The Nerf darts mentioned in this magazine's last Best Places to Work feature are still stuck to the ceiling at Acumium, the twenty-nine-employee web development and digital marketing company that scored high marks in back-to-back surveys—this time, achieving second place in the small businesses category. Chris Uschan, vice president of marketing and business development (and designated "King of Culture"), has a pole at home that's long enough to get the darts down, but he can't fit it in his car, so there they stay. Not that anybody's really complaining.
"We've got these ten core values and number ten on the list is to have fun," says Uschan. "We want you to talk about your company like, ‘I work at a cool company,' versus, ‘Google would be a fun place to work.' Well, this is our Google. You can be proud of it."
The job is heightened by perks such as Ping-Pong tournaments in the lower level lounge, Family Feud group-watch on TV at lunch time and push-up challenges—but make no mistake, the Acumium crew works hard. That's what attracts clients from New York, Colorado and Texas—they trust the highly educated, skilled and savvy talent coming out of Madison as a growing technology hub, but they're also buying the Midwestern work ethic.
"We work hard and we take pride in doing what's right for the client," says Uschan. "They want a group of people who have that hometown pride approach."
A robust benefits package, membership for all employees to the UW eBusiness Consortium, heavy emphasis on work-life balance and a centralized move off the Beltline three years ago to make commuting more attractive to prospective employees are just a handful of things that Acumium does for its employees. But it's the transparency, communication, team collaboration and cutting-edge technology that empower the best workers to do their jobs well. Uschan says Acumium places a high value on diversity—founder, CEO, biochemist and tinkerer Dan Costello is a minority business owner and the company's former COO was a woman. Diversity makes the team stronger and provides a higher level of service for a diverse client portfolio.
"When we talked about what it was going to take for our company to really jump, we had to start with the people as a competitive advantage," says Uschan. "If you have the right people and they can build process and products, that should result in a profit."
THE TAKEAWAY: Having fun at work is important—period. Even if it's as simple as a group outing for lunch at a food cart or bringing in dessert after a big meeting, little perks from time to time make a big difference.
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