Anyone heading to the office of Richard Price, chairman and CEO of Mesirow Financial Holdings Inc., Chicago, should be ready to play.
A game of table tennis, that is.
Outside Mr. Price's office is a pingpong table, and Mr. Price wields a mean paddle. He also oversees a company whose culture is big on camaraderie and getting employees involved, professionally and socially.
And employees respond enthusiastically. In Pensions & Investments' Best Places to Work in Money Management survey, Mesi-row employees praised the money manager for its social events such as baseball and hockey viewing parties at the company's auditorium, poker games for charity and annual awards for contributions to the company and the community.
“I do enjoy the company events that are held, which allow you to meet other people in different departments, and even your own,” one employee wrote. “(They) help foster a spirit of camaraderie. It seems time and effort are put in to make (the events) enjoyable.” Another respondent said: “There is a sense of family at Mesirow and since I've been here, I have the flexibility I need between work and home,” while another noted “Senior management is accessible to all levels of employees and seem to genuinely care about all employees.”
That corporate culture — that workers can feel cared for and have fun, too — has been part of the Mesirow experience in the 40 years Mr. Price has been at the money manager. He said it was “brought to another level” by James Tyree, his predecessor as chairman and CEO, who ran the company from 1994 until he died in 2011. “I'd like to think the culture here has always been one of camaraderie,” Mr. Price said. “But ... as the company grew ... it was a bigger challenge for him to maintain.”
Such a culture is now ingrained into the company ethos. Said Toni Cornelius, senior vice president, human resources operations, who joined the firm 1½ years ago: “When I came here, the one thing we talked about was the culture. This place is kind of organic. It doesn't feel like a big effort. It's just there.”
Being a Chicago-based firm, a lot of the social events for employees revolve around professional sports, specifically with at-work viewing parties when crosstown baseball rivals Cubs and White Sox play each year or when the Chicago Blackhawks — for which Mesirow is a corporate sponsor — competed for and won the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup this year. Mr. Tyree was an avid fan of the White Sox and Blackhawks but, Mr. Price stressed, not a Cubs fan.
Mesirow employees got to pose with the Stanley Cup at work last summer and the company allowed workers to wear Blackhawks gear to work during the playoffs. “There's a big sports culture here, (that) started with Jim and the Sox,” Mr. Price said. “The buzz, the energy, you can't match it.”
But employees also get recognition from their peers through the Norman Awards, named after company founder Norman Mesirow, with six categories for excellence at work and volunteer efforts outside of the office. Winners are nominated by their co-workers and are selected by a five-person committee of management and peers. Winners are announced at the company's annual shareholders' meeting in July.
“The fact that employees nominate other employees for the award feeds into the value of what the award means,” Ms. Cornelius said.
While the company sponsors employee table-tennis tournaments, the table outside Mr. Price's office is always available. So along with the challenges of managing the company, Mr. Price also has to be ready to take on all comers in pingpong. “I'll always find time to play,” he said.