Anatomy of an award-winning 'family' bank

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Ask Baker Boyer Bank President and CEO Megan Clubb the foundation for the company's more than 140-year success and she's bound to bring up the family.

Not just the decades upon decades of heritage that make the Walla Walla-based bank's roster of former and current leaders look like a copy of the family tree. But also the "family" of 168 employees who work for bank's eight branches and wealth management and business banking offices from Milton-Freewater to Yakima.

"There's good communication and a really high level of trust between employees," Clubb said.

It's part of what makes the bank the best mid-sized company to work for in the state, according to Seattle Business magazine.

In June, the magazine named Baker Boyer as the top place to work of all companies with 100 to 499 employees in Washington. It was ranked first of 26 mid-sized companies that made the publication's list of top 100 places to work.

Winners are determined in part by confidential employee surveys. At least half of participating firms' employees fill out the anonymous surveys. Companies are judged based on hiring, retention, communication, benefits, work environment, rewards and recognition, leadership, training and education, performance standards and corporate culture.

What the survey turned up in Baker Boyer's case was a company that goes to great lengths to find the "right" employees and then reward them with educational opportunities, on-the-job perks and an environment that breeds happiness.

"It makes sense to me when you have highly satisfied employees they deliver satisfying customer service," Clubb said. "It just results in success."

The award from Seattle Business came on the heels of another accolade for Baker Boyer. For the fourth consecutive year, the company made U.S. Banker magazine's Top 200 Community Banks list. It was ranked 23rd out of thousands of community banks across the country.

Clubb, the bank's 10th president and the great-great granddaughter of founding partner Dorsey S. Baker, said the recognition is a "pleasant, pleasant surprise."

"To be number one is really an honor," she said.

On the return trip from Seattle, where a celebration honoring the award-winners took place June 16, Clubb said the company's deep roots have helped shape the operation.

"I think a lot of it is that we've maintained a really strong family core," she said.

That, in fact, was one aspect that stood out to the magazine as organizers read through feedback from employee surveys, which plays a major part in choosing winners.

"Employees talk about feeling as if they are part of a cohesive, supportive family. People know their co-workers have their backs if they're sick, if they need time off or if they're facing personal issues," the magazine wrote in an online summation about Baker Boyer.

The piece referenced employee Susie Colombo, who believed she was going to have to step down from her role as a branch manager when she had her first child in 1996. Instead, Clubb took her to lunch and they devised a plan that allowed Colombo to reduce her hours but keep her position.

"They understand family is important," Colombo, now vice president of relationship banking for Baker Boyer, told the magazine. "They help you balance your life."

That sentiment was echoed by the magazine: "Employees talk about feeling as if they are part of a cohesive, supportive family. People know their co-workers have their backs if they're sick, if they need time off of if they're facing personal issues."

Clubb said employees at the bank are thoroughly tested before they're hired. In addition to finding qualified employees, the depth of the interview process is intended to find people who will fit into the teamwork-oriented company that has an average of $479 million in assets.

Employees tend to stay, Seattle Business found, because they are given space to grow, learn and find success.

"Employees interested in furthering their education can take advantage of a number of opportunities, from seminars and workshops to time off to pursue postgraduate degrees. Baker Boyer lends the money for tuition, and if the employees stay with the company, the loan is eventually forgiven," the piece said.

"On-the-job perks include a generous 401(k) match; enviable health, vision and dental plans; and healthful breakfast and lunch items packaged on-site for a small paycheck deduction."

Clubb said the bank also brings personal trainers in to assist employees in physical workout sessions.

"We totally believe having people healthy, eating well and being physically fit makes a big difference," she said.

The combination of healthy food choices, fitness, education and career success is a formula for a bright future, Clubb said. "I just so fundamentally believe that having highly satisfied employees is basically really good for business."

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