Sponsored by Sustainable Interiors
This article is part of a series focusing on select companies who placed among WA's 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2017, as determined by employee surveys that measure their perceptions and satisfaction across 61 individual attributes within 10 employment categories.
Sustainable Interiors, headquartered in small town of Fife, is nothing less than impressive. The interior finishes contractor was nominated for and won "Minority Construction Firm of The Year" at Minority Enterprise Development Week in 2015, and has not slowed down since, earning itself a spot on the 2017 list of 100 Best Companies to Work For in Washington.
Where Laborers are Leaders
Many comments submitted by Sustainable Interiors employees as part of the Best Companies survey focused on the management team's effort to improve the work lives of its employees through career development.
“Our organization fosters, encourages and trains all members to be leaders in all they do, giving them the opportunity to take responsibility in their positions,” enthused one employee. “The company's goals, visions and future endeavors are clearly presented. All team members' ideas, suggestions and comments are encouraged, and many a time incorporated into company policy and direction.”
“They empower new leaders by letting us make big decisions,” shared another. “They coach processes which they've proven work, and are always willing to learn a new one themselves.”
A co-worker agreed, saying, “The expectations are high, in a rigorous culture, and it is exhilarating to be part of an organization that is growing great.”
Several employees described ways in which working for the company has changed their lives for the better.
“I took a delivery job for the benefits," explained one employee, "Within a couple of months, Sustainable recognized my potential and offered me a superintendent position for a high-profile, multi-family housing project in Seattle. Their only concern during the interview process was that the new position might interfere with my life goal of becoming a firefighter. They knew my personal goals and they made sure they would be a stepping-stone in my life, rather than a stumbling block.”
Another employee credits the company for their career growth, as well: “Nine years ago, I started as only a laborer. Now, I work daily with the leadership at Sustainable. Without the guidance and encouragement I have received from this company, I’m certain I could not be in this place of leadership nine years later. Sustainable is incredible at raising great leaders.”
But Sustainable’s leadership team doesn’t just take an interest in their employees’ careers. "They take time to know us personally, and they genuinely care about what's happening in our lives!" enthused another employee, "My wife and I recently purchased our first home, and we received a Visa gift card with a really thoughtful note when we moved in!"
Good Leaders Make More Good Leaders
American business writer Tom Peters said "Good leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders," a philosophy which clearly rings true in the Sustainable Interiors' office, which holds certificates for being not only minority-owned, but woman-owned and veteran-owned too.
“Our team is everything," declared one employee. "The team is driven by playing to everyone's strengths, and our leadership empowers employees to take ownership and make decisions. They don't delegate tasks only, but authority as well.”
“[Vice-President] Colin and [President] Dana are, bar none, the best leaders I've ever worked for,” said another.
Employees expressed sincere appreciation for their executives in many of their comments, highlighting both the quality of leadership and the multiple ways in which that leadership manifests.
The company has seven core values: Service, People, Excellence, Integrity, Wisdom, Stewardship, and Leadership. They hire people based on these core values, expecting each team member to embody and represent them. The company also filters major business decisions through these values, and if even one is compromised or in question, the company course corrects.
“Our top-level leaders are some of the most inspiring people I've ever met," shared one employee, "Our Tuesday morning meetings are like having a speaker flown in to a conference. They communicate our core values constantly. They speak their vision to us and invite us to dream with them. They show that they're not above anything by doing any task in the company.”
Left to right: Dana Pittman, President; Colin Higginbottom, Principal; Alyssa Billings, Director of Operations; and Teresa Marth, Human Resource Manager
"Leadership is very transparent and open about what is happening within the company, we never have to worry about communication because everything is communicated weekly," explained another employee.
One employee elaborated even more on the topic: “The president and vice president are VERY passionate and excited about the company. They are involved and are great role models and leaders who instill and build upon strong values in their employees, which translates to making us better people, not only in our work life, but in our personal lives. They look out for each individual with true care to grow each of us in ways that suit our strengths to continually be better than we were yesterday.”
Employees at Sustainable Interiors found the quality of their work benefits to be just as worthy of recognition—as one employee remarked, "They go above and beyond at every turn, and I've never loved working for a company as much as I do Sustainable!”
In addition to health and dental, employees also enjoy perks like paid time-off and holidays, annual "Lake Day" team-building events and an entertaining Christmas party. The company even offers necessary stipends to ease financial stress in the lives of some of their employees.
“I have never been a part of a small company that gives back so much to their employees," said one employee. "I am extremely happy with my compensation package at Sustainable.”
“I receive full medical/dental benefits even though I am hovering around the minimum hours requirement of 30 hrs/week. This saves me around $400/month since I don't have to buy insurance through my wife's employer,” explained another.
Sustainable’s “extra” benefits don’t go unnoticed by employees. “Not only are health, dental and vision benefits offered, but also a simple IRA program,” commented one employee, who also appreciated the company’s “vehicle stipends, for those with longer commutes, and cell phone stipends to help offset expenses typically not covered but most employers.”
Sustainable Interiors employees were also grateful to their co-workers and the positive environment they provide the office, frequently praising the company’s “intangible benefits of belonging to a team, contributing to something greater than ourselves, and working in a safe space,” as one employee wrote.
There is a strong sense of teamwork at Sustainable Interiors. “I can call anyone on the team at any time for anything (professional or personal), and they'll be there,” raved one employee, who also pointed out, “We give. As a team, we give. In addition to my profit sharing bonus at Christmas-time, I was asked to select a charity for the company to give a large sum of money. Every month we give to support 10 orphans in Uganda. Even though we've grown significantly, we've kept our culture and our core values strong.”
Sustainable Interiors’ core values permeate the company, and it pays off in happy, productive staff. “I have never worked for a company where their intentions were completely put out there for everyone to see,” summarized an employee. “But Sustainable Interiors truly lives up to their core values. I love this company and it is a great honor to be able to come here every day and continue to help it grow!”