B.C.’s Best Companies, Circa 2010

Size doesn't matter in our ninth annual ranking of B.C's workplaces; it's all about respect and keeping the communication lines open. This year’s Best Companies survey offers the most extensive snapshot of best practices among B.C. employers to date, with more than 100 businesses taking part. The overall winner will be familiar to BCBusiness readers, with Strangeloop Networks Inc. topping the list for the third year in a row, but there are also a number of surprises in this year’s results.


Size doesn’t matter in our ninth annual ranking of B.C’s workplaces; it’s all about respect and keeping the communication lines open.

This year’s Best Companies survey offers the most extensive snapshot of best practices among B.C. employers to date, with more than 100 businesses taking part. The overall winner will be familiar to BCBusiness readers, with Strangeloop Networks Inc. topping the list for the third year in a row, but there are also a number of surprises in this year’s results.

In addition to our overall ranking, we’ve introduced a friendly rivalry by breaking down results within industry sectors. Rather than having restaurants compete against banks and biotechs, for example, players within each sector are competing against each other.

We’ve identified 10 broad industry sectors, with a separate category for small businesses with between 25 and 50 employees.

One of the interesting findings is that while life sciences and health services companies accounted for only six per cent of participating companies this year, they collectively outscored other sectors in all four measurement categories: talent systems, employee engagement, leadership dynamics and organizational culture. Analyzing the results, our partners at MindField RPO Group Inc. suggest this may be because companies in the health sector typically focus on human interaction, and their emotional commitment may result in increased employee engagement and a clearly defined organizational culture.

Results also suggest a potential lesson about lines of communication: executive ranks tended to rate their companies the highest across all four categories of assessment, while the admin support and clerical ranks gave their companies the lowest scores. MindField analysts suggest this is because those at the top are closer to the vision and direction of their organization, while those at the bottom of the pay scale often feel disconnected from the big picture. The lesson: those companies that do their best to break down the communication gap from top to bottom will see results in employee engagement and organizational culture.

Another surprise: one in five employees participating in the survey has been with their company for less than one year. While this could indicate high turnover, generally high scores across the board suggest workforces are growing, rather than just churning.

One last finding that may go against the grain: despite all we’ve heard about disaffected youth, the happiest demographic are the under-25s. They represent about 18 per cent of survey participants, and they were more likely than any other age group to give their employers high scores.

So if you’re looking for ways to ensure your company shows up on future Best Companies lists, you might do well to heed lessons from this year’s survey: look for ways to get your employees emotionally invested in their work, ensure the company’s direction and vision are communicated clearly from top executives to front-line workers, and constantly refresh your workforce with new hires in the under-25 crowd.

B.C.’s Top Ten Companies

1. Strangeloop Networks Inc.

Vancouver | Digital technology and technological services | 25-50 employees
Strangeloop develops, installs and maintains software and hardware that accelerate the performance of websites. Since founding the company in 2006, twin brothers Joshua and Jonathan Bixby have infected the entire staff with their enthusiasm. As one employee comments, “We are on the edge of something new and exciting, and the excitement gets shared with all who work here. I feel like a part of the team, not a pawn in someone else’s game plan.”

2. Kryton International Inc.

Vancouver | Manufacturing, construction and distribution | 25-50 employees
Kryton, a manufacturer of concrete waterproofing products, works around the globe and prides itself on bringing that international perspective to the workplace. “We embrace diversity and respect for the individual,” notes one employee. “Some of the best days to work here are when people have got their permanent resident status or Canadian citizenship; the whole office celebrates.”

3. Summerland & District Credit Union

Summerland | Financial services | 25-50 employees
With local roots dating back to 1944, Summerland Credit Union is woven into the fabric of this Okanagan community. One employee sums up the local pride: “I feel proud to work for Summerland Credit Union because it is highly regarded in our community and is involved in almost every community festival or sporting event, where staff are highly visible in donating time and energy.”

4. Chemistry Consulting group Inc.

Victoria | Professional services and communications | 51-100 employees
This management consulting firm knows that business success starts with satisfied employees. One staff member’s comment is typical: “The pay and benefit package, ‘just because’ days, bonuses, a training allowance and staff expenses are all better than most companies in this same industry, and they are greatly appreciated.”

5. Kardium Inc.

Richmond | Life sciences and health services | 25-50 employees
Kardium develops medical devices targeting cardiovascular disease. The common refrain among employees is trust and empowerment. “The goals are clearly laid out and then management gets out of the way and lets the talented people get the job done,” notes one employee. “There is minimal interference and no micromanaging.”

6. Pharmasave Drugs (Pacific) Ltd.

Langley | Retail | 25-50 employees
At the regional office overseeing 110 Pharmasave stores in B.C., a sense of family starts at the top. “Each member of the management team is passionate about what they do, and that passion is passed along throughout the organization,” notes one employee. “Taking holidays is actually encouraged,” adds another. “I have worked at other companies where scheduling holidays was difficult because there was never any time to take them. When I left my last job, I was paid out for seven weeks’ holiday time.”

7. Habañero Consulting Group

Vancouver | Professional services and communications | 51-100 employees
This one-time web developer has expanded to become a full-service business consultant, offering everything from e-commerce platforms to workflow and productivity systems to distribution and logistics systems. One employee cites co-founder and president Steven Fitzgerald as setting the tone: “He inspires not by cliché pep talks but by being open, honest, approachable and funny.” Habañero regularly holds “open books” sessions, where staff are included in discussions of company finances, where the company stands, where it needs to go and what it will take to get there.

8. Benefits by Design Inc.

Port Coquitlam | Professional services and communications | 25-50 employees
Benefits by Design puts together employee-benefits packages and administers benefit plans on behalf of employers. Empowerment and flexibility are recurring themes in employee comments. “We are given the authority to do our jobs the way we like as long as we reach our targets, and I feel comfortable approaching the CEO to talk and give suggestions,” says one staff member. The company is open to arranging hours around personal and family commitments, and employees earn “flex” days in addition to regular vacations.

9. Cactus Restaurants Ltd.

Vancouver | Hospitality | 501-3,000 employees
If Cactus Club staff look like they’re having as much fun as customers, that’s probably because they are. Having opened his first restaurant at age 23 after several years as a server, president Richard Jaffray has built a corporate structure that puts teamwork and camaraderie first. At Cactus Club’s 20 restaurants across B.C. and Alberta today, it’s hard to tell where work stops and partying starts. “My lifelong friends, best friends, the people I am going to grow old with, I have met while working here at Cactus,” comments one happy employee.

10. 6S Marketing Inc.

Vancouver | Professional services and communications | 25-50 employees
6S Marketing offers a full array of Internet marketing services, from ensuring potential clients will find your website to analyzing your site’s user-friendliness and co-ordinating email and social-media marketing campaigns. Staff cite flexible scheduling as an added bonus: one employee appreciates being allowed to come back part time after her daughter was born while another commends 6S for letting staff schedule work around events during the Olympics.


Are You One of the Best?

See how you stack up against your peers by registering for the 2011 Best Companies competition at www.bestcompanies.ca. There’s no cost to participate. You will be asked to provide details of your company’s HR practices and to administer a survey soliciting feedback from your employees. In addition to seeing how your workplace ranks alongside those of your peers, you will receive a report from our partners at MindField Group, who will crunch the numbers to summarize the results of your employee survey.