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Sunday September 3, 2017


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Camaraderie is key at Employers of Choice seek to Community Bank & Trust empower, engage KARRIS GOLDEN‌



Income, assets and overall ‌ growth give insight into business’ success. The 2017 Courier Employers of Choice honorees know successful companies have empowered, engaged employees. Whether it’s information technology, manufacturing, financial services or other fields, the Cedar Valley business landscape offers a wide range of opportunities. This year’s Employers of Choice illustrate broad diversity, from a company with fewer than 20 staffers to regional, national and international organizations with scores of employees. All exemplify a number of consistent best practices, such as: „„ Commitment to employee participation in personal company-sponsored community service activities. „„ Clearly defined methods for employees to share ideas and feedback. „„ Mentoring and ongoing ed-

ucation and development. „„ Opportunities for growth and advancement. „„ Regular attention to health and wellness, through benefits and other initiatives. As in other years, 2017 Employers of Choice strive to offer excellent health, life and retirement insurance benefits as well as generous paid time off. In particular, all mentioned provide as much scheduling flexibility as possible so employees can keep personal commitments. A consistent comment among employees from this year’s selections is their workplace offers a family-like environment. For some of the businesses profiled, there is a legacy of family ownership. Some companies cultivate a family atmosphere by hiring close friends and relatives of existing staff, with a close eye on the next generation. For those where there aren’t familial ties, there is a strong, intentional desire to ensure employees are treated like family.


„„ Kryton Engineered Metal

„„ Advanced Heat Treat Corp.

„„ NewAldaya Lifescapes

„„ CBE Companies

„„ Peters Construction

„„ Cedar Falls Utilities

„„ PDCM Insurance

„„ Cedar Valley Eye Care

„„ UnityPoint Health-Grundy

„„ Cedar Valley Hospice „„ Community Bank & Trust „„ Isle Casino Hotel-Waterloo

County Memorial Hospital „„ Veridian Credit Union „„ Young Plumbing & Heating


‌WATERLOO — Stacey Bentley isn’t easily shocked. As president and CEO of Community Bank & Trust, she tends to take things in stride. However, she never expected to be honored for a second consecutive Employers of Choice honor. “I’m so humbled, I cannot believe it,” said Bentley. “I was so surprised. I thought it would have been one time and done. It’s neat to know what employees say and what they really appreciate.” Nathan Bolton is grateful for an employer that respects and appreciates him. “Everyone is highly valued for what they do,” he said. “The company cares deeply about personal development and encourages employees to strive to do more and be more.” According to several nominators, CB&T fosters a sense of camaraderie. “I feel like it’s understood how important family is, and I don’t have to feel guilty about sometimes having to put my family first,” said Sheena Rosol-Koenigsfeld. “It’s really an encouraging and positive work culture.” All this starts from the top, said Colleen Zak. “Stacey Bentley is very visible and involved in day-to-day business,” said Zak. “She goes out of her way to know each and every employee and has an open-door policy.” Bentley hosts annual small group round tables with employees, where she provides bank updates and solicits feedback. She believes communication, consistent expectations and great benefits keep the culture innovative and interesting. Bentley often reflects on wisdom passed on by her dad: “Anyone can see further than what they can reach, but that doesn’t


Community Bank & Trust „„ 422 Commercial St., Waterloo „„ 291-2000 „„ „„ Employees: About 100 full and part time „„ Business focus: full-service community bank providing per-

sonal and business financial services

„„ Leads the field in: maintaining personal touch and close cus-

tomer relationships while offering advanced technology

mean they stop reaching.” “To me, that means you grow every day,” said Bentley. “You keep learning, listening, trying to improve and embracing change. That, to me, is key.” CB&T does this through a variety of initiatives. One is Peak Performance, which establishes seven strategic bank-wide goals. “All employees know what those goals are,” said Bentley. “Every employee chooses a goal where they think they can make a difference. It doesn’t have to tie to their jobs or current job description; it just has to be something they feel they can contribute to.” For two tellers, this meant taking over leadership of the CB&T Royal Club, a program for customers 55 and older. “These ladies stepped up and

said, ‘We like this, we have fun with it and we want to help with that,” said Bentley. In addition, the bank continues to offer its sabbatical program. Employees with 10 years of service take 30 days of mandatory, paid time away from work to accomplish “a bucket list-type of goal,” said Bentley. “It can be helping a parent or child accomplish something, a mission trip, volunteering, a fantasy trip,” she explained. “This doesn’t include regular vacation or PTO. You have no contact with the bank.” The bank also has “Family Matters” time, which offers up to eight hours of paid time off per year to use for attending children’s activities or other family events.

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Employees make all the difference at NewAldaya Lifescapes KARRIS GOLDEN‌

‌CEDAR FALLS — The workforce in the health care field has changed considerably during Milissa Tierney’s career. “We have very high standards — not only in terms of quality, but of quantity as well,” said Tierney, executive director and CEO of NewAldaya Lifescapes. “What we do depends on people being the best they can be and making a difference in people’s lives.” There are negative aspects, from increasingly stringent health care and privacy regulations to Iowa’s shortage of health care professionals. However, today’s senior residential services workforce provides many positive rewards, said Tierney. As such, NewAldaya relies on full- and part-time employees, including students, as well as support from scores of volunteers. “In a place like this, you really have to be an employee family,” Tierney explained. “When you walk into your workplace, it feels like home. There’s a bond there, and that’s rewarding. We do important work, which provides everyone a very unique experience.”

NewAldaya Lifescapes 7511 University Ave., Cedar Falls 268-0401 „„ EMPLOYEES: 350 „„ BUSINESS FOCUS: Cedar

Valley-based premier residential retirement community „„ LEADS THE FIELD IN: Diverse, innovative lifeplanning, health care, housing and hospitality services

NewAldaya must staff for round-the-clock needs, in a business with varied emphases — individual residential living, home care, assisted living, hospice care and more. This makes providing employees with flexibility to make it to family events and other personal commitments a challenge. Still, Tierney and her team make it a priority to search for creative solutions. “Our focus is on how important it is for people who work and

Employees work hard and play hard at NewAldaya Lifescapes. serve others to find the support and encouragement they need; it has nothing to do with being competitive,” Tierney explained. “We’re investing in and encouraging our employee group in a facility that has seen phenomenal growth among residents — and employees. That has been gratifying.” Courier Employer of Choice nominators noted a consistent objective they apply to their

work: Treat NewAldaya residents the way you’d want your loved ones treated. “Many employees say this workplace is like a home to them,” said Tierney. “That translates into a group of people who are inspired to create the culture that provides a sense of community. … We work very hard, and while we’re working hard, we play hard.” For example, each year, there is a “very competitive” Halloween costume competition, noted Tierney. Human resources staff also plan regular fun and engaging activities. Regular meetings and recognition events are another way to bring together the large, varied and dispersed staff. Nominators also highlighted exemplary communication and transparency among managers and senior executives. That’s by design, said Tierney. “It’s essential to our success that we’re open to people who have different ideas,” she said. “We have discussions called ‘bubble ups,’ where no idea is off limits. That’s where the idea of our Main Street area came from. “Not everyone is comfortable with innovative conversations,”

Tierney added. “For someone like me, who tends to live on the more innovative side of things, it’s a good idea for me to monitor the comfort level of employees in those discussions.” Employees appreciate the balance — being open to different, “out there” ideas while ensuring others are engaged and included. Tierney also works to help employees become more comfortable with possible failure. “If you learn to tolerate some risk, you hear more ideas, and you’re going to empower your workforce to be part of that change,” she explained. She learned that from experience. When she joined the staff of the former Cedar Falls Lutheran Home, she told the director of nursing she’d stay two to three years at most. Nearly two decades later, Tierney laughs at her former plan. “The people here — the volunteers, clients, friends, people who visit and staff — are committed to this place,” she said. “That’s special. When an employee walks onto this campus to begin work, he or she may not realize it’s an opportunity to make a difference to thousands of lives.”

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ACES plans for business, employee growth KARRIS GOLDEN‌

‌ EDAR FALLS — Employees C at ACES often talk about finding a second family. President Mike Place hopes the company’s supportive, innovative atmosphere will propel its expansion plans. Designation as a 2017 Employer of Choice honoree is a step in the right direction. “It’s a confirmation of the work we’re doing,” said Place. With fewer than 20 on staff, ACES is the smallest 2017 Employers of Choice in terms of workforce. In the next five years, the company plans on major growth, Place said. “Our plans are so much more solid than, ‘If we sell more, we’ll get bigger,’” Place explained. “It’s about where we’re going COURTESY PHOTO‌ and why we’re going in that diACES employees say their co-workers feel like a second family. rection; it will be a big change, and I’m learning as I go.” ACES operates from five major objectives: positive environment, transparency, community involvement, collaboration and work-life balance. Traditional IT Company “We very much want to be a destination employer, and these areas of focus advance us toward Proactive - Prevent IT Problems Reactive - Fix IT issues after they break that goal,” said Place. “The objectives focus on things we need Hourly Rates - Incentive to waste more time Flat Rate - Incentive to keep your IT working to change, add or do differently and making sure employees Trusted Advisor - We’re in this together Sales reps paid to sell inventory know they have the power to make those changes and follow through.” Security - We take responsibility for your data You are expected to know what you need! Creating a positive work environment is the cornerstone, To learn more about how ACES can help your business survive and Place added. He and CEO Phil Kenealy reinforce the objectives thrive, call us or visit our website at at weekly “all-hands” meetings. “The communication between all employees is key,” said Place. “We all support each other in meeting … incentives. We’re all focused on what we really want to do in the next five years to get there.” These meetings offer opportunities to foster collaboration and ensure mutual understanding, said nominator Lucy Kerns. “(We) celebrate successes, give company updates and dis5417 Nordic Drive, Ste. B, Cedar Falls, IA 50613 - (319) 266-9800 cuss big picture and vision strat-

What makes the ACES Managed IT Services Package better?

ACES 5417 Nordic Drive, Suite B, Cedar Falls 266-9800 „„ EMPLOYEES: 18 „„ BUSINESS FOCUS:

Affordable, fully loaded information technology support „„ LEADS THE FIELD IN: IT planning and budgeting, and technology and business review egies,” she explained. “Everyone is on the same page and pulling in the same direction.” ACES also takes great care to ensure expectations are clear and universally understood, said Place. “Each person has a different definition of work-life balance,” Place explained. “As an idea, work-life balance is a very big deal — something where it’s not fair to say there’s one way to do it. People’s lives are different, so work-life balance has to be different.” Service technician Jason Rasmussen enjoys ACES’ friendly atmosphere. “Everyone is so willing to help each other out, and we all combine to make a great team,” he said. “If you love to work hard, problem-solve and enjoy being a team player, ACES is a wonderful place to work.” The open, collaborative environment means all employees are aware of ACES’ growth plans and goals, Place said. In the next year, ACES will increase its workforce by 50 percent. “We have a good understanding of what it will take to get there,” he explained. “The positions we plan to add — we know what those are, and the staff knows, too. It allows them to plan for their own careers and where they’d like to be be. Everyone sees the plans. ... They never have to ask what’s going on.”

Sunday, September 3, 2017 | 5


Peters Construction 901 Black Hawk Road, Waterloo 236-2003 „„ EMPLOYEES: 70 „„ BUSINESS FOCUS:

Commercial and industrial general contractor specializing


Peters Construction educates to innovate KARRIS GOLDEN‌

‌WATERLOO — Peters Construction isn’t like its competitors, and that’s OK with employees. “Peters Construction is not your normal construction company,” said Katie Reints, a staffer who nominated the company for Employers of Choice distinction. “If a new employee is hired, it is taken seriously. It feels good to know that there are companies like Peters Construction — employee-owned and operated.” President Brad Best is proud the company is a bit different from others, and he appreciates that employees have noticed. “We love getting this; it’s a surprise and a huge honor,” said Best. “It’s been a real recruiting tool, and it reinforces that we’re a very family-oriented company.” Since last year, the company has devoted even more resources to employee training and development opportunities, said Best. “We decided to make a point of getting more employees to engage in out-of-office and job-site learning opportuni-

ties,” he explained. “Within our office setting, there are three or four different programs. Through the construction industry and locally, there are also programs we participate in. All four tracks, beginning at entry level, have access to these programs.” The investment yields a good return, Best added. Benefits include employee empowerment and a sense that employees feel more in tune with the construction industry. Ryan King, a 25-year Peters employee, appreciates the impact of the ongoing education the company sponsors. “In essence, we are investing in ourselves,” he explained. “Knowledge equals advancement here. I personally have learned a great deal by working with quality professionals, from my co-workers out in the field to the management team in the office — some of whom have been with the company for over 40 years.” Trust and open communication have been essential, he added. “By nature, commercial con-

struction can be a dangerous profession,” said King. “We employees are well trained in the hazards of our trade. Weekly safety talks and monthly safety meetings keep us on the lookout for problem areas. We keep an eye on each other, and we are rewarded quarterly for our efforts.” Best hosts a “manpower projection” meeting every other month. This focuses on future projects, potential opportunities and any potential dips or extreme working peaks. Employees appreciate this foresight, because it allows them to better understand plans and manage their personal schedules. “The thing I like most about working here is the team mentality that is ingrained in our company culture,” said Phil Nieman. “We all rely on each other to keep everything moving forward. Every employee has a role, and each role is critical to the success of the organization. My experience here is that there are many talented individuals that, when given the chance to share their skills, we collectively accomplish tasks that are truly impressive.”

in large local projects, especially schools, colleges, churches and hospitals „„ LEADS THE FIELD IN:

Ensuring customer satisfaction by placing high value on employee excellence

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At PDCM, ‘family first’ motto maintains work-life balance KARRIS GOLDEN‌

‌WATERLOO — It’s OK if people believe insurance is the ultimate “nerd-dom,” said Chris Fereday, president of PDCM Insurance. Those who work in the industry understand the truth. “It may not seem like the coolest to work for, but we’ve been successful in allowing for collaborative, team-centric opportunities,” he explained. The company’s staff agrees and again propelled PDCM to the Courier’s annual list of Employers of Choice. “I can’t imagine working anywhere else,” said Samantha Trost. “Working at PDCM has been a very rewarding job. They care a lot about their employees and work to make sure that you are comfortable in what you’re doing.” Empowered, engaged employees are essential to serving customers, said Fereday. As a result, senior managers pay close attention to building a sense of teamwork. “The challenge is how to foster communication across a variety of different styles and natural talents,” said Fereday. “(T)he starting point is making it OK to have different communication styles.” The foundation is the Colby Natural Communication Style model, Fereday explained. It helps individuals identify their


Family is important at PDCM, as evidenced by events like this one.

PDCM Insurance 3022 Airport Blvd., Waterloo 234-8888

Employees have a little fun with a pie in the face at a PDCM event.

„„ EMPLOYEES: 60 „„ BUSINESS FOCUS: Customized insurance plans for individuals

and businesses through use of trademarked Risk Reduction Approach „„ LEADS THE FIELD IN: Experienced, engaged insurance professionals who serve clients and the community personal communicating styles and how to best be heard the way they intend. In addition, co-workers are able to notice communication cues so they’re better able to interact effectively. This also led to more involvement from employees, said Kim Krizek, COO. “When we identify a new

solution for the agency, employees are involved from the ground up,” she said. “They’re going to be the users, so it makes sense that they’d be integral to building the solution.” This openness and willingness to listen to employees reinforces the message that PDCM wants employees to develop personally

and professionally, said Trost. Many employees refer to the “PDCM Family,” said nominator Bobbie Tjaden. “All employees are included in many regularly scheduled meetings and are provided regular feedback from top management,” she said. “We are offered and provided many new learning opportunities and continuing education classes — all paid for and encouraged.” “We made sure there’s flex time, shorter summer hours and, of course, paid time to vol-

Thank You

to our devoted employees for voting PDCM Insurancee Employer of Choice in the Cedar Valley!

Serving the Cedar Valley and the Corridor since 1916 | 800-373-2821

unteer for community hours,” said John Monaghan, a partner. “With very moderate planning, we can work around employees’ schedules.” This is the heart of a core corporate principle: living balanced lives. This company-wide emphasis makes PDCM the “best workplace in the Cedar Valley,” said Tjaden. “I feel fortunate to be part of the PDCM team,” she said. “The motto here is ‘family first,’ and they mean it and show it in many ways.”

Sunday, September 3, 2017 | 7


At Grundy County hospital, engaged employees provide great patient care KARRIS GOLDEN

Grundy County Memorial HospitalUnityPoint Health‌

‌RUNDY CENTER — At G Grundy County Memorial Hospital, employees find a place where they are respected and valued. Jennifer Havens, CEO and director of nursing, is glad to hear it; the hospital’s leaders have worked hard to convey this to staff. “Being selected for (Employers of Choice), is a tremendous honor,” said Havens. “But it’s not about that. The recognition demonstrates who we are and what we continue to be. We must do that with or without this. Once someone walks through the door and is our employee, it’s up to us understand how their work makes a difference … and do a great job of honoring every person who works at the hospital.” Havens strives to maintain that standard because it draws skilled employees — and keeps them. “I joined Grundy County Memorial Hospital due to the reputation they had in the community,” said Steve Bantz, information technology manager. “Meeting the leadership staff during my interviews led me to believe this is an organization that cares about their employees and their well-being. … Respect is No. 1.” UnityPoint Health establishes what amounts to guidelines for

201 E. J Ave., Grundy Center (319) 824-5421 www.GrundyCountyHospital. org „„ EMPLOYEES: 192 „„ BUSINESS FOCUS: 25-bed,

not-for-profit critical access hospital, with emergency care for rural communities „„ LEADS THE FIELD IN: Nationally recognized for emergency department’s exceptional patient care COURTESY PHOTO‌

respectful communication and conduct through its mission, vision and core values, said Havens. These principles are communicated in an acronym: FOCUS. F stands for “foster unity.” O stands for “own the moment.” C stands for “champion excellence.” U stands for “unity begins with you.” S stands for “seize opportunities every day.” “A lot of organizations have core values that define who they are and what they want to be,” said Havens. “We take it to the next step by defining those values and holding everyone

accountable. “As we say, these are more than words on the wall,” she adds. “These are words that should be walking down the hall with every employee. Achieving greatness isn’t just having core values; it’s living them.” To that end, there are specific ways GCMH measures how well employees exemplify FOCUS. This is seen in everything from performance evaluations to public recognition from managers and peers. FOCUS is fun, too. For its 65th anniversary, GCMH hosted a

weeklong celebration that included yard games, cookouts and other activities. “One of the things I love most about working at GCMH is the family atmosphere,” said Aaron Wedo, human resources manager. “Our managers not only know each of us but they also know about our families. They truly understand that family comes first.” To that end, managers will fill shifts to ensure an employee can attend a child’s school activity or leave on time for a family trip, Wedo explained.

“The amazing thing about the family-like atmosphere is that it quickly spreads to how our caregivers treat patients,” he added. Skilled, engaged employees create great patient experiences, said Havens. “In health care, there are a lot of choices. Employees can go anywhere,” said Havens. “We are feeling that staffing shortage. When we finally are able to get someone to commit to working here, our job is to make sure that they never want to leave. We need to take that very, very seriously. The role of retention today is important because of the shortage.”

The Clear Choice Our pa patients and our employees agree. Grundy County Memorial emorial H Hospital is the clear choice for local healthcare. Thank yyou to our associates for nominating the hospital as a 201 2017 Cedar Valley Employer of Choice.

8 | Sunday, September 3, 2017


Young Plumbing & Heating stays true to its roots KARRIS GOLDEN‌

‌WATERLOO — With a business that spans more than five generations, Young Plumbing & Heating Co. is a Cedar Valley institution. John Thomas, sales and service manager, believes that’s because the company adheres to its roots. “Young Plumbing & Heating Co. is a family-owned business with high family values,” he explained. In many ways, he added, the company attends to needs that go beyond the job. This includes company-sponsored activities for employees and their families as well as corporate policies that demonstrate there’s more to life than work. “Flexibility with time off for family events, children’s sporting events or emergencies is rarely a problem,” Thomas explained. “They care about (our) health and wellness, with monthly safety meetings, and encourage fitness in many different ways.” It’s a forward-thinking approach that has helped Young Plumbing & Heating continue to grow and broadened its employee base for decades, he added. The company traces its roots to Young Coal Co. in the 1880s. By the turn of the 20th century, Young Coal expanded to harvesting, storing and selling ice from the Cedar River. In 1943, brothers Bob and Dick H. Young founded an offshoot called Young Heating Co., which originally sold and serviced oil burners. By the end of the decade, natural gas was introduced to the metro area. As a result, the heating company hired technicians to sell, install and service natural gas burners and furnaces. The 1950s brought the addition of plumbing, then residential and commercial air conditioning. During those years, Young’s seasoned workforce of skilled technicians helped the company


Most of Young Plumbing & Heating’s work keeps its employees in northeastern Iowa. In this Courier file photo, a plumbing apprentice works at UnityPoint Health-Prairie Parkway in Cedar Falls during its construction in 2015.

“Travis Young and Mark Tink are the best people to work for. (They) always have an open-door policy if I have questions (and are) great people to talk to.” Tom Williams, a plumber expand from residential, retail and office buildings to include commercial and industrial plumbing and HVAC business. In 1968, the Young brothers incorporated, bringing on Arnold Becker as a co-owner. Descendants of all three remain involved in the business, including President Mark Tink, Becker’s son-in-law, and Vice President Travis Young.

“Travis Young and Mark Tink are the best people to work for,” said Tom Williams, a plumber. “(They) always have an opendoor policy if I have questions (and are) great people to talk to.” Over the years, the company has strengthened its market share in residential and commercial plumbing and ventilation while branching out into excavation, mechanical

Young Plumbing & Heating Co. 750 South Hackett Road, Waterloo 234-4411 „„ EMPLOYEES: 160 „„ BUSINESS FOCUS: Commercial and residential mechanical

contractor for plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning „„ LEADS THE FIELD IN: Ensuring customer satisfaction by placing high value on employee excellence engineering, sheet metal fabrication, welding, geothermal systems and more. Most of the work keeps the company’s more than 160 employees in northeastern Iowa. “I have worked here for 10

years, and I love it,” said Williams, who left a 21-year career in retail to become a plumber. Like the company’s owners, he’s a legacy; William’s father retired from Young Plumbing & Heating after 35 years.

Sunday, September 3, 2017 | 9


Veridian offers employees an array of career possibilities KARRIS GOLDEN‌


Veridian Credit Union employees volunteer at the annual Mike and Leona Addams community Thanksgiving dinner.

Veridian Credit Union 1827 Ansborough Ave, Waterloo 235-3328 „„ EMPLOYEES: 775 in metro

area and Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Council BluffsOmaha regions „„ BUSINESS FOCUS: Notfor-profit, member-owned financial services „„ LEADS THE FIELD IN: Providing low-cost savings, checking, loan, insurance and investment products development program, Berg explained. Staff members are encouraged to create customized individual development plans, which help them identify departments and positions in which they’re interested. Likewise, all employees are

provided frequent leadership training and teamwork development, Berg added. “It’s important for the future of the credit union that we develop individuals across the organization so they’re ready to step in as we continue to grow and expand the organization,” said Berg. Many nominations noted Veridian’s competitive wages, health insurance, retirement options and other traditional benefits. The credit union’s executive team meets with all new employees to share Veridian’s organizational structure, vision, mission and values. The sessions also allow them to swap information about their families, hobbies and other interests with new staff members. “We believe making a more personal connection earlier in their career with the company demonstrates that we’re accessible and interested in their ideas,” Berg explained.

“I love the culture,

the benefits and the flexibility.”

- Amy, Loan Officer

After 14 years at Veridian, Amy still feels valued and empowered. Come experience the Veridian difference for yourself.

We’re proud to be a top employer in the Cedar Valley.


‌WATERLOO — New employees at Veridian Credit Union learn quickly what seasoned staffers have come to value: Theirs is an open, collaborative and fun workplace. “Veridian Credit Union cares about its employees’ quality of life inside work and out,” said nominator Katie Powers of Denver. “When I started here, I never knew the array of possibilities ahead of me.” This includes opportunities for education and advancement within the credit union, Powers added. This occurs at all levels, with regular access to Veridian’s senior leadership. “The CEO and his team always talk to each employee when they see you, and when you first start they all have a get-together for you to meet them,” she said. Veridian’s work environment is “second to none,” noted Alexander Pietan of Cedar Falls. “The organization as a whole really makes people feel like they belong and care about them as a person,” he said. CEO Monte Berg has spent the majority of his career at Veridian. This year marks his 27th anniversary. Like Veridian’s nominators, he appreciates the many benefits of working there. “I’m a good fit with a member-owned financial cooperative, where we can make decisions for members who own the credit union,” he said. “Those decisions are typically for the long term; we don’t have to focus on the short-term results. “I also appreciate the people I work with,” he added. “Veridian’s board of directors is very focused on our staff and regularly demonstrates this to our employees.” Over the years, the credit union has developed a comprehensive and robust employee

800.235.3228 |

10 | Sunday, September 3, 2017



Left: Missy Schwab, a sous chef at the Isle, prepares a dish. Right: Isle employees get in the holiday spirit with an ugly Christmas sweater day.

Fun the name of the game at Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo KARRIS GOLDEN‌

‌WATERLOO — Michele Murphy has a great time at work. As an employee of Isle Casino Hotel, that’s as it should be, she said. “The guests come here to have fun, and the only way to make that happen is to have fun with them,” Murphy said when nominating The Isle as an Employer of Choice. “The Isle is the most entertaining place I have ever worked. We have fun on a daily basis.” That exhilarating atmosphere is why Todd Connelly made gaming his career. “Things change every day, based on the people who are here,” said Connelly, Isle Casino Hotel general manager. “It’s dif-

ferent from a lot of other jobs; a casino is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.” While employees sing the Isle’s praises, it often has a running list of 30 full-time jobs and even more part-time openings. Connelly attributes this to the Cedar Valley’s low unemployment rate and the Isle’s staffing needs. “The unfortunate thing is that when everyone else is off for holidays and weekends, we’re on,” he said. “Those are some of our busiest times.” The hours won’t change, so Connelly focuses on perks and policies to make the schedule more palatable. This includes a generous paid time off program for all full- and part-time em-

ployees based on hours worked. A unique benefit offered to employees and their families is an off-site, free health clinic in Waterloo, with immediate care for illnesses, wellness screenings, smoking cessation, weight management and more. “We don’t have a big problem with illnesses because employees can take care of things when they need to,” said Connelly. “The clinic provides the employee flexibility. It can be the difference between a kid missing one day of school with an illness vs. three days. And that means that parent doesn’t need to take three days off work to care for the child.” The Isle is big on incentives and bonuses, too. “They recognize us for a job

well done, giving us cash bonuses and prizes,” said Lumarie Rodriguez in her nomination. When an employee refers a new hire who works 100 days, she or he receives $100. Employees with perfect attendance receive quarterly bonuses. The Isle has a no-fault attendance policy, which relatively few employees use. Positive guest feedback nets quarterly bonuses. When the hotel is full, housekeeping staff receive bonuses in addition to overtime. Employees who exceed expectations may receive credits to use in the Isle’s eateries, as well as public recognition. In many ways, incentives reinforce teamwork, said Connelly. One program requires a “back of house” team like accounting to

Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo 777 Isle of Capri Blvd., Waterloo 833-2162 www.Waterloo.IsleofCapri „„ EMPLOYEES: 490 „„ BUSINESS FOCUS:

Casino hotel with variety of entertainment and restaurants „„ LEADS THE FIELD IN: Luxury local gaming, accommodations, dining and entertainment with personal customer service pair with a frontline team, such as restaurant staff, to meet customer service goals. “Putting together teams from different areas to meet these objectives reinforces the idea that if you succeed, I succeed,” he said. “I try to think back to when I was new to the gaming business. I always appreciated it when someone spoke to me like an equal, valued my opinion and respected me.”

Sunday, September 3, 2017 | 11


At Cedar Valley Eye Care, the focus is on family KARRIS GOLDEN

Cedar Valley Eye Care‌

‌WATERLOO — Gina Allison is a “lifer” at Cedar Valley Eye Care. In the past, she said this because she enjoyed her work as manager of the optical department. She had found great co-workers, wonderful patients and professional fulfillment. However, her view of her commitment to Cedar Valley Eye Care changed when her husband received a terminal cancer diagnosis. “When you get a diagnosis of cancer, your whole world tips on its axis,” she explained. For chemotherapy treatments, Allison drove her husband to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., every other week. Sometimes, his care required her to be out of the office for 10 days at a moment’s notice. This

909 E. San Marnan Drive, Waterloo 234-0821 „„ EMPLOYEES: 60 „„ BUSINESS FOCUS:

Comprehensive vision care


Eye care solutions, from glasses and contact lenses to Lasik vision correction


Co-workers cared for Allison’s dog, watered her plants and provided moral support. She would come into work and find a card wouldn’t be. with a convenience store gift “The doctors told me, ‘We will card and the note, “Maybe this take you as many hours as we can will help with gas.” Colleagues helped ease the fihave you; don’t worry about nancial toll in another way, too. your job,’” she recalled.

Lana Herman, center, helps Richard Backes try on glasses at Cedar Valley Eye Care as his wife, Sheryle, looks on. lasted two years. Missing work could have been a tremendous strain. Cedar Valley Eye Care’s eight doctors and 50-plus employees ensured it

“Not once did I take an hour off work without pay, because co-workers donated paid time off,” Allison explained. This support helped Allison understand her friends from work were, indeed, family. Her husband’s illness and death two years later revealed the depth of that connection. The experience helped Allison understand why her work makes a difference in patients’ lives, too. “We’re not just trying to sell a pair of glasses; we’re trying to develop a relationship,” she explained. “That sense of caring comes through from how we treat each other — that’s how we treat the people who come in our office. “We want patients to feel good and look good, so we get to know them. We’re trying to develop a relationship.”

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12 | Sunday, September 3, 2017


At CFU, flexibility provides work-life balance KARRIS GOLDEN‌

‌ EDAR FALLS — Staff at CeC dar Falls Utilities say their company is a perennial Employers of Choice pick for good reason. “I’ve worked for Cedar Falls Utilities for over 15 years and plan on retiring from there,” said nominator Joe Smith. “They are family-friendly and flexible if I have any family or personal issues I need to deal with. I feel very challenged and enjoy the work I do. The benefits and compensation are excellent and provide for my family.” CFU works hard to create the type of environment Smith described, said Susan Abernathy, director of employee and legal services. “This recognition … is a big selling point for us,” she explained. “It’s what they don’t hear; you don’t hear a bad thing

Cedar Falls Utilities 1 Utility Parkway, Cedar Falls 266-1761 „„ EMPLOYEES: 196 „„ BUSINESS FOCUS:

Municipal provider of communications, gas, water and electrical services „„ LEADS THE FIELD IN: Providing innovative, high-quality services about us because our employees truly love working here.” During his tenure, General BRANDON POLLOCK, COURIER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER‌ Manager Jim Krieg has spent Bill Kohls, left, and Pete Olson, both with the Cedar Falls Utilities Energy Services Department, demonstrate considerable time reflecting on how best to foster employee at an interdepartmental meeting. development and satisfaction. Often, this leads him to focus on “You have to look at each job,” where it’s possible to create more general manager Jan. 1. At that optimal work-life balance. said Krieg. “There are certain jobs flexibility for employees, whereas time, Krieg will join the ranks of there are others that don’t offer the employer’s biggest cheeras many options. We do what we leaders: retirees. can, and we’re always revisiting “When our employees retire, it. they’re truly sad and emotional “We have quite a few younger to leave their CFU family and families now,” he added. “For customers,” said Abernathy. It them, work-life balance looks speaks to the investment and like quality time with their fam- engagement our employees have ilies. They need some flex-time to CFU and the community. to deal with the things that come This year alone, five employees up.” retired with more than 40 years CFU is open to changing with of service each. The utility’s recustomer and employee needs, tirees get together every month said Steve Bernard, assistant and also maintain contact with general manager. In this way, the current employees, said Abercompany demonstrates agility nathy. and a willingness to adapt. These connections reinforce “Our expanded use of social the value of working for CFU, said media is an example of how we’ve Krieg. The foundational elements created more opportunities for of CFU’s culture are recognition employee flex time, with addi- employees’ enthusiasm, contintional evening hours,” Bernard uous improvement and embracexplained. “That’s a direct result ing change and new ideas. of customer requests — a role “It’s important to make it fun,” there that’s needed and growing.” he said. “You also have to recogWhile traditional customer nize that not everything is going service options like phone and to go right. That’s part of life, and email remain the primary points you learn from it.” of contact, Bernard believes there Employees appreciate this, said will soon be a shift. Abernathy. CFU works to provide “Evening hours have been the recognition, feedback, developarea in which we’ve seen the ment and overall wellness. most expansion over the years,” “We see employees as human he noted. beings; we’re all responsible for Bernard will take the helm as each other,” she explained.

Sunday, September 3, 2017 | 13


Culture shift at Kryton paves way for future KARRIS GOLDEN‌

‌EDAR FALLS — Kryton C Engineered Metals is a work in progress. “We’re still feeling our way through a culture shift we embarked on six years ago,” said Kevin Harberts, owner and president. “I’m not sure it ever stops; for me, culture is huge.” In his fifth year at Kryton, Ian Davis couldn’t be happier. “The small business atmosphere is excellent, as Kevin can be seen walking around and talking to everyone from a new hire to a 25-year veteran,” he said. The experiences of Davis and many others placed Kryton on the Courier’s Employers of Choice list for a third straight year. “I’m actually shocked,” said Harberts. “I always feel that I could do better in terms of leadership.” He does acknowledge Kryton’s progress. Faced with dissatisfied employees, lackluster financial prospects and potential decline, Harberts overhauled everything several years ago. The biggest undertaking was a shift in mindset: Kryton had to invest in its employees: education; higher salaries; opportunities to advance; better benefits; and improved conditions, equipment and atmosphere. “I was told when I was hired that this was the best place to work,” said Gary Bullerman. “Now, 17 years later, I can tell you they were correct.” Kryton helped Kerissa Owens balance work with becoming a first-time mother. “Kryton has helped me adjust to motherhood and the trying difficulties of daycare costs and hours,” she explained. “They allowed me to switch shifts and made sure I got enough hours.” There’s a sense of “true compassion” for employees and their well-being, said Abby Roethler. “Kevin believes in family, faith, then work,” she explained.

Kryton Engineered Metals 7314 Chancellor Drive, Cedar Falls 266-1771 „„ EMPLOYEES: 77-80 „„ BUSINESS FOCUS:

Manufactures spun metal component and fabrication parts „„ LEADS THE FIELD IN: Evolving to adapt to the changing world of production technology “If time is needed away for family issues, Kryton is flexible and COURIER FILE PHOTO‌ willing to work with each of us. Rob Smith sets up the robot attachment of a CNC spinning lathe to move parts on and off the lathe at … We are a team, not individuals, Kryton Engineered Metals in Cedar Falls. when we walk through the door each day.” Harberts wouldn’t have expected these comments a decade ago. At that time, he struggled to fill orders for a much smaller workforce and the future was uncertain. “Today, we’re all pulling the wagons in the same direction, whereas six years ago, they were going every which way,” he said. “I’ve had to change. My leadership style has evolved.” Another big change Harberts recently implemented was to put a millennial on his leadership team. Four 20-somethings will take turns in the position, rotating through on a six-month basis. The idea stems from Harberts’ desire to gain new perspectives. When considering who will run Kryton in the future, he wants to pave the way, not set up roadblocks. “As leaders, we need to be aware we don’t know everything. If we’re going to stay competitive, we have to change what we’re doing. It’s a tough, tough world out there, especially in 7314 Chancellor Dr, Cedar Falls, IA 50613 manufacturing. … That’s where these young people are help(319) 266-1771 • ing us, because they adapt a lot faster than old people like me.”


For making us a Cedar Valley Employer of Choice.

14 | Sunday, September 3, 2017


Cedar Valley Hospice meets needs of patients, staff KARRIS GOLDEN

Cedar Valley Hospice‌

‌ATERLOO — Michaela W Vandersee often encounters those who are shocked by her chosen profession. “People will ask, ‘How can you work there?’ They think it would be so sad,” explained Vandersee, executive director of Cedar Valley Hospice. “My response is that most people who work here are truly called to do the work. Hospice nurses know they can’t change the situation patients are in, but they can improve the quality of life.” Employees at Cedar Valley Hospice manage pain, explain various situations, medications and procedures and provide endof-life care to patients and their loved ones. “For 26 years, I have looked forward to the challenges and rewards of a normal day at Cedar Valley Hospice,” said Paul Steimel. “You never know who or what will need your attention, but you always know you are helping people are on their last journey in this life.” Doing this well means the organization provides extraordinary support to its staff, said Shannon Melcher. “Quality of life is at the heart of everything Cedar Valley Hospice does,” she said. “The quality of life we provide for our patients is reflected in the care and concern given to each of the employees as well. There is true attention given to employees’ personal and professional balance from every level of management and from our co-workers, too. Because of our family-friendly environment, we have quite a retention of longterm employees who know each other well and care deeply about one another.” This quickly becomes apparent to new employees, said Kortni Isom. From her first day, she felt welcomed and mentored by her co-workers. After a few months, Isom continued to have experiences that reinforced a universal desire to ensure her success. This included

2101 Kimball Ave. Suite 401, Waterloo 272-2002 „„ EMPLOYEES: 118 „„ BUSINESS FOCUS:

Compassionate end-oflife and palliative care to patients and those who grieve „„ LEADS THE FIELD IN: Innovative programs and community partnerships


Members of the Cedar Valley Hospice executive team take a fun photo before the start of the 2016 holiday party. From left are Katie Unland, Stacy Weinke, Jennifer Siech, Michaela Vandersee and Kris Glaser.

At a recent staff meeting, Cedar Valley Hospice employees were split into groups for fun team-building exercises, including the egg drop where teams had to protect their egg from breaking. From left are Mandy Patterson, Kortni Isom, Stacy Gerling, Stacy Weinke, Jennifer Siech, Nancy Sharp, Michaela Vandersee and Michelle Walden. regular, constructive feedback from her supervisor and other managers as well as opportunities to learn new skills. “Each day, you can hear co-workers affirming each other for the work they are doing,” she

added. “It is the most supportive, encouraging, flexible and fun place I have ever worked.” Hospice employees are passionate advocates for those in their care, said Vandersee. This can take a personal toll on staff-

ers; she replaces the large box of facial tissue on her desk every few weeks. “It’s hard to walk in that path with families,” said Vandersee. “It’s the job of our management team and executive team to com-

municate to employees that they are valued and listened to. We strive to ensure employees live balanced lives and carve out time to have fun with co-workers.” The motto “making each moment matter” helps employees focus on patient and peer care, said Melcher. “After four decades of providing exceptional end-of-life care and other services, our entire team strives to find better practices and efficiencies to remain the hospice provider of choice in the area,” she said. “That serves as a great catalyst to learn new skills and expand our education and abilities.” To ensure staff needs are met, executive leaders and managers regularly evaluate the best ways to provide training and pilot new programs while monitoring those already in place. This is especially important in recruiting new employees, said Vandersee. The shortage of health care workers certainly impacts the organization. She hopes prospective employees explore hospice care beyond assumptions and stereotypes and consider the impact of such a career. “I’m astounded by how nurses continually step up and help families,” she said. “It reinforces the need for Cedar Valley Hospice as an organization to regularly check in with staff and ensure that we give them what they need to succeed and do their jobs.”

Sunday, September 3, 2017 | 15


Employees drive the business at CBE Companies KARRIS GOLDEN‌

‌CEDAR FALLS — CBE Companies can point to many successes. Major contracts with the U.S. Department of Education, Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department. Expanding workforce in New Braunfels, Texas, the Phillippines and Cedar Valley headquarters. The list goes on. However, employees are the company’s biggest point of pride, said Chad Benson, president and COO. “I came here because of the culture,” said Benson. “I fell in love with the culture and the team here. That’s the most important thing.” Both Benson and CBE owner Tom Penaluna believe employees drive the business. The company has been recognized as an Employer of Choice numerous times in the past, and they’re nonetheless humbled by the distinction.

“There are lots of great companies in the Cedar Valley, and it means a lot that we’re seen like this through the eyes of our employees,” said Benson. “There’s a kind of diversity showing up (in Employers of Choice). That shows there’s lots of growth and opportunity to be employed in this area with great companies.” Stephanie Perry has been at CBE for nearly 14 years. “I started at this job as a ‘job’ to get me through my college years,” she said. “Soon after starting, I realized that there was something special here.” Like Perry, other nominators extolled CBE Companies’ professional advancement opportunities. “They help you grow,” said Elizabeth Simmons. “CBE is always working to improve in each facet of our business. We work to improve processes, systems and most importantly, our employ-

CBE Companies 1309 Technology Parkway, Cedar Falls 234-6686 „„ EMPLOYEES: 1,350 „„ BUSINESS FOCUS: Out-


CBE employees volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Iowa. ees. When an employee does their job well, they are recognized and praised for their hard work.” Mutual support creates a family atmosphere, said Jae Pennell. “CBE has many ways to recognize employees, such as con-

tests with prizes, newsletters and (other) recognition,” she said. “It’s so nice to know your good work matters.” In an industry where the news isn’t always good, it’s important to instill trust and support, said

Great people. Great Care.

sourced call center services for government, higher education, health care, telecommunications and utilities industries „„ LEADS THE FIELD IN: Robust, comprehensive educational opportunities for staff, meeting professional and personal goals Benson. “It’s important to treat others as you want to be treated,” he explained. “The biggest things I’ve learned from Tom are consistency, humility and hard work.”

Choose to call Cedar Valley Hospice, and be surrounded by your loved ones and supported by experts. We are honored to be an

Employer of Choice and your community hospice since 1979.

319.272.2002 :: :: 800.617.1972

16 | Sunday, September 3, 2017


Loyal employees at the heart of Advanced Heat Treat Corp. KARRIS GOLDEN

Advanced Heat Treat Corp.‌

WATERLOO — Advanced ‌ Heat Treat Corp. does highly technical, complicated work. AHT provides heat treat services and metallurgical solutions to companies across the globe. This involves finely calibrated equipment, controlled laboratory conditions and extensive knowledge of math, chemistry and physics. What isn’t complicated is why AHT leads its industry: great people, said Gary Sharp, founder and CEO. Sharp’s guiding principle is posted in a conference room at AHT headquarters: “Loyal people are at the heart of Advanced Heat Treat Corp. Working at AHT means a lot more than just starting work and earning a paycheck. Employment signifies a commitment — commitment from you to the company and a life commitment from the company to you.”

2825 MidPort Blvd., Waterloo 232-5221 „„ EMPLOYEES: 170 „„ BUSINESS FOCUS:


Steve Pasker removes a rack of parts from the batch carbonizing furnace at Advanced Heat Treat in Waterloo. This sentiment aligns with the company’s core values, said Mikel Woods, president: service, teamwork, integrity, professionalism, passion and loyalty. “We do what we say and say what we do,” he said.

AHT offers benefits and perks that are sometimes uncommon in industrial settings, such as opportunities to volunteer and scheduling flexibility. Likewise, the company eschews the rigidity of things like “zero-tolerance” attendance policies.

Multiservice metal heattreating „„ LEADS THE FIELD IN: Extensive metallurgical research and development, state-of-the-art equipment and technology “Personal family situations do occur, and AHT knows the employee needs to be able to have the flexibility to handle those types of issues,” said Gayla Hoppenworth, human resources manager. Hoppenworth noted how her work family rallied around her when her grandson died in a tornado that destroyed her

home and possessions. “I can’t describe the care that the management team and the great people that I work with showed me,” she said. “They are not just co-workers but people that I consider friends and are always there for me.” More than 100 of the 170 employees work at one of the two sites in Waterloo. AHT also has facilities in Monroe, Mich., and Cullman, Ala. Many employees start as general laborers, equipment operators and heat treat technicians. With support from AHT, they’re able to advance to skilled positions like metallurgy and laboratory technicians, as well as sales and administration. “You start out on the shop floor and receive on-the-job training,” Woods explained. “From there, there are opportunities to move up or into other areas, depending on your goals. We want to help employees get where they’d like to be.”


Advanced Heat Treat Corp. employees for making AHT an


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2017 Employers Of Choice