Emkay employees do better than just OK

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No doubt affordable health care, decent vacation time and maybe even the chance to partake of the company's profits help keep employees pumped.

But sometimes, it's the simple things: a great cafeteria, employee appreciation nights or a boss's always-open door.

At Itasca-based Emkay Inc., it's both.

That's why the privately held fleet management and services company is No. 7 on the Tribune's list of "Top Workplaces," based on a survey conducted by WorkplaceDynamics, an Exton, Pa.-based consultancy.

There's something refreshingly old school about Emkay, and it's not the wood-paneled executive suites — nor that it's been helping businesses manage and maintain their vehicles since 1946.

Rather, it's that employees say when they speak up, the boss listens.

"You're not afraid to send those guys emails, because they are not going to brush you off, they'll actually talk to you," said Steve Swedberg, a truck engineering specialist who has worked for the company for six years.

"Those guys" include a nine-person executive team lead by President and CEO Greg Tepas who, in 2007, took the reins from his father, Gary, who retired after heading up the employee-owned company for nearly 30 years. His younger brother Chris is just down the hall, heading up Emkay's marketing arm.

Plus, there aren't many places where a burger, a side of fries and a drink is no more than $5. Meals are cheap, and on occasion free, in the company's popular cafeteria.

"Throughout the year, they throw us little things," said Swedberg, such as a recent game night modeled after the NBC-TV game show "Minute to Win It," free carwashes, and one of this year's biggest perks: a $500 cash card.

During the winter, employees can have their cars started so they are warm and snow-free after a long day.

"The little things make a difference — people knowing they are appreciated," said Greg Tepas.

So it figures that there might not be a lot of turnover at Emkay, he added.

Take Brad Vliek, one of those rare Gen Xers who has only worked for one company. He began his career at Emkay 13 years ago fielding parking tickets. He steadily rose through the ranks, trying out different jobs, and today, as vice president of client services, anyone who deals with a customer reports to him.

Vliek said he stays with Emkay because every couple of years he gets to try something new. "There are always new opportunities."

And if not many people plan on leaving, Greg Tepas said Emkay is hiring across the board, in its customer service, accounting and operating groups. The buyout of a Canadian competitor earlier this year has the growing company looking to boost its head count.

"It's not just about a job," said Greg Tepas. "We want to make you feel like you have a career here at Emkay."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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