Trust, and a little beer, go a long way

November 1, 2018 GMT

Evidence of employee revelry is scattered about the office of Improving — Houston. There’s the beer pong trophy won during a retreat in Vegas. Taps for pouring craft beer during monthly happy hours. And “Star Wars” movie posters from when employees got a private pre-screening.

Such camaraderie undoubtedly makes Improving — Houston a great place to work, but it isn’t the main reason it was named the No. 1 small company on this year’s Top Workplaces list, compiled by Energage.

That top reason is trust, said Devlin Liles, president of Improving — Houston, the local office for the custom software development and consulting firm.

“If you’re inside these walls, we can trust you,” he said. “We can trust you to do a great job. We can trust you to do what’s in the best interest of the client. We can trust you with information that most other companies wouldn’t even share. That empowers folks.”

Liles recognized this value just four days on the job. Then a consultant, he marched into the CEO’s office and asked how the firm could possibly be making money. Based on his own salary and the company’s many events and perks, Liles said the math didn’t add up.

CEO Curtis Hite opened the company’s books to this brand-new employee — a sense of trust that Liles now shows the 51 employees, and counting, in the Houston area.

This trust, along with the potential for personal growth and top-notch colleagues, were mentioned for reasons employees love their jobs.

“I am encouraged to reach my full potential,” one employee wrote in the Energage survey. “My skills are sharpened and rewarded. My thoughts are listened to and refined.”

Improving was founded in 2007 in Dallas. It has since grown to seven offices in the U.S. and Canada. The Houston office opened in 2011.

The company builds custom software for clients, ranging from mobile apps and big data analytics to e-commerce websites and theme park ticketing systems. It also provides consulting services, and it trains clients to develop their own software and recruit software developers.

While profit is important, Improving focuses on more than just making money. It works to rebuild trust among big corporations and their IT departments. It supports the local community by providing free food and meeting space to technology user groups.

And it fosters an environment where employees work hard but also have fun. There are board game nights. Employees host classes to teach one another to play the guitar or smoke meat. And every summer, employees and their families spend a day at the Schlitterbahn water park.

It’s a group of people that would be friends outside work, one employee said in the Energage survey.

“They are smart, funny, hard-working nerds who are tolerant of all walks of life,” the comment read. “Most importantly, they truly work toward their core values at work and in their personal lives.”