The Wall Street Journal teamed up with Winning Workplaces, a non-profit organization that helps small and midsize companies create better work environments, to identify 15 small employers who have built some of the most exemplary, innovative workplaces. They received nearly 630 nominations and 330 completed applications, which were judged by a national panel of management and small business experts.
TRAC, the railroad engineering and contracting company based in Hershey, Pa., is a family run business. It was founded in 2000 by brothers Jack and Michael Kennedy who followed their Dad's footsteps into the rail business. TRAC specializes in railroad feasibility studies, railroad alignment design and surveying, construction management services, track repair and maintenance, track inspections, new track construction, and railcar repair for railroads, industry, and government facilities.
The company has 33 employees and posted 2008 revenues of $7.5 million.
"A guiding principle for the company has been to excel not only in the quality of our work and our service to customers, but also in the way we take care of each other," said Michael Kennedy, co-founder and president of TRAC. "As a small company in a specialized field, our success is directly linked to the highly skilled and motivated group of people who come to work every day."
The Wall Street Journal article on their selection spotlighted the company's practice of reducing bureaucracy in the workplace by empowering front line employees and giving employees an ownership stake in the company.
Rather than hire middle managers to field calls from job sites and make decisions, the brothers handle calls themselves and urge site workers whenever possible to solve problems on their own. In addition to saving in salary and other costs, company top executives say that not having that layer of middle management improves communication and employee accountability.
TRAC provides an employee stock-ownership plan, through which non-management employees own about 40 percent of company stock. Each year, employees are eligible for an individual bonus capped at 50 percent of their pay based on customer feedback, safety records and on-time project completion.
The Kennedy brothers also try to create a family friendly workplace by treating workers like kin--offering good benefits and scheduling flexibility when they have family or school events to attend.
To view the entire article in the Wall Street Journal, click here.