The day the embargo was lifted, Kelly Grossberg—and most of the Capitol Benefits team—climbed the stairs to the independent insurance agency’s second floor office on Main Street and got an awesome surprise.
A banner at the top of the stairs proclaimed, “Winner of the Top 50 Great Places to Work, Washingtonian Magazine 2019,” and as she rounded the stairs she was greeted by balloons, music, mimosas and a catered breakfast.
“Isn’t this the best, guys?” she said. “This is all of us because we’re just awesome! I don’t know why we have all this food. I can’t even eat, I’m just so excited.”
Grossberg’s happiness was shared by staff and invited guests, including Mayor Jud Ashman, but the award meant—perhaps—the most to owner Josh Lavine. Being recognized as one of the Top 50 Great Places to Work in the DMV means more to him than any other award and is what he has been working toward, he said.
Jackie Jenkins, Capitol Benefits vice president of operations, said that after a company submits an application to Washingtonian, employees are surveyed anonymously.
“They ask you questions about your benefits, employees, turnover, perks other than (the usual),” she explained, “and then you wait.”
A suite of benefits and positive perks help to create a winning culture at Capitol Benefits. In addition to unlimited paid vacation, staff enjoys paid membership to Life Time, telework opportunities, Teladoc on-demand remote medical care, and an office outfitted with standing desks, massage chairs, PlayStation and a coffee machine that makes Starbucks obsolete. To recognize effort, Capitol Benefits has a 94 percent day.
“We all kind of live by this rule that says 94 percent of things you worry about won’t happen and we like talk about it a lot … so
we decided to institute a 94 percent day so once a month someone gets a day off of work and $94 to go and do whatever they
want for the day,” Jenkins said.
And then there’s the Taco Trophy. “One of the things that’s important to me is I empower them to reward each other for going above and beyond,” Lavine said. “So, this sounds ridiculous, but we have these virtual tacos and there’s a whole online system—if Julianna stays two hours late helping Wanda, Wanda will go online and say, ‘Thank you so much for helping me out, here’s two virtual tacos.’ So then they trade in tacos for gift cards and things like that, and then for the quarter whoever has the most virtual tacos is the taco champion and we do a whole celebration and that person gets to keep the Taco Trophy on their desk.”
But Lavine stressed the Top 50 recognition is about a lot more than perks. “To be named one of the ‘Top 50 Places to Work,’ it’s not about benefits, it’s not about standing desks, it’s about the people, right? … You can have all the standing desks you want, you can have the best benefits, but if you don’t have a great team, you don’t have a good company culture, so thank you, you guys,” he said.
Grossberg, who is director of marketing and business development, concurred. “I think it’s all about the culture that Josh has created here for the employees,” she said. “… It’s more than just coming in and doing our job every day. We’re walking into our other family and our clients are also our family, and because we absolutely love what we do, and we love who we work with and who we work for—that just kind of transfers on and extends out to our clients. And I think our clients feel this and our
clients sense this, and I love it when our clients want to be a part of this.”
Kira Sansone, marketing and benefits coordinator, didn’t know about the Top 50 recognition until the night before when she was helping to set up for the party. “It’s not that unusual for Josh to do something like this,” she said, “so I don’t think anyone suspected anything.”
Indeed. For their holiday party, Capitol Benefits flew everyone out to Minnesota to spend the day at Mall of America. And the Top 50 celebration on April 18? That continued with the arrival of a Hummer limousine to whisk everyone away to MGM National Harbor for the day.