Business Bureau serving Northern Colorado and Wyoming. In industries from accounting to waste hauling, agriculture to manufacturing, energy management to homebuilding, the winners of the 2010 Torch Award for Business Ethics represent a dedication to doing the right thing for their customers, their employees and their
Nominations were researched and prepared by business students at the University of Wyoming, University of Northern Colorado and Colorado State University. In addition to the awards, the BBB and the Rotary Clubs presented a $5,000 scholarship to Laura Jo Washle, a senior at Poudre High School in Fort Collins, which she intends to use this fall when she attends Creighton University.
11 EMPLOYEES OR LESS
Doing the right thing at Spanjer Homes
For more than 30 years, Spanjer Homes has been building quality homes in Northern Colorado. Steve Spanjer founded Spanjer Construction Corp. in Fort Collins in 1978. The company started slowly, doing remodels, carpentry work and the occasional spec home, over time building a reputation for its distinctive interior trim work and furniture-quality woodworking detail.
In 2003, the company changed its name to Spanjer Homes and continues to be known for its one-of-a-kind custom homes. But the reason for the company's success goes beyond quality workmanship. Steve Spanjer says it's a foundation of good ethics.
"What's kept us going through 30 years is treating people like we'd want to be treated," he said. "Building homes and friendships is what it says on our business cards. It's all about the relationships we have and the values we project."
Spanjer cites an incident that took place during the devastating flood that struck Fort Collins in 1997 as an example of those relationships and values. An out-of-town couple worried about their townhome built by Spanjer asked if Steve would check on the
unoccupied structure. He and his wife, Barb, checked on the home several times during the storm and on one visit noticed a wall of water forming against a basement window.
The Spanjers spent the next 90 minutes bailing water out of window wells until the storm subsided and the flood danger had passed.
Spanjer Homes has a strong environmental ethic and was one of the first local builders to separate its wastes for recycling and reuse. For years, the company has been including green-friendly building practices in its construction, and Steve Spanjer earned the designation of Certified Green Professional from the National Association of Home Builders in 2009. "We incorporate those practices into everything we do," he said.
Steve Spanjer said the company's focus on relationships includes maintaining a family-style atmosphere among the firms' six employees. When hiring, the company looks first to values over experience because people can be trained for job skills but can't be taught values. "The overall balance of a person's life is real important here," he said.
- Steve Porter
Dairy Specialists holds ethical values
In 1970, Bud Sorenson founded what is today known as Dairy Specialists, the biggest supplier of equipment and services to Northern Colorado's dairy industry. Originally called Sorenson Surge, the company merged with Progressive Dairy Systems in 1991 to become
Dairy Specialists Inc. Eventually, Bud's son, Randy, and his wife, Linda, became owners of the company.
Bob Brown, Dairy Specialists' chief operating officer, said both Bud and Randy are considered pioneers in their field, with Bud installing the first automated milking system in Colorado in 1977 and Randy developing the so called "subway" milking parlor in 1994, which has become the industry standard. The company also installed the first 80-stall basement-style rotary parlor as well as the largest single milking parlor in the world near Eaton in 2007. Brown said Randy Sorenson does most of the engineering design for the
"He's considered one of the finest dairy designers in the country," he said.
The company has 53 employees and serves about 120 dairy operations in Colorado, southeastern Wyoming and western Nebraska. Brown said Dairy Specialists has three main areas of operation: design and construction of milking parlors; service on that equipment; and the sale of chemicals and supplies to dairy operators.
Over the last four decades, Dairy Specialists has developed a culture that guides its employees in their everyday duties. It's based on the phrase: "Doing the right thing when no one is looking." Brown said a strong commitment to ethics has helped sustain the company and make it grow and flourish. "I think a lot of what helped us succeed and the fact that we were selected for the (Better Business Bureau) award is we have a culture of ethical business practices that extends from one end of the company to the other," he said. "A lot of businesses are run from the profit side up, but we do it by doing things ethically and the profit comes naturally."
Brown said high ethical standards are the cornerstone of Dairy Specialists' daily operations. "It's the foundation of our customer service plan, our human relations plan - it's really what defines our company."
- Steve Porter
12 TO 49 EMPLOYEES
EnergyLogic launched from integrity
Berthoud-based EnergyLogic is on a steep growth trajectory - smack-dab in the middle of the energy efficiency market - but its commitment to the core values of sustainability and integrity were the platform from which it launched. "When we founded EnergyLogic, it was a merger of our company and our business partner's company," said EnergyLogic Principle Steve Byers, referring to the 2006 combination of EnergySmiths and BuiltWright Inc.
During the process of discussing the merger, Byers said the No. 1 topic was whether there was a unity of opinion on guiding principles and values. "We were very aligned in our principles," Byers said. "Both companies started from this place of our employees
being central to the work we do." At the time, there were fewer than 10 employees, but EnergyLogic has since grown to more than 80 employees - 30 of which are based out of the company's Berthoud headquarters. Despite the consulting firm's rapid growth,
Byers said it maintains the focus on employees. The nature of the work, Byers explained, demands much of its workers.
"If you want to have people doing quality assurance for you, they have to be people you can trust," he said. EnergyLogic employees are often a buffer between contractors and subcontractors to make sure that work is being done up to standards. That sometimes means being the bearer of bad news. Byers said the company looks for technically competent, honest and tactful employees because their work is the lifeblood of EnergyLogic.
"In our business, if we lose our integrity, we have nothing," he said. In order to retain good people in such a demanding environment, EnergyLogic has had a long history of offering
a top-tier benefits package. Even more important to retention than benefits, according to Byers, is the company's continued and deep commitment to sustainability. When EnergyLogic is hiring, alignment with the core principles is top of mind. Byers explained that the company is building a team that is there for more than just a paycheck, especially since rapid growth means asking for more and more out of people. "We all share the pain," Byers said. "When you're just a clock-puncher, you're not interested in sharing the pain."
- Kristen Tatti
50 TO 100 EMPLOYEES
CPAs live by Cowboy Ethics
You'd expect your accountant to be counted among businesses with ethical practices. But McGee, Hearne and Paiz LLC, based in Cheyenne, brings dedication to doing what's right into all aspects of the 69-person firm, from little things like office recycling to larger issues of securing sensitive information or parting ways with former owners who were more concerned with growth than serving clients.
To keep the firm focused on being honest and fair, McGee, Hearne's 11 partners have adopted the Code of the West made famous by James P. Owen in his "Cowboy Ethics." The book is given to every employee to explain how to make ethical decisions on a daily basis, and the film is shown every year at the company's internal ethics training to reinforce the Ten Principles to Live By.
No. 10, Know where to draw the line, is especially important when handling requests from clients to bend the rules for their personal gain. "If a client wants to be unethical, we will either change his mind or say goodbye," Partner Jim Hearne said. Although this has cost the firm more than one client over its 65-year history, McGee, Hearne continues to thrive,
serving businesses, nonprofits, government and individual clients in Wyoming, northeastern Colorado and western Nebraska. The staff also gives generously of its time and professional talents to the Cheyenne community, as well as financial donations through organizations such as the United Way.
McGee, Hearne puts the welfare of its employees at the center of its operations. In addition to a wide range of standard benefits, the firm offers an open-ended bereavement policy, a time-off bank to allow staffers to donate to others dealing with family issues, and one paid day at Cheyenne Frontier Days each year. Maybe that's why employees of McGee, Hearne and Paiz are happy to embrace Cowboy Ethics Principle No. 7: Ride for the brand.
- Kate Hawthorne
MORE THAN 100 EMPLOYEES
Gallegos family dedicated to service
When it comes to the enormous job of removing waste in Northern Colorado, Gallegos Sanitation Inc. looks to the little things to make it the best service provider for customers and, perhaps, the biggest customer of all - the environment.
Operating in Northern Colorado for over 50 years, the Gallegos family's 70 teal and white trucks have become icons of service, even though sometimes it might not look like they've even come by. GSI requires its collectors to put the trash and recycling bins back exactly where customers placed them. Those heavy-duty bins were chosen for their lids, to keep trash from blowing out in a strong wind, and their heft, which keeps them planted firmly on the ground instead of being whisked into the next county with the slightest gust.
Change can be hard and expensive for any company, let alone a half-century-old company with 130 employees. But with more focus on the environment these days, waste removal is one industry seeing a lot of change. A big change for GSI is shifting from waste collection to waste diversion. The city of Fort Collins already requires trash haulers provide recycling services to customers, and GSI has offered a yard-waste collection program for several years. GSI has taken the recycling ordinance a step further by offering recycling containers
as large as 96 gallons. The bigger containers represent an expense to GSI, but brothers and company officers Gerald, Arthur and Rudolph would rather see their community recycle more than they send to the landfill.
And it's not just about the bottom line. After the first 60 days of its contract to provide service at The Ranch in Loveland, GSI let Larimer County know that not all of the scheduled pickups were necessary. Changes were made that saved the county thousands of dollars in fewer trips.
GSI's customer service is GSI's most important strength. Account specialists go through three months of training before taking residential calls. Once mastered, they can then handle calls from commercial customers. Training is an ongoing practice at GSI to keep up with the latest policies and procedures. For its services, environmental and customer service alike, GSI is a 2010 Better Business Bureau Torch Award winner.
- Noah Guillaume
MORE THAN 100 EMPLOYEES
The Golden Rule is The Otter Way
At Fort Collins' OtterBox, the Golden Rule is more than a practice in politeness - it's the Otter Way. "The main value we've tried to instill is to treat others as you would want to be treated," said CEO Curt Richardson. "If there is one sure way to not have a job at Otter, it's to treat people poorly."
OtterBox was founded in 1996 with a focus on waterproof cases for electronic devices. The company has evolved to focus on protective cases for handheld communications gadgets from iPads to BlackBerrys. Along with that evolution, Otter has grown from 25 employees in 2007 to more than 150 today.
Richardson credits the company's success to its longtime commitment to the "do unto others..." mantra. When it comes to customer service, it means "wowing" them every time and making each one a raving fan of OtterBox. Richardson recalls that sending one not fully satisfied customer one of every product the company makes. "If you don't make them happy, then you spend so much time trying to backup," Richardson said.
To have happy customers, OtterBox focuses on having happy employees as well. Richardson said that the main goal for him as a company owner is to facilitate his employees to find their true station in life. The company offers to send employees to a two-day life/career planning session to pinpoint their aptitudes and weaknesses.
The company's culture - internally referred to as The Otter Way, the Otter Culture and even Ottertude - is also about treating the community well, according to Public Relations Manager Kristin Golliher. During April, the employees participated in a series of events to raise funds for the Larimer County Food Bank. The Otter Popolooza, a frozen treat-eating contest held on the company's rooftop patio, raised enough money to provide almost 800 meals.
OtterBox supports other local and national nonprofits, as well - Poudre Valley Health System Foundation, Partners Mentoring Youth, Realities for Children, the Colorado Eagles Foundation and the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.