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Top 10 employers
Some you've heard of, some you haven't–here are the hottest spots to get on payroll

by maxine glass

Ten homegrown businesses hide between the prosperous Wisconsin cornfields and the great presence of the Capitol, tucked far within the towering pine trees and glass-topped lakes. Some remain conspicuous, unable to deny their globally known brand names, while others continue to prosper quietly. Whatever their status, these companies are linked by their mutual emphasis on a desired quality of life for their employees. For young professionals, they offer more than the tangible numbers negotiated in contracts; rather they stand behind an inherent value of hard work and full life. Take a step away from the daily grind and discover the Midwestern mentality that drives some of the nation’s best businesses.

SC Johnson racine
When they say "SC Johnson: a family company," they’re not just referring to the management. Joining this team of ambitious business people means you join a family, too. For the past 119 years, SC Johnson has remained a family-owned, family-managed company bringing consumers products like Windex, Ziploc and OFF! But what does it really mean to be family-owned? For SCJ, it means taking care of its employees and ensuring a balance between work and personal life at their headquarters in Racine and around the world. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that the company has ranked among the 100 best companies for working mothers for the past 17 years and in the top 10 for the past three years. “People are attracted to family values,” says SC Johnson spokeswoman Petrell Ozbay.

If being one of the family isn’t enough, SC Johnson proudly boasts its environmental consciousness and its effort to “work toward economic vitality, environmental health, social equality and whatever else influences how we do business,” Ozbay says. In fact, it is so important to the company to remain environmentally safe and efficient, that in 1975, SC Johnson voluntarily and completely eliminated chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from their aerosol products because of the chemical’s deteriorating effects on the ozone. They instituted this policy three years before a federal mandate required it of all companies. Since 1990, 460 billion pounds of waste have been cut out of products and processes by using recyclable materials and less harsh chemicals. Steve Langer, senior manager of global platform service, sums up the company’s position: “SC Johnson has been doing what’s right for the environment because it’s the right thing to do.”

Epic Systems Corporation madison
“Do good,” reads the company’s mission statement. It may seem oversimplified, but it honestly reflects the way Epic does business and treats its employees. It begins within the company itself, with “a company of overachievers” as Human Relations Representative Jennifer Peterson says. They try to humanize their workers as much as possible through respectable dress codes and more office spaces rather than closed off, depressing cubicles. They also “do good” in their day-to-day business as a healthcare software company that deals specifically with patient care, which includes registering, scheduling and all aspects of the billing process. Peterson says Epic is “attractive for smart, successful people to work with other smart, successful people.”

In the process of moving to a new campus in Verona, just under 15 miles from Madison, Epic has attempted to “do good” in this venue as well. When constructing the new facility, they installed a geo-thermal cooling and heating system, which uses underground wells to deliver water. This method is not only cheaper to run, but also uses half the energy of conventional heating and cooling methods. They also chose to build underground parking that maximizes green space instead of a 20-acre pavement parking lot. And possibly most impressive, during the construction process, Epic and its construction company proudly boast they have managed to recycle 65 percent of the waste. So it seems that the two little words mean much more than doing good—they represent a way of life.

Lands’ End dodgeville
It’s hard to resist a phrase like “satisfaction guaranteed.” In the reusable, disposable, all-sales-final world of today, consumers don’t often get the feeling that the “quality” product they buy will really stand up. Thankfully, Lands’ End clears up that confusion. Being a direct merchant, they eliminate the middleman and work exclusively with trusted suppliers. This not only establishes strong bonds with what they call their “allies,” but it shaves off extra cost for consumers.

Lands’ End places emphasis on the quality of their employees’ lives in and out of the office through the flexibility of their benefits. “Our aim is that these programs will provide our employees with financial support and time away from work, enabling them to balance their work and family responsibilities with peace of mind,” says Bernadette Schnell in Employee Services. Most admirable about the company is the enthusiasm it has for its product. From its establishment in 1963, Lands’ End has continued to stand behind its products with confidence. And why not? As they say, "It's guaranteed. Period."

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epic adventure: Epic Systems
epic adventure: Epic Systems Corporation in Madison may be "a company of overachievers," but it still makes time and space for fun.
photo: Epic Systems Corporation
interactive map: going to work for the top 10
now that you know who they are, find out where they are
the feeling's mutual: CUNA Mutual Group
the feeling's mutual: CUNA Mutual Group, headquartered in Madison, offers aspiring young professionals an array of ways to ascend the corporate ladder.
photo: CUNA Mutual Group
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curb magazine 2005: balance for wisconsin's young professionals