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For top midsized employers, service is a core value


Providing good service counts for a lot in business. It also makes employees feel effective and satisfied by serving others.

The three top-ranking midsized companies in this years’s American-Statesman 2016 Top Workplaces project are: Realty Austin, Renaissance Austin Hotel and Encompass Home Health.

At Encompass Home Health. employees say they deliver a service that improves the quality of life for its home-bound clients, who average 82 years of age.

Deborah Cramer has been a speech and language pathologist for 35 years, working with clients who have speech problems after suffering a stroke or other neurological illnesses. She joined Encompass Home Health 10 years ago and rates it the best place she has ever worked.

One example is the training and equipment investment the company has made to provide clients with swallowing therapy.

People who have suffered from strokes and other illnesses often have difficulty swallowing, which can affect both their physical and emotional well-being, Cramer said.

Encompass in the past year has provided training and equipment to its speech pathologists to provide a new kind of therapy to help swallowing that involves neuro-muscular electrical stimulation.

“That is some of the most meaningful work I have done,” Cramer said, “and Encompass has helped me to do it.”

Other employees at Encompass say they are proud of the work they do with elderly patients and they very much like the family atmosphere the company fosters. They say the company’s “nurturing culture” starts with CEO April Anthony, who is based in Dallas, and includes Austin regional director Sharon Easter.

“There is a culture of appreciation that a lot of companies lack. I have friends in other companies that don’t get that level of feedback and appreciation,” said Marlene Meyer, an RN and case manager who supervises a team of nurses. “I know where I stand (in the company). I am valued as an employee… and I feel I am making a difference.”

Physical therapist Sam Williams said he enjoys his work in helping elderly clients gain more physical strength so they can take care of themselves in their homes.

“We are exercising their bodies and their spirit,” Williams said. “You will see a change in how they feel as they get stronger. They start smiling more and they start talking more. They really appreciate how much better they are doing. We are absolutely changing their lives for the better.”

Renaissance Austin: Teamwork and training

At Renaissance Austin Hotel in Northwest Austin, the focus is on teamwork and training to provide guests with more personalized service that has a strong Austin feel.

Employees get cross-trained so they can help out on the front desk or even in the restaurant kitchen during busy periods.

“We know people from every department in the hotel because everyone lends a hand when we need to get things done,” says Jeannie McEldowney, a culinary supervisor at the hotel’s Knotty Deck restaurant. “I have seen the hotel general manager Rob Gillette washing dishes to help out when things are busy.”

The restaurant, just over a year old, offers a sizable offering of local foods, including produce, cheeses and meats. It smokes its own barbecue brisket and offers a generous helping of pork dishes when one of its local vendors slaughters its hogs.

“When they harvest, they send us the whole hog. We want to use as much of what they send us as we can — including pork belly and shoulders. And we do things like fried pig’s ears.”

“We get constant feedback from customers because we take time and care to prepare our food in-house.”

McEldowney says creativity and innovation are encouraged in the kitchen along with plenty of teamwork. The kitchen staff has separate teams for baked goods, restaurant cooks and banquet staff. But when things get busy, everyone helps out.

“As in the rest of the culinary field, there can be some stressful situations,” she said. “But that can be the most rewarding time when you have accomplished something and pleased our guests.”

Front desk manager Brian Leibel says a sense of caring toward guests is baked into the culture of the hotel.

“From day one of new employees starting here, they go through an orientation training and are immersed in the idea of doing whatever we can to make sure we can help with the experience of our guests,” Leibel said.

Esperanza Titapas has been with the hotel for more than eight years, working in the food service department, on the front desk and, for the past year as executive assistant to the general manager.

“We are known as the friendliest hotel in Austin,” she said. “It all starts out with management. It is a part of the culture.”

Realty Austin: Tech-savvy and collaborative

At Realty Austin, serving customers well is simply good for business.

The brokerage has grown to 350 affiliated agents in the Austin area, which is roughly four times the size it was five years ago.

The company actively recruits among agents who have a few years of experience, demonstrated sales success and who it expects will fit into its tech-savvy, collaborative culture.

Why are agents looking to join? Because the company offers the technical tools and a veteran support staff to let the agents do their jobs efficiently. The brokerage continues to add features to its website that gives buyers an easy way to search available properties in the areas of town they want.

The company’s agents credit founders Jonathan Boatwright and Yvette Boatwright with creating a supportive culture that gives them the tools they need to succeed.

Jason Taylor is one of those agents. He and his wife moved to Austin from California less than five years ago determined to create a flexible lifestyle that focused on their two children.

Taylor got his real estate license and began working with a smaller real estate company. He joined Realty Austin a year and a half ago to take advantage of the company’s resources.

“What Jonathan and Yvette have done is take real estate to another level,” Taylor said. “They are genuine caring people and have built a business around thinking constantly about how to help agents succeed. It takes a great load off me. You know that when you need them, help is there.”

Jenny Walker joined Realty Austin not long after it was founded in 2004 and has watched the company grow rapidly by helping its agents with good marketing and support.

“The owners (the Boatwrights) told me they were going to build a great company and they meant it,” she said. “Jonathan is very good about goal setting and keeping to his goals. Every year, things just got better. The culture is very positive, upbeat and cutting-edge. They are always trying to figure out a better and more efficient way to do business.”

Agent Aaron Nann, who has been with the company for five years, said he values that he has been able to make suggestions to company management that have have resulted in changes.

“The thing that really makes me comfortable about the company is our leadership,” he said. “Jonathan (Boatwright) is very thoughtful. He is bold and definite in his decision making. He is receptive to other ideas, but at the end of the day, he knows whether it will work or not and will make the decision.”


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