According to a report released by Gallup, the Washington, D.C.-based polling organization, there are twice as many unhappy workers in America as there are happy ones. Well we’re happy to report that doesn’t seem to be the case in Duluth. Maybe it’s that astonishingly calming backdrop of the Big Lake or just the fact that we are Way Up North Minnesota Nice, but when we asked Duluth workers to put their hands up and nominate the best places to work in our fair city, the emails came fast and furious. Here, based on culture, core values and employee endorsements, are the top four.
A community kitchen reminiscent of HGTV, a fullystocked fridge, happy hour, a grand piano and Nerf Guns are just part of the draw of this hip downtown Duluth digital marketing agency, but Aimclear also has some pretty cool solid values, such as “We,” “Us” and “Our,” not “Me, “My” and “I.” Period.
The team members at Aimclear apologize when they are wrong, treat each other with the utmost respect, and keep a clean slate at the end of every day for a brand new day tomorrow. Clients flock to the agency, which has won numerous prestigious awards for its accomplishments. It’s no
wonder staff members there nominated it as one of Duluth’s finest workplaces.
And they celebrate this success on a regular basis. It’s not uncommon to hear a cork pop at 4:30 on a Friday; walk in on an impromptu cookie baking session or ice cream social in the middle of the day, or find an employee walking on a tread mill or doing their laundry in the in-house
laundry facilities. The workspace is anchored by a grand piano and Lake Superior glimmers through every window of the New York City loft-style digs.
The entire office is nothing short of Global Google-esque. Client Services Manager, Dan Morrison, in fact, came all the way from San Francisco to work with the team in Duluth.
“I had never heard of Duluth,” Morrison says. “But I love it here and I’m here to stay. Much of that is due to this work family. Aimclear invests in us and honors work/ life balance. They put family first. It is truly an amazing place to work.”
According to CEO, Laura Weintraub, such an atmosphere was created by a desire to give employees a “safe” place to work. “This is a safe place to make a mistake; it is a safe place to ask for help and it is a safe place to not be perfect. We even include not being perfect in our employee handbook. Our values are real and we value the input of those who work with us.”
At HTK Marketing Communications Firm, it’s all about creating a healthy world for clients and team members. That means respecting what being healthy means to a diverse group of creative people who come to work there each morning. It means making room in the day for people to
bike to work or kayak across the bay to get to the office. It means showers and lockers for lunchtime runners and walkers and field trips to art museums or the opening of a documentary produced by a fellow employee. It’s communal lunches around a table crafted from a bowling alley lane, and office parties with live music and craft beers.
“This is not an overstatement,” says Senior Writer, Denise Burgess. “I am lucky enough to work at one of the best companies in Duluth. Truth is, I am pumped every day to be part of a company with the purpose of creating a healthy world by taking a stand, disrupting the status quo and
transforming the lives of people and their communities. We do healthcare and nonprofit marketing for hospitals, health systems and agencies with the will to overcome unbeatable odds. It’s hard, rewarding work and we do it in an environment that is unbelievable and with a team atmosphere that supports each of our talents.”
If pride-of-place affects an employee’s enthusiasm, the firm’s eighth floor office in the DeWitt-Seitz Building in Canal Park isn’t a bad start. Team members open the door to a 360–degree view that includes Lake Superior, the Aerial Lift Bridge, the canal and the Duluth hillside.
“I am greeted by my coworkers who make me laugh, who genuinely care about me and how I’m doing, and who I know will work with me each day to brainstorm and create the best creative work we can for our clients,” says Burgess. “At lunch I will run or walk with a group of co-workers. If it’s Wednesday I’ll do a workout with our personal trainer during lunch. If it’s Thursday I’ll do yoga with our yoga instructor. This kind of activity is encouraged. Every Friday I will kick back at 4 or 4:30-ish at the big office kitchen table with a cold brew and share stories about the week, and share weekend plans with my work buddies. Did I mention we have office dogs?”
It’s a culture intentionally designed by partner CEOs, Marsha Hystead and Mike Seyfer. “We have a stated purpose of creating a healthy world and we align with that within your organization,” Hystead says. “People have to have healthy respect for each other here and feel healthy in themselves to be happy at work. You come to work as a person. We value that person. We invest in this because the people that cost us most in an organization, are the ones who leave.”
Serving upwards of 1,000 customers a day isn’t an easy task, but the Duluth Grill makes it look effortless. Mostly because it has a happy staff. The company promotes a positive atmosphere and offers benefits and wages far beyond most in the hospitality industry. “They are my family,” is often said by team members. Many employees have worked there for years, and the management team believes in rolling up its own sleeves side-by-side with the rest of the team.
Manager Louie Hanson says this longevity of employees and their consistent level of stellar customer service stems from a philosophy that if you invest in an employee, they invest in you. “That resonates with me,” he notes. “I know this works. We pay our employees, provide insurance,
and offer free, healthy meals and a positive, challenging work environment. We support our people and believe in servant leadership.”
Waitress Tiffany Winchenbach couldn’t agree more. “I love working here,” she says. “The food is beautiful and the people are amazing. We have pride in what we do because they don’t cut corners around here. We have the best equipment, and this amazing quality food, and we are appreciated every single day by our employers. Who wouldn’t want to work at the Duluth Grill?”
Oh, and did we mention besides serving organic, local and fresh, they have their very own garden . . . in the parking lot. How hip is that?
It doesn’t hurt to have a fabulous, sparkling new building with sweeping views of Lake Superior, but the effervescent enthusiasm of the Maurices’ team runs much deeper than a stunning corporate headquarters made up of 200,000 square feet, standing 11 stories high and spanning an entire city block. Being a leader here is not a role reserved for the boss. It’s every associate’s responsibility to seek ways to make a greater contribution to the business.
“There is nowhere else I would feel so supported,” says buyer, Morgana Kolenda, “People come first here. I have a sense of pride when I say I work for this organization and the people I work with are so amazing. No matter what has happened through years, even when times were tough,
Maurices has never let go of its community pride. When there is sponsorship of an event, Maurices is always on the list. We live our values and that makes me proud to work among this team.”
At Maurices it is abundantly clear that teamwork is people working together, sharing the load, and putting the group’s goals before their own. No, it doesn’t hurt to have a brand new state-of-the-art gym, outdoor dining with a grand view and an in-house restaurant, but this place is all about the people.
“We are very proud of who we are,” says Associate Vice President, Communications and Engagement, Laura Sieger. “We are proud to say these are our co-workers and that we have such a collaborative spirit in which people want to do their best work.”