100 Best Companies to Work For 2012


We all want to love going to work, to have a nurturing, welcoming workplace that makes our jobs easier, more enjoyable. We all know that not every company fits that description. Happily, the companies and organizations listed on these pages do, according to the very people who work there. Congratulations to the Seattle Business magazine 100 Best Companies to Work For of 2012!


100 Companies List (pdf download) 

Small Company Winners

Midsize Company Winners

Large Company Winners

Nonprofit Company Winners 

Company HQ Outside Washington Winners 



Benefits: Provide a comprehensive benefits package including dental. Offer a comprehensive retirement plan, paid vacation and sick leave, flexible hours, telecommuting and job-sharing opportunities.

Communication: Share good and bad news about the business. Make management accessible to employees and encourage feedback.

Corporate culture: Encourage employees to act and think independently. Focus on long-term success. Allow employees to act on their convictions.

Hiring and retention: Offer opportunities to advance. Maintain low turnover. Establish a formal program for identifying future leaders.

Performance standards: Create challenging but attainable performance goals mutually agreed upon by manager and employee. Conduct evaluations that are updated regularly. Leadership> Inspire employees to do well. Encourage team spirit. Respect employees and their opinions. Promote diversity. Encourage employees to take leadership. Build strong relationships based on trust.

Responsibility and decision making: Foster an environment of accountability. Give employees latitude and authority. Encourage problem solving and teamwork.

Rewards and recognition: Provide competitive and equitable salaries. Implement performance-based compensation. Provide bonuses for excellent performance. Regularly recognize individuals and groups.

Training and education: Promote employee development. Train mentors. Encourage employees to share expertise.

Work environment: Encourage creativity and brainstorming in a comfortable and safe setting. Provide balance between work and personal needs.



First-, second- and third-place winners in the 2012 Best Companies to Work For competition were determined by these judges.

John Hartman, CEO, CEOtoCEO

Cindy Olsen, vice president of human resources, Concur Technologies

Nita Petry, area president for Washington state, Gallagher Benefit Services Inc.

Jeannine Ryan, director of sales and marketing, Washington Employers

Brent Schlosstein, founder and principal, TRUEbenefits LLC

Laura Swapp, director of diversity and inclusion, REI


For judging purposes, we separate companies into five categories: small (30 or fewer employees), midsize (31 to 100), large (more than 100), nonprofits and firms headquartered outside Washington.


Seattle’s Gilmore Research Group compiled data submitted anonymously by thousands of employees from the nominated companies. (Firms can nominate themselves.) Gilmore uses the detailed responses to determine each business's score in such areas as communication, leadership, benefits, corporate culture and workplace environment. In addition to providing the basis for our judges to determine the top three winners in each category, Gilmore will prepare a customized report for any member of the 100 Best Companies to Work For interested in acquiring one.

Paying the Price for $15 an Hour

Paying the Price for $15 an Hour

With the economy soaring, it’s hard to gauge the effectiveness of Seattle’s minimum-wage hike. Some small-business owners remain dubious.
When the Seattle City Council passed the $15 minimum- wage ordinance in June 2014, David Lee, founder and CEO of the Field Roast Grain Meat Company, was not happy.
“The minimum wage hurts businesses like ours that compete on a national level,” says Lee, who believes it makes employers feel “cheap” and weakens “the goodwill that bound employers to employees.”
Even so, reflecting the mixed feelings of many Seattle businesses that want to do the right thing even as they struggle to survive, Lee decided to raise the minimum pay of his workers more than 20 percent — to $15 an hour — this fall, years before he was required to do so under the law.
“I wanted to get it behind me,” he explains.
Under a complex, multitiered system, Seattle companies with more than 500 employees must begin paying a $15-per-hour minimum wage starting in January. Companies with fewer than 501 employees  have until 2019, unless, like Lee, they provide health care or other benefits, in which case the $15 minimum wage rule applies to them beginning in 2021. Lee says his decision will cost Field Roast $300,000, about a quarter of its total earnings in 2015.
Ivar’s Seafood increased prices by 21 percent in 2015 to cover an increase in employees’ minimum wages to $15. The company didn’t have to start paying $15 an hour until next year, but Ivar’s President Bob Donegan believed it was the right thing to do. The decision helped resolve long-standing tension between lower-paid workers in the kitchen and wait staff who received much higher wages thanks to tips. Donegan says most patrons continue to tip even when they are told gratuities are now included in their bills.

A CASE OF COMPRESSION: Lynn Stacy unwraps grain meat for sausage products at Field Roast,
which has a flatter pay structure because of its higher minimum wage.

Some companies, however, remain concerned that the higher minimum wage could still hurt them. BrightStar Care, which offers home care and medical staffing in most states, is operating at a disadvantage because of the minimum wage, says CEO Shelly Sun. “Our Seattle franchise has only about 50 employees,” Sun notes, “but it’s being treated like a big business.”
Because Seattle treats the franchised operation of a national chain as if it were a large business, BrightStar will have to pay $15 an hour as of January, whereas some of its competitors with similar employee numbers in Seattle may not have to pay that much until 2019. Sun says a consequence may be reducing the size of the Seattle franchisee’s staff, which could have implications for clients.
Meanwhile, the national restaurant chain Buffalo Wild Wings says it is hesitant to expand in Seattle because the high minimum wage makes it economically inefficient to hire and train inexperienced workers. Still, what was once considered a movement isolated to “liberal” western cities like Seattle and San Francisco has gained sufficient momentum nationwide to be included in the national platform of the Democratic Party this election season. 
Thanks to Seattle’s strong labor market — the unemployment rate in the Seattle metropolitan area was 4.4 percent in July (compared to 5.8 percent statewide) — the higher wages have had little negative effect on the economy.
A report released in July by the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance concluded that the new minimum wage law hasn’t had a lot of upside, either. Since a strong labor market would have increased wages in any case, the study concluded, only a quarter of the recent gains could actually be attributed to the minimum-wage law — a little more than a few dollars a week. 

Revisiting the minimum-wage story | Seattle Business magazine examined the minimum-wage issue in its May 2014 issue, just as the Seattle City Council was considering an ordinance raising the minimum hourly rate to $15 in a gradual process over several years, depending on a company’s size. This is the magazine’s first follow-up since passage of the minimum-wage law.