Large Company Winners
What they do: The Fort Worth branch of Legacy Mutual originates, underwrites and closes conventional, FHA, VA, Texas Vet and USDA home mortgage loans. The Fort Worth office had $120 million in loans through September this year. Legacy did $1.2 billion in loans last year.
Employees: 16 Fort Worth, 325 companywide
What employees love: Six percent match on 401(k); 100 percent of health premium paid; annual retreats and resort trips that include spouses; coaching and continuing education; Employee Assistance Program with counseling for marital, parental or financial problems; flexible hours for family needs like school events and doctor visits; telecommuting; lactation facilities. Office fun like manicures, massages, monthly potluck lunches.
Cool benefit: Telecommuting
Legacy wins the large-company category in our contest for the second straight year. Perks are big here. They have to be; in the rough mortgage world, Legacy’s loan officers work on 100 percent commission.
Whether it’s the little things (a gift card to your favorite jeweler for your birthday or a free in-office massage) or big things (flextime, telecommuting, a free trip to Cabos San Lucas for you and your spouse or a 6 percent match on your retirement account), Legacy Mutual ticks off most of the boxes to be a positive work environment.
Such benefits are important in the roller-coaster world of home mortgage lending, said Gary Linville, vice president and manager of Legacy Mutual’s Fort Worth branch. “This year, the industry as a whole has slowed down a little bit,” he said. “Within the last six to eight months, we’ve moved from a pretty hard seller’s market to more of a neutral or buyer’s market. We’ve gone from 45 days of inventory to almost four months of inventory.”
With the industry slowdown, company perks are especially important for Legacy’s loan officers, who work 100 percent on commission, Linville said. “We still had a good year,” he said. “The pipeline still looks pretty good going forward, but we’re down 12 to 15 percent from where we were at the height.”
The Legacy Fort Worth branch is expanding to Parker County, and Linville said he personally coached a new loan officer who will eventually have an office in Aledo. “He sat with me for about a month, and I just taught him,” said Linville, who has done similar training a few times in his career. Coaching and training are fundamental to Legacy’s culture, Linville said. As is everyone’s desire to help when a team member is down.
Linville started his Fort Worth mortgage company in 1996, selling to San Antonio-based Legacy in 2011. “It’s been a great marriage,” he said. “This is another thing that speaks to the company. Whenever you put a deal together, you can’t paper up everything; there’s going to be some that you’ve just got to work through. Every debatable thing that has come down the line since we did this, they told us to do it. That brings loyalty and makes us love to come to work.”
“I love coming to work. There are days when it’s hectic, but at the end of the day, everybody’s checking on you. We have a lot of teamwork here. Nobody ever says, ‘That’s not my job.’ Everybody steps in when they’re needed. I think that says a lot about our leadership staff because they’re also that way. They jump in and help us, too, and they give credit where credit is due. I get gift cards from Kendra Scott for my birthday. Gary has offered to babysit my kids. I’m able to work from home when a kid is sick. I work every Monday from home. I don’t know anybody who can do that.”
- Jessica Dicke, Operations Director
2 Apex Capital
David Baker, who 23 years ago founded Apex Capital Corp, the Fort Worth finance company for trucking firms, has a model CEO.
“If I could be somebody when I grow up, I’ll be like Herb Kelleher,” the goofball founder of Southwest Airlines, Baker says. The fast-growing Apex, which buys discounted receivables from trucking firms and gets paid off when it collects on the invoice, expects to buy upwards of $4 billion in receivables this year. It likes to celebrate the accomplishments of its 275 employees. “It’s not a low-risk business to be in,” Baker says, pointing to the potential for fraud.
Cool Benefit Once a quarter, senior management brings employees together to give out profit-sharing — Baker estimates 10 percent of net income before tax — to employees who’ve been with the company at least a year. For the latest period, Baker estimated that at $1.1 million. “And happy to give it,” he says.
Work-life Balance The company promotes work-life balance. Employees converted a vacant space in their offices at the Western Place in west Fort Worth into a yoga room, and they play pool in the break room, or what Baker calls “collaborating.” Employees festoon their cubicles with seasonal harbingers. A big wall of fame sports pictures of employees recognized for accomplishments. “We care about each other,” Baker says. “We celebrate a lot. We tease each other a lot. I’ll tell you how to have fun. You hire fun people who like to work.”
Healthy Workplace Apex pays more than three-quarters of employee health insurance premiums. It offers extensive training and tuition reimbursement of up to $15,000 per year. Apex earned recognition as a Blue Zones Fort Worth Project-certified workplace for its fit programs. Employees munch on free healthy snacks and periodic catered meals. Western Place has workout facilities and showers.
“Apex is synonymous with people. Starting on day one, we as employees are invested in by Apex. We are provided with an exceptional onboarding experience and are continually offered a wide range of opportunities for training and development, professionally and personally. We pride ourselves on maintaining the highest level of integrity and reliability. We care about one another and remain focused on teamwork. We celebrate each other as much as possible. In the words of our president, we work hard to play hard. Not only do we care deeply for one another, but this level of care is extended to every client.”
- Brittany Moore, Auditing Specialist
3 Olympus Property
Brothers Anthony Wonderly and Chandler Wonderly, who co-founded their real estate firm in 1992 with the purchase of a triplex in California, knew what kind of culture they wanted to build early on: one with empowered, happy employees.
“We drive our values to our team; then our team drives them to our projects,” Anthony Wonderly says. “We hope it gives us a little niche in the markets we operate in.”
The Wonderlys built slowly, buying and selling multifamily properties while they held other jobs. By 2003, they owned one project at 205 units. Today, the company has 17,000 rental units and 450 employees in 10 states, including 60 at its downtown Fort Worth headquarters.
IT'S ABOUT FAMILY Olympus has worked to build a family culture where everyone has a voice and stake. “I always tell everyone we have policies and procedures, but we can change them every day,” Wonderly says. The company sponsors outings like bowling nights, mud runs, sports and other team outings. It throws national “diversity potlucks” in its offices and at its properties to celebrate its diverse workforce. Leaders attend the Disney Institute for leadership. This year, Olympus flew 50 percent of the company — all corporate office employees, property managers and maintenance technicians — to a leadership conference in Cleveland. It flies 100 percent of the company into town for an annual holiday party, to be held this year at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine.
OWNING A STAKE Olympus gives bonuses to employees at its properties, based on outcomes. Corporate office employees receive ownership stakes in properties. In a 90-day period this year, for one, Olympus distributed $2 million in ownership bonuses to its 60 corporate office employees, Wonderly said. “People feel and know they have a voice.”
“Our core values are not something just written on the wall at corporate or shoved in the back of everyone’s desk. Our owners and leaders demonstrate these values and lead by example every day. At Olympus, we are all here to achieve the same goal for our customers (and we have fun while doing it)! On several occasions, I have witnessed our owners, Anthony and Chandler, walk into a community, smile and greet every single person from the manager to the housekeeper. I truly feel Olympus is dedicated to everyone’s success.”
-Geoffrey Gonzales, Business Manager
4 Origin Bank
Origin Bank’s culture is built around putting all stakeholders on equal footing and delivering friendly hospitality and memorable experiences.
“Happy employees bring a happy delivery of the bank into the community,” Grant James, Origin’s Fort Worth region president, says. “It may be as simple as asking someone, genuinely, ‘How can I help you?’ It’s an art. It takes practice. Ultimately, the shareholder is rewarded.”
All new employees spend a few days at Origin’s Louisiana headquarters, where they meet the CEO and the “culture czar.” Origin picks one employee per year who attends the Disney Institute’s culture camp. Delivering on the culture starts with hiring the right people, James says. The bank’s Fort Worth region, with 22 employees, is small enough that James gets to meet every prospective new employee before he or she is hired. He views prospective employees through two lenses — hospitality and technical. The bank tends to look for employees who it views as having an ideal 50-50 mix of those two. “I would consider that ideal for most roles we have in the bank,” he says.
FAMILY FIRST The bank is flexible for employees’ needs at home, James says. He views those needs as significantly greater stressors than anything employees experience at work, given that the bank tries to take potential stressors out of the picture and build a collegial staff in its hiring practices. “Take care of your family so you can take care of your job without the stress,” he says. “We can always work around the situations where family comes first.”
5 First Financial Bank
To Martin Noto, CEO of First Financial Bank’s Fort Worth branch bank, the company’s stature as one of the best to work for starts with its strong financial footing.
The bank consistently ranks as one of the best performing in the country, according to Bank Director Magazine. First Financial is also known for its community contributions. It developed a program, originally with police in its Abilene hometown, to educate the public on the exploitation and abuse of the elderly after spotting numerous attempts to defraud elderly customers. In Fort Worth, First Financial regularly goes into senior living centers and churches with presentations, this summer earning one of the first four Age-Friendly Business certifications in Texas from AARP. “It’s very important that we give back to the community,” Noto says. “Under the community bank charter, we have to do that anyway. But this bank takes it a couple of steps further.” Senior officers, including Noto, serve on numerous boards. The company also sends all employees into the community for a half-day of volunteering on Columbus Day.
Fraud Busters First Financial has several employee recognition programs, including SOS, a suggestions program whose entries are published on the internal website; Wow, for employees who go beyond their regular duties, including one Fort Worth employee who drove a customer to a store to buy a new battery for his broken-down car; Star Card, for employees to recognize each other; Fraud Busters, for employees who spot fraud; and Shining Star, given annually for exemplary service. First Financial also has mentor programs and off-site team-building dinners for tellers. Top service is critical because of the amount of competition (57 institutions in Fort Worth), Noto says. One of the branch’s commercial bankers has a large number of physicians and dentists among his clientele and has been known to wait outside surgery for a doctor to emerge and sign papers, Noto says. “We have to differentiate ourselves by service,” he says. “And it keeps us from having to compete so much on price.”
Profit-sharing Tuition reimbursement for full-time employees who take graduate classes or pursue graduate degrees. Generous profit-sharing that goes into employees’ 401(k)s. “We’ve got secretaries who’ve been here a long time and are going to retire millionaires,” Noto says.
“Our ‘customer first’ mentality really gives us the opportunity to grow the bank without putting pressure on our customers or employees. First Financial gives us the opportunity to be part of various organizations throughout our community and make it a priority to be entrenched in the organizations and plant roots. Our bank provides free information sessions on the financial exploitation and abuse of the elderly. The First Financial family is a large group of people, but it’s a large group that always has your back. When Hurricane Harvey caused destruction to our location in Orange, Texas, and many of our employees’ homes were destroyed, the bank raised a fund to help."
-Mike Hopkins, Commercial Banker
6 Burns & McDonnell
The culture at Burns & McDonnell, a major worldwide engineering, architecture and construction firm, starts with its 100 percent ownership by employees. The company gives stock to all employees and augments their holdings each year with more shares. The company also pays dividends, and it has a 401(k) apart from the stock ownership. The unusual ESOP “really sets up a shop owner mentality,” Scott Clark, vice president and DFW region general manager. “It cultivates a can-do attitude.” Employee owners become vested in their equity in six years. But for new arrivals, “we try to get as much stock in their hands as quickly as possible, so they feel that sense of ownership,” Clark says. Ownership means better stewardship, Clark says. “We always say, if it’s your money, what would you do? Well, guess what, it is your money.” Employee owners monetize their holdings when they move to another employer or retire; those shares are redistributed to existing employee owners. Burns & McDonnell has 6,600 employee owners today, including 140 in DFW. That’s up from more than 500 when a group of 10 employees bought the company in 1986 and converted it into an ESOP.
Fit Culture Burns & McDonnell is big into employee owners’ fitness, awarding discounts off of health insurance premiums through a point system. Managed by an outside firm, the system awards points for biometric screenings, online health assessments, physical activity, taking preventative measures, eating healthy food and attending wellness events. Before Christmas last year, the company bought fitness devices for all employee owners that measure things like steps. At the same time, the company began awarding points and associated premium discounts for employee owners’ spouses. And it waived the year’s final health premium payment because of improvement in health care costs. Burns & McDonnell’s Fort Worth office is in the Pier 1 headquarters building, which has a fitness center and showers and easy access to the Trinity Trails, which some employees use to run or bike at lunch or ride their bike to work. Burns & McDonnell also gives tuition reimbursement for advanced degrees, matches employee owners’ gifts to charity to certain limits, and contributes money and volunteers to selected charities each year.