News & Politics

Great Places to Work: Who Pays Very Well

No one likes to be underpaid for good work. These five firms don’t have that problem—employees may work hard, but they say their companies are generous.

Clovis doesn’t throw money around, but the firm’s owners do share their success with staff, including Serge Khoury and Dean Iacozetti. Photograph by Vincent Ricardel.

There is no association between this article and the San Francisco consulting firm that uses the trademark GREAT PLACES TO WORK ® 

A job isn’t just about the money—although a 2006 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management did find it was the top reason for job satisfaction.
At most of our winning workplaces, people earn good pay—it’s one reason they’re happy. At these five firms, employees aren’t getting rich, nor are the companies throwing money around. And attorneys and other professionals around Washington draw higher salaries. But employees at these firms feel that the owners share generously in whatever financial success the company has. That perceived fairness engenders a lot of good will.

Other workplaces where a majority of surveyed employees were extremely happy with pay and benefits: Decisive Analytics Corporation, Delta Resources, Edelman Financial Services, Strategic Analysis, and Stanton Communications.

Industry: Recruitment and staffing
Total staff: 43
Vacation days to start/max: 15/15
Interesting perks: Ownership shares; free breakfast on Fridays; employee contests with prizes ranging from iPods to cash to extra time off.

With Washington’s low unemployment rate, some companies are having a hard time finding the right talent to fill jobs—which is one reason why recruiting and staffing firms such as Clovis are in demand.
The seven-year-old firm has grown from a staff of two and revenues of $400,000 in its first full year to 43 employees and revenue of $16 million.
As the company does well, so do its employees. Recruiting isn’t for everyone: Employees need to know how to sell, because they have to sell a candidate on a company and a company on a candidate. Clovis recruiters are given goals to meet and every Monday sit with a supervisor to go over a weekly report card.
For those who like the work and are good at it, the rewards can be great.
“We have 24-year-olds earning close to $100,000 if they’re good,” says Rick Levine, managing partner.
There are contests for meeting quarterly goals; prizes include everything from iPods to extra time off. This year, the top performer of the year will win $10,000 in cash. Those who exceed their goals each year get to go, with a guest, on a company trip to the Caribbean.
Clovis, 10411 Motor City Dr., Suite 450, Bethesda; 301-365-8480;

Distributive Networks
Industry: Mobile-phone text content and delivery
Total staff local/world: 20/23
Vacation days to start/max: 30/30
Interesting perks: Free Starbucks; free membership at SportsClub LA if employee goes at least five times a month; 100% paid healthcare premiums; 100% 401(k) match; paid cell phone and home Internet; paid sabbaticals of up to three months.

If you’ve been to a DC United soccer match and sent a text message to vote for the “man of the match,” you’ve gotten a taste of what Distributive Networks does.
The company creates technology that lets cell-phone users participate in contests, receive text alerts, and download ring tones. Clients include BET, CBS, and Obama for America.
Distributive Networks also writes text—from hip-hop news to animal trivia to horoscopes—for clients who send them to more than one million people paying $1.99 to $9.99 a month.
“I think of it like the stuff you get on a page-a-day calendar,” says senior vice president of product development Alison Bishop, who notes that the writers become fonts of trivia: “You’ll be getting water out of the office refrigerator and you’ll share something you learned about platypuses.”
At a company focused on pop culture, employees also have fun. An old Atari Star Wars arcade game sits in the middle of the office. CEO Kevin Bertram took the staff on opening day to see The Simpsons Movie. Employees might take a break and play Xbox on an eight-foot screen.
Bertram doesn’t trade perks for fun. Benefits include 100-percent 401(k) matching and 100-percent-paid healthcare premiums. The young staff also prizes the freedom it’s given to pursue ideas and offer input.
The most popular perk: all the Starbucks coffee from across the street that the staff wants. “That costs us about $65 a month per employee. Frankly, it’s not much—it’s such a loved perk,” Bertram says. “The benefits make them happier, which makes them more productive. It just seems like the right way to treat people.”
Distributive Networks, 819 Seventh St., NW, Suite 200; 202-289-2246;

Integrity Applications
Industry: Software and systems engineering
Total staff local/world: 217/246
Vacation days to start/max: 10/20
Interesting perks: 100% paid health premiums; $2,500 for adoption or infertility treatment (plus insurance coverage); $7,500 tuition reimbursement; regular company team-building activities away from office.

Integrity Applications Incorporated doesn’t just treat employees to nice trips for big company anniversaries or when they meet certain goals. Last year, IAI took every employee and a guest on a team-building trip to New Brunswick, Canada, for four days, flying them on two chartered planes and putting them up at a seaside resort.
“They spare no expense to make employees feel important,” says Ken Boord, a senior cost engineer.
That includes salary: Of the employees we surveyed, 96 percent said compensation is higher than the industry average.
Pay isn’t the only draw. Employees say their colleagues are a smart, energetic bunch and that the work—systems and software engineering for space, intelligence, and defense programs—is challenging. The firm provides every tool needed to get a job done—including flexibility.
Integrity Applications Incorporated, 5180 Parkstone Dr., Suite 260, Chantilly; 703-378-8672;

Midtown Group
Industry: Recruitment and staffing
Total staff: 23
Vacation days to start/max: 20/22
Interesting perks: Bonuses that range from cash to watches to trips; free DC parking; four-week paid sabbatical after six years; paid time off to serve Thanksgiving dinner at women’s shelter; free massages.

Employees at the Midtown Group, a staffing firm, are in the business of finding people jobs—so they have a lot of employment resources at their disposal.
“Our salaries are way above industry average—and there are many people who keep checking on that,” says Midtown vice president Ward Howick with a laugh.
Employees say there’s a generous spirit about everything—from the work itself, which is about helping people in their careers, to the way president Helen Stefan Moreau runs the small shop she founded in 1989. Decisions are made with employee input—when the growing firm was recently touring potential new office space, anyone who wanted to go was invited along.
That spirit trickles down. “People hope to see everyone succeed,” says David Stef­an, a vice president.
Recruiting is hard work, but incentives for meeting and exceeding goals provide motivation. Unlike at some staffing firms, the incentives are open to every department—the administrative staff gets an equal shot at winning an annual Caribbean trip. And Moreau says she tries to make the goals attainable: “We want people to win.”
Midtown Group, 1725 I St., NW, Suite 500; 202-887-4747;

Timberlake Homes
Industry: Home builder
Total staff: 45
Vacation days to start/max: 10/20
Interesting perks: 100% employer-paid healthcare premiums (includes full dependent coverage); unlimited tuition reimbursement; employee-of-the-quarter award with $2,000 and extra vacation days.

At Timberlake Homes, employees feel thanked and recognized—everyone who filled out our survey said that the pay is above the industry average. A companywide bonus pool gives back a chunk of profits to eligible employees every year, and Timberlake contributes up to 15 percent of each employee’s income to a SEP IRA pension plan.
“The benefits are shared across the board, not just with the top-tier individuals,” says chief financial officer Paula Morgan.
A third-generation family-owned business, Timberlake specializes in building new homes and neighborhoods in Maryland and Delaware. Employees say that management is approachable and that they understand that family comes first.
Timberlake Homes, 888 Bestgate Rd., Suite 411, Annapolis; 301-350-0400;

Executive Editor

Sherri Dalphonse joined Washingtonian in 1986 as an editorial intern, and worked her way to the top of the masthead when she was named editor-in-chief in 2022. She oversees the magazine’s editorial staff, and guides the magazine’s stories and direction. She lives in DC.