

Private

Mortgage Lending

Fort Mill, SC

1

619

4

3

Large

Townsquare Interactive

2012

Public

Advertising & Marketing - Other Charlotte, NC

1

520

4

4

Large

Fifth Third Bank

1858

Public

Financial Services

Cincinnati, OH

1

624

5

1

Midsize

True Homes LLC

2008

Private

Residential Construction

Monroe, NC

4

221

5

2

Midsize

Pinnacle Financial Partners

2000

Public

Commercial Bank

Nashville, TN

13

178

2

3

Midsize

Morris-Jenkins Heating, Air and Plumbing

1958

Private

Heating and Air

Charlotte, NC

1

463

4

4

Midsize

Hoopaugh Grading

1953

Private

Site Development

Charlotte, NC

1

401

3

5

Midsize

RingCentral

1999

Public

Cloud Communications and Collaboration

Belmont, CA

1

169

3

6

Midsize

Key Benefit Administrators

1979

Private

Consulting Benefit Administrator

Indianapolis, IN

1

164

5

7

Midsize

Greystar

1993

Private

Property Management

Charleston, SC

50

340

1

8

Midsize

GSM Services

1927

Private

Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, & Refrigeration

Gastonia, NC

2

201

4

9

Midsize

Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates

1940

Private

Physicians Practice

Charlotte, NC

8

374

6

10

Midsize

United Rentals, Inc.

1997

Public

Rental & Leasing

Stamford, CT

1

370

1

11

Midsize

Graybar

1869

Private

Electrical Distribution

Clayton, MO

1

242

1

12

Midsize

Union Academy

2000

Public

Primary/Secondary School

Monroe, NC

1

224

4

13

Midsize

World Acceptance Corporation

1962

Public

Consumer Finance

Greenville, SC

75

362

1

14

Midsize

Mueller Die Cut Solutions

1940

Private

Manufacturing

Charlotte, NC

1

150

4

15

Midsize

POWERHOME SOLAR

2014

Private

Solar energy contractor

Mooresville, NC

3

264

2

1

Small

Skookum

2005

Private

Custom Software Development Charlotte, NC & Consulting

1

99

5

2

Small

Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group

1997

Private

Mortgage Lending

Virginia Beach, VA 6

48

5

3

Small

Charles Schwab

1973

Public

Investment Management

San Francisco, CA

2

57

5

4

Small

The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery

2009

Private

Brewery

Charlotte, NC

1

52

1

5

Small

Levvel

2013

Private

Business and IT Consulting Firm Charlotte, NC

1

98

1

6

Small

FiltersFast.com

2004

Private

Ecommerce

Charlotte, NC

2

49

3

7

Small

Securly, Inc.

2013

Partnership

K-12 Student Safety

Charlotte, NC

1

35

2


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Company

Year Founded

Ownership

Sector

Headquarters

Charlotte Employees Years on Area in the the List Locations Region

1979

Public

Advertising & Marketing

New Berlin, WI

1

46

6

1

122

3

Jefferson, NC

1

57

6

8

Small

GMR Marketing

9

Small

Dry Pro Foundation and Crawlspace 1999 Specialists

Private

Waterproofing, Foundation and Belmont, NC Concrete Repair

10

Small

Vannoy Construction

1952

Private

Building Construction

11

Small

Hawthorne Partners of AIL

2019

Cooperative/ Life Insurance, Annuities, & Mutual Retirement Investm...

Charlotte, NC

1

41

1

12

Small

United Services Group

2013

Private

Energy/Power

Charlotte, NC

1

59

1

13

Small

MPV Properties, LLC

2010

Private

Integrated Development, Construction, & Management

Charlotte, NC

1

45

6

14

Small

Pulcra Chemicals, LLC

2007

Private

Chemicals/Paint

Rock Hill, SC

1

63

4

15

Small

Gateway Ambulatory Surgery Center

2006

Partnership

Healthcare

Charlotte, NC

1

86

6

16

Small

Emporos Systems Corporation

2002

Private

Simplifying retail for better patient care

Charlotte, NC

1

39

1

17

Small

Aprio, LLP

1952

Private

Certified Public Accountants & Consultants

Matthews, NC

1

41

1

18

Small

Drury Hotels LLC

1973

Private

Hospitality

St. Louis, MO

3

134

2

19

Small

TransUnion

1968

Public

Information Services

Charlotte, NC

1

39

6

20

Small

Magellan Aviation Group

2000

Partnership

Aerospace Products & Services Charlotte, NC

1

69

5

21

Small

Flores & Associates

1986

Private

Administrator of Tax-Advantage Charlotte, NC Reimbursement Plans

1

73

5

22

Small

OneMagnify

1967

Partnership

Advertising & Marketing

Detroit, MI

1

56

5

23

Small

Panda Restaurant Group

1973

Private

Restaurant

Rosemead, CA

9

100

2

24

Small

Kimco Realty Corporation

1958

Public

Commercial REIT

Jericho, NY

1

72

1

25

Small

CR Manufacturing LLC

1993

Partnership

Manufacturing

Rock Hill, SC

1

74

2

26

Small

Horizon Investments

1999

Private

Investment Management

Charlotte, NC

1

50

2

27

Small

Jack Henry @ Associates, Inc.ÂŽ

1976

Public

Financial Services Industry

Monett, MO

1

123

6

28

Small

Communities In Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Inc.

1985

Non-profit

Non-profit

Charlotte, NC

1

116

2

29

Small

Aquesta Bank

2006

Private

Commercial Bank

Cornelius, NC

8

79

2

30

Small

Total Quality Logistics

1997

Private

Third Party Logistics

Cincinnati, OH

1

117

4

31

Small

LGI Homes

2003

Public

Real Estate

The Woodlands, TX 8

42

4

32

Small

The Haskell Company

1965

Private

AEC (Architecture, Engineering, Jacksonville, FL Construction)

1

72

2

33

Small

KCI

1955

Private

Engineering

Sparks, MD

2

120

1

34

Small

CGI

1976

Public

Consulting

Fairfax, VA

1

112

1

35

Small

Union

2002

Private

Digital Marketing

Charlotte, NC

1

36

2

36

Small

Ginkgo Residential LLC

1987

Private

Property Management

Charlotte, NC

17

93

1

37

Small

InVue

2007

Private

Retail Security

Charlotte, NC

1

149

4

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PINNACLE FINANCIAL

Truly personal finance At midsized winner Pinnacle Financial Partners (No. 2), success starts with picking up the phone By Virginia Brown

ashville-based Pinnacle Financial Partners, with 13 branches and about 175 employees in the Charlotte market, offers banking, investments, trust, mortgage and insurance to consumers and businesses — and puts people first. “Our culture in general starts with our hiring model,” said Katie Elder, area manager for client services, who has been with the company roughly seven years. Elder oversees all branches in the Charlotte area, plus retail banking and small business banking. She also leads Pinnacle’s culture initiatives in the market. “We are com-

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mitted to hiring those who are the best at what they do.” The company only hires people who are recommended by current

associates who can vouch for the hire as not only a happy, successful all-star, but a good fit in Pinnacle's culture.

With a 93 percent retention rate, it’s clear that they take it seriously. Elder pointed to core values that the company

expects every day, and it starts with the phones. “We have a three ring rule, internally or when a client is calling in,” said Rob Ellenburg, regional president in southern North Carolina. No client will ever call into the company and get looped into a phone tree. “I can’t tell you how many calls I get where, when they get one of our associates, they get to talk to someone — that really leaves an impact,” he said. The same goes for the 24/7 client service center. To really dig into company culture, every associate flies to company headquarters in Nashville for a three-day orientation and training. One full day is led by Pinnacle CEO Terry Turner, who shares with incoming hires why the company was founded and its core values. “This is as transparent and candid as any I’ve been around,” said Ellenburg, who just celebrated

his 13th anniversary. “When we’re hiring meetings, hearing Terry Turner speak, people say, I can’t believe how transparent he is. It’s refreshing to see that.” Each non-commissioned associate participates in cash incentives based on the firm’s performance, and every new Pinnacle associate receives restricted stock awards when they are hired, then again annually. They also have access to a WOW budget, which they can use however they'd like to make someone’s day. “I was part of an online leadership webinar,” said Elder. “I mentioned on the call that I love a certain coffee.” The associate, who was based in Tennessee, sent her coffee and a mug at her home. “With two dozen of us on that call, it proved that she was listening, and it made my day.”


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MORRIS-JENKINS

A Tribal Culture Midsized company winner Morris-Jenkins (No. 3) removes barriers so its employees can thrive By Virginia Brown

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wenty-one years ago, Jonathan Bancroft signed on with MorrisJenkins as a maintenance technician, cleaning home air conditioning units for under $10 an hour. “I was the low man on the totem pole,” he said. “But I could see the opportunities ahead.” Today, Bancroft is in his sixth year as president and CEO of the residential

heating, cooling, and plumbing company, named a Top Workplace for the third consecutive year. “We promote from within,” he said. “We have managers, supervisors … lots of people who have that same story.” Back in 1990, Dewey Jenkins, 74, the man featured in the company’s ubiquitous television ads, also saw opportunity in the small outfit, originally owned by Luther Morris. Jenkins remains an active

member of the executive team and serves as chairman of the board. Founded in Charlotte in 1958, Morris-Jenkins was a company with a modest start, with roughly 15 employees and six maintenance trucks. Today, the company, one of the largest family-owned, privately held heating and cooling companies in the country, employs 480 and maintains a fleet of nearly 400 trucks. Bancroft points to company culture as the special

sauce that sets MorrisJenkins apart from other companies. “We’re tribal,” he said. “As a tribe, every company, every team, every family has a culture. The stronger the culture, the fewer rules you’ll need.” Replacing rules with a company philosophy, Bancroft focuses on the six Es: engaging, educating, empowering, and enabling his staff. Once those four are aligned, he says, the company is free to execute the game plan so they all can enjoy what they do. “Eighty percent of our employees we will not see

today,” he said. “They leave from their driveways in a company vehicle and are assigned calls to run in people’s homes. There’s freedom in that.” Each employee knows what’s expected of him or her and what to do. “You can trust everyone to do the right thing,” he said. “And it gives everyone confidence. Too many rules, Bancroft says, creates confusion and indecision. “At the heart of what makes us a top workplace is that tribal, strong culture.” Four weeks paid vacation, uniforms and laundry

services, employee breakfasts, celebrations and contests are all tribal perks. Not to mention, no company vehicle is over three years old. “They get a gas card, so they don’t have to come into the office.” And when supplies run low, other companies might send their technicians to a parts house, which wastes time. “We have a network that delivers parts to technicians in the field, so they don’t get bogged down with minutia,” said Bancroft. “We make it easy for them to do their job. That’s infectious.”

SPECIAL AWARD SPOTLIGHT MJU: A COMPANY-RUN TRADE SCHOOL Education is a key tenet of the Morris-Jenkins’ business model. And, as the heating, cooling, and plumbing company also celebrates a 2020 Top Workplaces Special Award for Training, it’s clear that they take it seriously. “We’re a learning organization,” said Morris-Jenkins President and CEO Jonathan Bancroft. “Unfortunately we abandoned trades in schools years ago, so we have to not just hire our tradespeople, but build them ourselves.” Rather than incurring debt for college, candidates can apply for eight- to 10-week programs designed to train HVAC technicians and plumbers. During both programs, income is available, and, once completed, full-time jobs await. Over a dozen surveyed current employees pointed to the quality job training they’ve received, from meetings with owner Dewey Jenkins, 74, to learning and sharpening essential industry skills. “That’s part of the magnetism that draws others to us,” said Bancroft.


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Small businesses remain resilient amid pandemic StatePoint

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mid the historic coronavirus pandemic, businesses are adapting by making major changes to their operations, including increased use of technology, according to the latest PNC semi-annual survey of small and midsize business owners and executives, which concluded Sept. 8. Eight in 10 business owners reported that they have made adaptations in response to COVID-19, including safety changes in the form of new proce-

dures or physical modifications, while others have adopted work-fromhome policies. “Business owners have learned that the previous status quo won’t work now. The majority of businesses have reconfigured their operations and for many, these changes will be permanent,” says PNC chief economist, Gus Faucher. “Their confidence may be shaken, but we know through the history of this survey that business owners are resilient and they know how to adapt to change.”

According to the survey, half of businesses report increased use of technology since the outbreak began. Nearly three in 10 have added or

increased the use of electronic or touchless payment systems, electronic/ website-enabled sales or electronic banking/cash flow management serv-

ices and 19 percent increased use of fraud/ identity protection tools. The pandemic has also forced many businesses to shake up their product lineups to better align with consumers’ new habits. A third of business owners report making changes either to the way they sell or deliver their products and services or to the types of products and services they offer. Despite these positive signs of transformation and resilience, the drop in business activity over recent months forced many to take drastic

measures through workforce reductions; nearly four in 10 businesses have cut workers since the start of the pandemic, although for 87 percent of those, the decrease is considered temporary or a furlough. In fact, 58 percent of the businesses who had temporary layoffs or furloughs have already begun rehiring. Faucher said that while the worst may be over and economic activity is on the rebound, the “new normal” doesn’t mean a return to robust job and business growth that existed early in 2020.

a federal, state, or local payroll tax penalty from an error made while using QuickBooks Online Payroll, QuickBooks will help resolve it with the government and pay up to $25,000 in fees and interest. To learn more, visit www.getqb.com/payrolltools. “Across the board, small business owners today are

facing exceptional circumstances, only now they have the option of using new game-changing tools,” says Laurent Sellier, vice president and business leader of QuickBooks Online Payroll. “By overcoming cash flow, payroll and tax challenges, companies can be in a better position to make it through these uncertain times.”

Honing your small business toolkit in uncertain times StatePoint

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t’s been a challenging year for small businesses, with local shutdowns requiring many operations to close their doors, some temporarily, all while weathering the ripple effects of a global economic downturn. However, experts say that by getting back to basics and honing your small business toolkit, you can run a tighter ship, leaving your enterprise in a better position to survive these difficult times. Here are a few strategies to consider.

AUTOMATING ACCOUNTING Upgrading your account-

ing software will help you avoid errors that are common with manual number crunching and leave you well-prepared should your business be randomly audited. Keeping your books in order and automating back-office tasks like this will save you substantial time and energy, which is especially important these days when your attention is better spent on the big-picture aspects of running your business. Just be sure to choose a trusted, vetted solution.

DITCHING PAPER PAYROLL A 2019 survey by Intuit QuickBooks and Kelton

Global found that small business owners spend on average 4.5 hours each pay period preparing, calculating, and filing payroll. By automating payroll, you can turn your attention to more pressing needs, such as finding new clients, exploring new digital offerings and maintaining your business. Various tech tools can help you get a handle on what may be your largest expense – paying your workers. A payroll service with a one-day direct deposit feature can be especially valuable, as it allows you to hold onto company cash longer. Overall, automating payroll can give you

confidence that employees are paid on time and accurately.

OWNING TAX TIME And while traditional payroll software can be helpful, it may not go far enough – Intuit QuickBooks, for example, has an expanded suite of QuickBooks Online Payroll offerings that enable small businesses to run payroll and file taxes automatically. This saves small business owners valuable time each payroll cycle by eliminating manual data entry and reducing errors. QuickBooks also offers Tax Penalty Protection that guarantees if a customer receives


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How COVID-19 has changed the way we do business forever StatePoint

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he COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed how business gets done. And when it comes to midsized and small businesses, the importance of investing in new technology, facilitating remote work and maintaining a tech-savvy workforce has never been so clear, according to a new survey. Conducted by The Harris Poll for CIT Group Inc., a leading national bank

MOST EXECUTIVES SURVEYED WISH THAT THEY’D INVESTED EVEN MORE IN TECHNOLOGY OVER THE PAST 12 MONTHS. focused on empowering businesses and personal savers, the survey of leaders of U.S. middle-market and small businesses is designed to illuminate the intersection of technology and talent. Compared to last year’s survey, significantly more leaders today believe continuous technological

investment is a business requirement. “The resiliency and flexibility that technology can deliver businesses has been convincingly proven by COVID-19,” says David Harnisch, president of CIT’s Commercial Finance division. “Business leaders have taken that lesson to heart and are focused on

making technology a fundamental part of their ‘tomorrow thinking’.” Most executives surveyed wish that they’d invested even more in technology over the past 12 months. In fact, more than three in four middle market executives believe investments in technology would have helped their company fare better during the pandemic. For small businesses, roughly half felt similarly. However, there’s little question how important technology will be going forward, with the majority of respondents saying it’s crucial to future success. Seemingly determined not to repeat the mistake of under-investing, the majority plan to invest as much or more in their business over the next 12 months as compared to the past year. Only 15% of small businesses say they may invest less this coming year, likely due to financial constraints resulting from the pandemic.

“Small businesses don’t always have the financial resources that larger enterprises often enjoy,” says Ken Martin, managing director of CIT’s Small Business Solutions group. “When investments are imperative, borrowing or leasing may be the right solution to acquiring the technology needed to remain competitive.” When it comes to these upgrades, investments that make it easier for employees to work remotely are a clear priority. Over the next 12 months, 71% of middle market executives and 31% of small business leaders who plan to invest will spend on technology that facilitates remote work. “It’s not just a matter of convenience. Businesses that empower employees to work remotely have a clear competitive advantage,” says Denise Menelly, CIT's executive vice president and head of Technology and Operations.

This is a trend that’s likely here to stay. Approximately a quarter of small businesses operating remotely expect -- and want -- these changes to remain permanent after COVID-19 subsides, and about 40% of middle market executives expect the same, with some seeing it as a means to grow the company. However, this digital transformation puts a premium on a tech-savvy workforce able to support customers and collaborate with colleagues remotely. While many believe their current workforce has the skills to keep up, businesses are also substantially more likely than last year to say companies need to focus on hiring tech-savvy talent. While the COVID-19 pandemic has created a great deal of uncertainty for small and midsized businesses, it has in many ways clarified what’s needed to remain successful in an evolving world.


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Special Award Recipients

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he following special award recipients were chosen based on standout scores for employee responses to specific survey statements. Leadership, Large company: Tim Pirrone, Townsquare Interactive Leadership, Midsize company: Mary Cloninger, Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates Leadership, Small company: Ray Scardigno, FiltersFast.com Direction, Midsize company: True Homes LLC Managers, Large company: Fifth Third Bank New Ideas, Small com-

pany: GMR Marketing Doers, Midsize company: Hoopaugh Grading Meaningfulness, Large company: Allstate Insur-

ance Company Values, Small company: Dry Pro Foundation and Crawlspace Specialists Clued in Senior Management, Large company: RoundPoint Mortgage Servicing Corporation Communication, Small company: Charles Schwab Appreciation, Small company: Skookum Work/Life Flexibility, Midsize company: Key Benefit Administrators Training, Midsize company: Morris-Jenkins Heating, Air and Plumbing Benefits, Small company: The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery

Schwab CONTINUED, FROM PAGE 9 ness perks. The company offered a six-week health challenge. Log three activities a week in an app, pass an online assessment survey, and qualify for

$300 HSA next year. “There’s a big focus on wellness here,” said Norton. Each employee, regardless of position, he said, also has a voice and an opinion. Employee-led resource groups include those for military veterans,

women, parents, and Black professionals. “We pride ourselves on encouraging a diverse employee base,” Norton said. “When you have diversity of people, you have diversity of thought.”


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Hoopaugh CONTINUED, FROM PAGE 7 program to show them pay scale, where they finish. Sets them up with a career program. The HGC Leadership Academy also teaches management how to be stronger leaders, and existing employees how to

Atlantic Bay CONTINUED, FROM PAGE 8 pany-wide week of volunteering during National Volunteer Week. In 2019, staff volunteered 618 hours at 26 locations. “We are a one hundred percent referral-based business,” Brown said. So, in the end, community means business.

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graduate to the next level. Lindsey also notes that transparency is key. CEO Brian McManus delivers live Friday video updates through an internal company platform. Each week, he shares information on the state of the company and industry. Given the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic, Lindsey said,

“That has created a sense of stability.” Every employee at Hoopaugh has a guaranteed 35-hour workweek, regardless of the impact of weather. “A couple days of rain could wipe you out for a whole week,” says Lindsey. “But you’re still guaranteed a paycheck.” Hoopaugh also offers employees a

bonus program that, if met, can yield a full week’s pay. “Working for a company truly cares about the individual and their family is more important than ever,” Lindsey said. “Guaranteed pay, whether due to sickness … or bad weather — having that burden off of you is very important and appreciated.”

Food and fun helps, too. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, office employees had access to a “cantina box,” filled with snacks and they hosted in-person happy hours. Since the pandemic, they’ve hosted virtual happy hours and played games on Zoom. The company also reimburses vacation up to

$2,000 and organizes and annual four-day sales trip to the Caribbean with spouses for top producers. Other perks include 10 paid holidays (including birthdays) and paid parental leave. Each week, Holland addresses staff by video for a market update and check-in. COVID-19 has completely changed the

financial market and the mortgage industry in the past few months, and we thought it would be valuable to our partners to hear from our CEO as well as a third-party industry expert on what the market fluctuations mean for them and their businesses, and what steps Atlantic Bay is taking to support our clients.

Skookum CONTINUED, FROM PAGE 4 No set office hours, unlimited paid time off, a work-from-home policy, no dress code, lots of flexibility, trust and freedom all keep employees happy. “Our co-founders started the company wanting to take care of their employees and they’re doing just that by letting employees manage their lives the way they need to without strict guidelines,” said Johnson. It also made the pivot during the Covid-19 pandemic more streamlined. “We were already set up for that and had a flexible, work-from-home policy,” she said. This year, Skookum won first place in the small business Top Workplaces awards. “I think we’ve continued to win this award because we work at a company that views their people as humans first, before anything else,” said Johnson. “We all have lives outside of Skookum, and life happens.” Skookum also won a 2020 Top Workplaces Special Award for Appreciation. “I think our employees feel seen, heard, and respected,” Johnson said. The agency’s work varies in the healthcare, financial, and retail industries, and with large

enterprise clients. “They, or their customers, are dealing with an issue,” said Johnson, “and they think technology could solve it.” Love the look of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library app? Skookum designed it. They also prototyped a stockroom management app for a top shoe company that now saves the company thousands of hours and millions of dollars annually. Skookum also created a website for Charlotte’s Major League Soccer team — they whipped up that one in just three weeks. “We like to hire folks that are naturally curious and interested in learning and growing their craft,” said Johnson. “In the tech space, it’s always changing.” To support that, Skookum offers employees an annual education budget that they can use however they’d like. “Everyone learns differently, so if you can tie it back to your role,” Johnson said, “you’ll get reimbursed. Before the pandemic, the company hosted a lunch every Friday — “our version of family dinner,” Johnson said. Since the pandemic, they’ve hosted Zoom trivia, yoga sessions, SkillPop classes, and howto sessions from mixology to patio gardens to interior design.


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Employees choose Top Workplaces through survey By Bob Helbig ENERGAGE

ho determines Top Workplaces? The best judges: the employees who work there. For the sixth year, The Observer has partnered with Philadelphia-based Energage to rank the Top Workplaces in the Charlotte Metro area. The process is based on a scientific survey of employees who rate their workplace culture. It also gives company insights about what makes them unique. “In times of great change, it is more impor-

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tant than ever to maintain a connection among employees,” said Eric Rubino, Energage CEO. “When you give your employees a voice, you come together to navigate challenges and shape your path forward based on real-time insights into what works best for your organization.” The process began in March, when The Observer welcomed people to nominate companies as Top Workplaces. Energage also reached out to companies in the region. Throughout the process, 1,334 employers in the region were invited to

have their employees take the survey. Any organization was eligible to participate, provided it had at least 35 employees in the region. Employers could be public, private, nonprofit, or governmental. There is no cost to enter the Top Workplaces program. Combined, the companies surveyed in 2020 employed 12,508 people in the region. Of those employees who received questionnaires, 7,897 responded, either on paper or online. For this year’s winners list, 56 employers earned recognition as Top Workplaces and were

ranked based on their employee survey feedback. The employee engagement survey of 24 questions gathers responses regarding issues relating to workplace culture: A Alignment: where the company is headed, its values, cooperation, effective meetings A Coaching: managers care about concerns, are helpful, encourage employee development A Connection: employees feel appreciated, work is meaningful, working at full potential, clued in to each other A Engagement: produc-

tivity, retention, recruiting A Leadership: confidence in company leaders A Performance: execution, open-mindedness, innovation, clued-in leadership A The Basics: pay, benefits, flexibility, training, expectations Employers that score high enough are recognized as Top Workplaces. Employers are categorized by size, and they are ranked within those size groups, to accurately compare results. Energage also determines special award winners based on standout scores on specific survey topics.

Did you look over the list and wonder why a particular company was not on it? It might be because it chose not to participate, or because it did not score well enough in the survey process. Energage occasionally disqualifies employers based on questionable results detected through statistical tests it runs to ensure organizations are accurately administering the survey. Want your organization to participate in the 2021 program? Just go to charlotteobserver.com/nominate to submit a nomination.


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