Features: Best Places To Work: The 20 Best Companies

Got your résumé ready? From amazing perks and benefits to cool work spaces these Philly-area firms blow the competition away

Best Small Company: NeatReceipts
Location: West Philly
Industry: Software
Local Employees: 60
Revenue: $8.6 million

Memo to bosses everywhere: To improve morale follow the lead of University City’s NeatReceipts, whose software and scanning products convert paperwork into digital versions, redefining what work can look like in the 21st century. Co-founding father and son Les and Rafi Spero — Ernst & Young’s 2007 Entrepreneurs of the Year — treat workers right seven ways: 1) Employees craft their own 40-hour schedules within a 6 a.m.-to-10 p.m. window. 2) Every employee owns a share of the company. 3) There are no personal offices and therefore no egos. 4) The company fosters a respectful work environment — 20 percent of its employees are gay. 5) There’s a program to help with home purchases and improvements. 6) Company events are actually fun — and have included Afro-growing contests, ugly sweater contests and Borat movie nights. 7) Free lunch every Friday! 3401 Market Street, 866-632-8732, neatreceipts.com.

Best Medium Sized Company: SEI
Location: Oaks
Industry: Financial services
Local Employees: 1,900
Revenue: $1.176 billion

“Creativity” isn’t a word you typically associate with financial services, but it’s the driving force at SEI. A decade ago, the company began transforming its corporate culture — eliminating practically everything that smacked of status or hierarchy, from titles to secretaries to, well, office doors. Today, all of the company’s employees have the same style desks and work together in open rooms. The message: Ideas are the most important thing, and everyone’s ideas are equal. On top of the egalitarian philosophy are some way-cool perks, including 30 paid vacation and personal days beginning in the first year; an admirable daycare setup; frequent flex-time arrangements; and a company office that doubles as a modern art gallery, with new pieces routinely brought in in hopes of inspiring even more creativity. 1 Freedom Valley Drive, Oaks, 610-676-1000, seic.com.

Best Large Company: Vanguard
Location: Valley Forge
Industry: Financial services
Local Employees: 9,000
Revenue: N/A

Founder Jack Bogle is obsessed with all things nautical — one reason Vanguard employees are referred to as a “crew.” But the company, which all but invented the mutual-fund business, has a commitment to its workers that goes beyond gimmicky lingo. Among the benefits are a killer retirement savings program in which Vanguard puts the equivalent of 10 percent of your salary in a savings plan and matches your 401(k) contributions up to four percent of your salary. There’s also a generous vacation policy (16 to 21 days in your first year) and plenty of services to make the work/life balance easier, including on-site auto maintenance. Bonus: $9,000 a year in tuition reimbursement, as well as on-site MBA and certified financial planner (CFP) programs. P.O. Box 2600, Valley Forge, 610-669-1000, vanguard.com.

The Green Team: PhillyCarShare
Location: Center City
Industry: Transportation nonprofit
Local Employees: 50
Revenue: $2 billion

PhillyCarShare doesn’t just lower greenhouse gases by renting community cars. Before moving into its 9th and Sansom digs, the nonprofit surveyed its employees about where they live, to try to minimize driving and maximize walking, biking and mass-transit commutes. Also, each employee gets a free membership plus credit toward usage. And the company facilities? Furniture is from a local manufacturer; cabinets made from wheat board save wood; motion-detector lights conserve energy. And many employees are seated by 15-foot-high south-facing windows that capitalize on natural sunlight. 125 South 9th Street, 215-730-0988, phillycarshare.org.

Focus on Fitness: Philadelphia Insurance Companies
Location: Bala Cynwyd
Industry: Insurance
Local Employees: 650
Revenue: $1.25 billion

“A culture of fitness breeds a culture of success” sounds like an American Gladiators slogan, but at Philadelphia Insurance Companies, it’s the corporate mantra. Let’s count the reps: 1) Anyone working out at lunch gets an extra 15 minutes. 2) Subsidized memberships are given to the location’s three gyms. 3) An “Active for Life” web program logs exercise activity for co-worker teams. 4) Employees regularly take part in Olympic-length distance races and Ironman competitions (which the company sponsors). “Initially, when we first started to push it, some employees were taken aback,” says senior vice president of HR and operations Deborah Sutton. “But we talk about how the discipline it takes to complete fitness is the same sort of discipline needed in business.” Muscles aren’t all they’re flexing at PIC; about 35 percent of employees have flex schedules, too. 1 Bala Plaza, suite 100, 800-873-4552, phly.com.

Where The Mission Matters: Health Advocate, Inc.
Location: Plymouth Meeting
Industry: Health Care
Local Employees: 183
Revenue: $13.6 million

The name says it all: Health Advocate’s got consumers’ backs when it comes to figuring out health-care and insurance-related issues. Whether it’s clearing up co-pay concerns or helping land an appointment with a hard-to-get specialist, HA’s professional, sympathetic health advocates lead the way. “When you get affected with a health-care issue, your status doesn’t matter,” says co-founder Marty Rosen. “You lose your ability to understand, to navigate — people just don’t know what to do because they’re so scared.” Proof their mission matters: Health Advocate grew from a start-up in 2001, with just 10 clients in 2002, to the fifth fastest-growing private company in the region last year. It now serves employees at 3,000-plus companies. 3043 Walton Road, Plymouth Meeting, 866-385-8033, healthadvocate.com.

Best Family Values: QVC, Inc.
Location: West Chester
Industry: Retailing
Local Employees: 3,317
Revenue: $7.1 billion

It’s a motherly rite of passage, the whole QVC thing. But another motherly rite of passage is the nationally competitive adoption assistance benefit QVC offers its employees, providing up to $10,000 annually (up to a max of $20,000 lifetime) for eligible expenses. Also covered under medical and prescription plans are infertility assistance treatments. And when that bundle of joy finally arrives, employees can use their deep 30 percent discount to buy the latest QVC baby bling. 1200 Wilson Drive, Studio Park, West Chester, 484-701-1000, qvc.com.

If You Never Want to Leave College (Sort of): Off-Campus Solutions
Location: King of Prussia
Local Employees: 15
Revenue: $5 million

“It doesn’t really matter what you wear to work as long as you get the job done. Right now I’m wearing jeans, a t-shirt and flip-flops,” says marketing manager Tatianna Losk. Off Campus Solutions — which saw phenomenal 270 percent revenue growth from 2003 to 2005 — partners with universities to create networks of local food and school-supply vendors. Parents put money into their college kids’ accounts, which said kids can then spend at these vendors. (Read: Mommy gives Johnny cash without worrying it’s going to the weekend keg fund.) As for how the company works: It’s casual dress every day, and the average age of the employees is 25. And some account managers travel the country, visiting colleges throughout the U.S. 680 American Avenue, suite 102, King of Prussia, 800-345-6126, offcampussolutions.com.

The Team Builders: Beyond.com, Inc.
Location: King of Prussia
Industry: Software and technology, human resources
Local Employees: 48
Revenue: $8.7 million

This career software provider is a team to dream about: Three pantries, two refrigerators, and a full-size freezer stocked with free frozen lunches, ice cream, soda and other goodies (goodies!). A game room (game room!) with air hockey, arcade b-ball and kickball. If five employees want to see a movie together, The Man pays. Or they can just circulate movies from their community NetFlix account. A subscription to Yahoo radio plays daily on speakers, and Friday is always set to ’80s rock. (Van Halen!) But the aforementioned Man, CEO and founder Rich Milgram, promotes all these things with a long-term goal in mind: camaraderie. 1060 1st Avenue, suite 100, King of Prussia, 610-878-2800, beyond.com.

Minority Report: Merck
Location: Various Locations
Industry: Pharmeceuticals
Local Employees: 13,850
Revenue: $22.6 billion

As one of our region’s biggest employers, with nearly 14,000 local ­workers, Merck is committed to diversity. More than one in five employees is a minority; nearly half of all managers — and nearly a third of senior managers, reporting directly to the CEO — are women; and the company recently included gender identity and gender expression in its nondiscrimination policies. Other cool perks: 100 percent tuition reimbursement, and Merck-brand drugs at no cost. 1 Merck Drive, Whitehouse Station, 908-423-1000, merck.com.

Home Sweet Home: Toll Brothers
Location: Horsham
Industry: Luxury homes
Local Employees: 1,211
Revenue: $6.1 billion

What fun is building and selling luxury houses if you never get to live in them? Toll Brothers has solved that problem in two ways. For starters, it lets employees vacation at its ultra-luxe company guest houses in 11 resort locations around the country at just a fraction of what the public pays. Workers — and their family members — also get discounts of up to 7.5 percent when buying Toll Brothers-built homes. And the company makes it worth your while to stick around: After your 10th, 20th and 25th anniversaries, management springs for vacations for two to any location, up to $2,000 each time. 250 Gibraltar Road, Horsham, 215-938-8000, tollbrothers.com.

Keeping and Creating Heritage: Campbell Soup Company
Location: Camden
Industry: Consumer packaged goods
Local Employees: 3,230
Revenue: $7.9 billion

One of the world’s most recognized brands could easily pick up and move its headquarters to any non-Camden location. But the Fortune 500 company (and Camden tenant since 1869) isn’t just staying put; it’s expanding in the near future. At a cost of $72 million, the new green-friendly Campbell building will use just 40 acres of a 110-acre office park, leaving the remaining space for more businesses in hopes of stimulating and revitalizing economic growth in Camden. Proof of happiness: More than 3,000 of the company’s 20,000 employees worldwide have worked for the company for more than 20 years. 1 Campbell Place, Camden, 856-342-4800, campbellsoup.com.

Women Rule: Charming Shoppes, Inc.
Location: Bensalem
Industry: Women’s retail apparel
Local employees: 847
Revenue: $3.1 billion

The biggest holding company you’ve never heard of is Charming Shoppes. As the nation’s third largest specialty apparel chain — with 2,300-plus stores in 48 states — they focus on plus-size women’s apparel. Recognize Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug or Catherines Plus Sizes? That’s them. And helping women feel good about themselves doesn’t stop at the, er, rack. Charming Shoppes has been recognized by the National Association of Female Executives as one of the country’s top companies for female executives. Why not? More than two-thirds of employees are women. 450 Winks Lane, Bensalem, 215-245-9100, charmingshoppes.com.

The Career-Starters: Lockheed Martin
Location: Various Locations
Industry: Aerospace and defense
Local employees: 12,000
Revenue: $39.6 billion

In a recent survey, college engineering students around the country named Lockheed Martin their “ideal employer.” Little wonder; the company that’s working on returning human beings to the moon is the perfect place to launch a career. Its Leadership Development Program schools employees in technical and management skills. There’s a big company-wide focus on mentoring, and a major commitment to diversity. Oh, and are they hiring: In 2006, the company was the second-largest employer of entry-level talent in the U.S., in part because many of its baby-boomer employees are retiring. 6801 Rockledge Drive, Bethesda, Maryland, 301-897-6230.

Balancing Work and Life: The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Location: West Philly
Industry: Health care
Local employees: 8,921
Revenue: $1.05 billion

It’s no shock that an institution regularly dealing with stressed-out families excels at helping its own juggle work and life demands. CHOP’s employee concierge service will help make doctors’ appointments, and the Employee Assistance Program will help track down a financial expert to assist with the family’s taxes. Its Webfood program lets workers order and pay for dinner online. And CHOP offers on-site yoga, Pilates, meditation and Weight Watchers classes. Extra bonus: up to $5,250 in tuition reimbursement per year, plus discounts on courses at Rosemont, Drexel and Villanova. 34th Street and Civic Center Boulevard, 215-590-1000, chop.edu.

Smart Tuition: University of Pennsylvania
Location: West Philly
Industry: Higher education
Local employees: 20,493
Revenue: N/A

Cost of a four-year Penn education for a regular schmoe who walks in off the street: about $150,000. Cost if one of your parents works there: priceless. Well, almost. Penn covers 75 percent of the tuition for children of its employees. Granted, your kids have to be smart enough to actually get in — but even if they’re not quite Penn material, you’re not out of luck. The university’s direct grant program covers a big chunk of tuition at practically any other college in the country. (Currently, the limit is 40 percent of Penn’s tuition, or about $14,000 a year.) 3451 Walnut Street, 215-898-5000, upenn.edu.

Where Women are Part of the Club: Duane Morris, LLP
Location: Center City
Industry: Law
Local employees: 557
Revenue: $336.5 million

The Philly legal world can feel a lot like an old boys’ club, but Duane Morris is doing its best to smash the glass ceiling. “Traditionally, women don’t have quite as many role models for how to develop business as men do,” says partner Sharon Caffrey. The firm’s Women’s Initiative, led by Caffrey, offers networking and mentoring opportunities to female partners and associates, showing them how to be not just better lawyers, but better rainmakers — the people who bring in the dough that make the firm go. That empowering attitude has paid off in attracting both female law-school grads and lateral hires from other firms: 45 percent of Duane Morris associates are women, as are nearly
20 percent of the firm’s partners. 30 South 17th Street, 215-979-1000, duanemorris.com.

Best “Office”: 4 Walls, LLC
Location: Various Locations
Industry: Internet publishing and advertising
Local employees: 10
Revenue: $500,000+

Fitting that 4 Walls, a website that millions visit annually to find apartments and rental homes, has employees work from their homes. The virtual company’s numerous ­technology-based systems allow communication and monitoring to take place wherever, whenever. “The key to creating a great workforce isn’t offering the best salary and benefits packages,” says founder and CEO Ellen Thompson. “It’s about creating an environment where people feel excited about the work they’re doing.” With 4 Walls, you can have whatever sort of office you like. There’s no dress code. You can bring your pet to work. But the best perks: no public restrooms and no commute! Plus, your Internet and home phone are free. 610-649-9500, 4walls.net.

Old School, New School: Quaker Chemical Corporation
Location: Conshohocken
Industry: Chemical specialties
Local employees: 117
Revenue: $460 million

This almost 90-year-old chemical company, which supplies products to the steel, auto and construction industries, among others, has a unique culture that blends the best of an old-school workplace with the opportunities of the new economy. “Even though we’re an international company, we’re still small,” says company rep Jan Waldauer. Quaker’s U.S. headquarters in Conshohocken has fewer than 120 employees — which means politics and bureaucracy don’t reign, and there’s a family feeling. On the more progressive side: Quaker operates around the world, allowing some of its employees the opportunity to spend time in its offices in Amsterdam, Shanghai and Rio. Toss in a summer-hours program, an on-site fitness center and generous retirement benefits, and it’s no surprise the company has such a high stickiness factor: The average employee has been here for 14 years. 901 Hector Street, Conshohocken, 610-832-4000, quakerchem.com.

Pets Rule: Commerce Bank
Location: Cherry Hill
Industry: Banking
Local Employees: 5,000
Revenue: $2.87 billion

There are a lot of reasons to love Commerce, from the Commerce University leadership training program (you can take classes at lunchtime) to the “C-Sticker Program,” in which employees caught “doing it right” are given stickers redeemable for things like boogie boards, beach towels, jackets and charcoal grills. Our favorite perk, though, is the bank’s pet-friendly policy: No, you can’t bring your pooch to work, but Commerce does offer its employees discounts on local pet services, including pet health insurance, boarding and grooming. Here’s hoping its acquisition by Canadian company TD Bank doesn’t change the culture too much. 1701 Route 70 East, Cherry Hill, 888-751-9000, commerceonline.com.

Edited by Amy Strauss and Tom McGrath