Mark Mirsberger, Dana Advisors CEO, discusses how winning P&I's Best Places to Work last year -- and again in 2013 -- impacted both employee and client opinion.. View more in this series

Best places to work: DANA INVESTMENT ADVISORS

Brookfield, Wis. | 38 employees | Ranks 2nd among organizations with fewer than 100 employees | Two-time winner

When Dana Investment Advisors Inc. was ranked in Pensions & Investments' inaugural Best Places to Work in Money Management last year, Chief Investment Officer J. Joseph Veranth foresaw lasting benefits as potential clients took notice. This year, the company had more good news as it moved up three notches to No. 2 for managers with fewer than 100 employees.

The recognition confirmed to clients that the firm “does all it can for its clients and employees,” said CEO Mark Mirsberger, who saw it also being noticed by prospective clients and consultants. “It gave them a good sense for our culture and our commitment to supporting our talented team.”

The essence of that commitment is that the Brookfield, Wis., company, “puts the employee first,” said Mr. Mirsberger. Bucking corporate trends, Dana covers 100% of employees' health-care premiums. There also is a profit-sharing plan to which the company contributes 15% of salary, plus cash bonuses at annual review time.

Also, every employee received an iPad last year. The idea was to help everyone stay up on the latest technology, and to reinforce a commitment to flexible work arrangements that include telecommuting, job-sharing and part-time schedules. Employees love it, “and you as an employer get way more dividends,” said Mr. Mirsberger, who has seen a bump in late-night e-mails and ideas since the iPads were distributed.

The company founder Mike Dana started 33 years ago on his back porch now has 38 employees, but goes to great lengths to keep its family feeling. “As we've gotten bigger, we've tried to communicate better,” said Mr. Mirsberger. Those efforts include more staff workshops.

That “we're all in this together” attitude is reinforced through weekly interdepartmental meetings, and even intradepartmental meetings on specific issues, said Mr. Mirsberger. “The leadership team does an excellent job communicating across every department,” said one employee in the survey response.

The effort spent trying to make sure that everybody is informed is really about making clients feel well taken care of, even as the company continues to grow. “It's not growth for growth' sake,” said Mr. Veranth. “We're delivering an investment management product, but really everyone is involved in client services. They are really immersed in that.”

Employees back that up. “Everyone strives to make the company successful,” said one employee in responding to P&I's survey. “It is client-centric while balancing employee needs; it brings out the best in all of us.”

Mr. Veranth also credits his CEO for being a good listener to employees, which he sees as one reason the company is a repeat name on the P&I list, and why its institutional clients are impressed. “My opinion matters,” said another employee, who wrote that respect for his/her experience and knowledge is “instrumental” to the firm's success. “The organizational structure is extremely flat. There is very little red tape or bureaucracy,” added another employee.

Among investment staff, Dana leaders try to make sure portfolio managers feel rewarded for both their own performance and that of the firm overall.

They are now reaching out to area universities such as Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to try to bring greater diversity to the investment team, in both gender and ethnicity.

The sense of family comes up repeatedly in comments from employees, who appreciate the work/personal life balance. But like any close-knit family, there are times when the atmosphere gets a little tense. If Marquette, the UW-Milwaukee or Northwestern are, for example, in March Madness or a bowl game, the dress code gets considerably more colorful; the Golden Eagle, Badger and Wildcat garb comes out and some good-natured trash talk can be heard.