Colorado's Best Companies 2006: 1st Place, Small Business Category (1-99 employees)






• Full benefits for part-time and full-time employees and family members including medical, dental and vision.

• Employee assistance program.

• Every employee provided with a laptop computer.

• Paid personal leave of 16 hours per year.

• Up to 16 weeks paid maternity leave and 1 week  paternity; same for adoption.

Gauging what employees think about work is important, but at the North Highland Company, an integrated management and technology consulting firm, finding out what family members consider significant is just as vital. The Denver-based branch, which currently employs 15 people, not only surveys employees annually but randomly surveys family members as well to ask about its benefit package.


Based on that feedback, the office tweaks its offerings, says Rob Novick, vice president and Denver office lead. For example, when the issue of eldercare was raised, one solution the company provided was to set up medical reimbursement accounts.


The company’s extensive list of benefits also includes an employee assistance program that offers confidential family and marital counseling as well as substance abuse counseling and such; employer-paid medical, dental and vision coverage for employees as well as their family members and domestic partners; corporate membership at local fitness centers, full-paid life insurance benefits up to $115,000; and long-term disability insurance. North Highland is an employee-owned company with an employee stock ownership program, and it offers a 401(k) in which employees are vested immediately. The company contributes up to 3 percent of the employee’s salary into the 401(k).


As for the work environment, each employee is provided with a laptop computer and encouraged to work off-site either from their client’s office or home. Novick says the office rarely has more than a handful of employees on-site.


Beyond the myriad benefits and opportunities the North Highland Company offers, the biggest contributor to a balanced work and family life is the way the consulting company is organized, says Novick. Typically management consultants can bank on extensive travel, but that’s not the case here. The firm, which is headquartered in Atlanta and employs more than 250, instead was modeled as a local operation and has established several offices across the country, including the Denver branch, which opened in 2000. Employees here serve Denver market-area clients exclusively.


When local clients have issues in other locations, the North Highland employee working with that client has the option of accepting or declining the assignment. Travel is strictly voluntary.


“For us as consultants, the big thing is you are in your bed every night,” Novick says.


That model, Novick says, has allowed the company to attract exceptional talent. Companywide, consultants average 15 years of experience. “It’s very difficult to be a consultant, but doing it locally is a tremendous benefit.”


Additionally, North Highland treats its employees to monthly happy hours, which are opportunities for networking, and the company holds an annual roundtable on a variety of topics in which it invites some of the community’s business leaders. The company also sponsors an annual family gathering. This year’s venture was an overnight trip to Glenwood Springs for rafting in appreciation of employees and their families, says Novick.


The company’s business model of working locally proves to be a huge benefit not only to its employees but to the company and its clients as well. As described by company founder Dave Peterson in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published in July 2005, “We don’t have the wear and tear of constant travel on our consultants. That makes them more thoughtful and focused on the clients they are working with.”


In turn, it also makes for a stronger company, Peterson said in that same interview. “Our strategy is simple: if we take care of our people and make them owners of our business, then they are empowered to take care of our clients. They take this job very personally.”