Top Company Awards: winners in 12 industries pursue excellence beyond the bottom line.

Author:Sukin, Gigi
 
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Now in its 26th year, the ColoradoBiz Top Company Awards program recognizes companies that have managed to excel no matter what the economy or market conditions or even the environment has thrown at them--booms, busts, recoveries, droughts, fires, floods and more.

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Long regarded as "Colorado's most competitive business award," the Top Company program involves the selection of finalists--three in each of 12 industry categories--by longtime sponsor Deloitte. Companies are evaluated on the basis of financial performance, community involvement and outstanding achievement in areas such as innovation, marketing or operational excellence.

It's a rigorous undertaking for the competing companies, finalists and winners alike, but one that's worthwhile when they learn that their firm's combination of talent, tenacity and teamwork has earned them the title of Top Company.

With that, we give you the 2013 winners.

CONSULTING & PROFESSIONAL SERVICES

FAEGRE BAKER DANIELS

DIVERSE PERSECTIVE GIVES A LEGAL LEG UP

Since the late 1990s, law school entry has been split roughly 50-50 men to women. Yet in an article published some three years ago titled, "Glass Ceilings and Dead Ends: Professional Ideologies, Gender Stereotypes and the Future of Women Lawyers at Large Law Firms," University of Denver law professor Eli Wald argued that women have largely failed to emerge as equals in "big law." He attributes this to a pervasive ideology of hyper-competitiveness, often used as justification for long hours and high pay typical of some firms.

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"Law firms are different from other businesses," said Heather Perkins, the Denver office leader for Faegre Baker Daniels. "We try to do the right thing."

The 150-year-old firm sets clear objectives to increase gender equality in the traditionally male-dominated legal profession. The Denver office has one of the highest percentages of female attorneys--45 percent--in the city. Statewide, only 33 percent of all Colorado attorneys are women.

"We're very intentional about that," Perkins said. While she concedes that, "Benchmarks are important and clients impose them on us," she added that, "the real significance is having a difference of perspective. We want our office to reflect the world in which we work, but that's not always reflective of the practice of law."

The firm boasts an active Women's Forum for Achievement that builds on collective intellectual capital to ensure FBD is a place where women can develop their careers.

Perkins suggests that gender diversity at FBD distinguishes the firm in the marketplace.

Partner Leslie Fields is one of five women on the firm's 15-member management board, the leadership body that directs the firm's strategic initiatives. She was also the first African American partner at FBD and has been with the Denver office for 27 years.

"We've been really lucky to bring over some fantastic talent," Perkins said. That also includes trial lawyer Regina Rodriguez, who's been with FBD for nearly 10 years. In 2011, Rodriquez was named one of the "Top Women Lawyers" by Law Week Colorado and this year, she was appointed Latina Lawyer of the Year by the Hispanic National Bar Association.

"We're able to stay true to our value proposition, provide successful outcomes and remain competitive," Perkins said.

CONSUMER BUSTIVESS

WHITE WAVE FOODS CO.

MAINTAINING ITS MISSION AND LEVERAGING ITS SIZE, SCOPE AND SCALE

In a 2003 TED talk, famed entrepreneur and blogger Seth Godin mentioned the dairy product Silk to emphasize a point about modern marketing.

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WhiteWave Foods Co. "put a product that does not need to be in the refrigerated section next to the milk. ... Sales tripled. Why? Milk, milk, milk, milk--not milk. For the people who were there and looked at that section, it was remarkable."

Without a monstrous ad budget or gorilla marketing methods, WhiteWave managed to get people talking, drinking and eating.

"We're founded on innovation. We've created almost every category in which we play," said Molly Keveney, communications director of the plant-based food and beverage company.

Sure, WhiteWave strives to make delicious, responsibly produced food and beverages--and achieves that goal with its award-winning product innovation; but behind each carton of Horizon organic milk or bottle of International Delight iced coffee creamer, "Our purpose is to change the way the world eats for the better," Keveney said. Continuous product launches are part of a long-term brand-building initiative aimed to keep WhiteWave firmly planted as a category leader in the rapidly shifting consumer packaged goods industry.

WhiteWave completed an initial public offering in October 2012 that raised more than $365 million. In the 12 months that followed the company grew annual sales by 8 percent despite the fact that net sales in the liquid milk industry fell by 2.2 percent, and invested more than $90 million in manufacturing plants with five new production lines to accommodate growing business units.

By leveraging the scale of its business, WhiteWave has also been able to commit itself to charitable giving with its Values in Action program. Last year, the company's 500 Colorado-based team members logged more than 13,500 hours in volunteer work, nearly double its efforts the prior year. To further demonstrate its dedication, 97 percent of the company's employees participated in this year's "Compete to Beat Hunger Corporate Challenge."

FINANCIAL SERVICES

MERCURY PAYMENT SYSTEMS

AGGRESSIVE GROWTH IN PAYMENT PROCESSING FROM DURANGO

Matt Taylor is betting on brick and mortar.

"We want to help merchants feel empowered to attract, retain and excite customers," the CEO of Mercury Payment Systems said. As such, "Main Street countertops must be equipped with the right kinds of mobile technology to interact with consumers during and beyond the point-of-sale."

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Mercury is one of the nation's fastest-growing payment processers, with more than 500 point-of-sale (POS) software vendors and 2,500 POS value-added-resellers.

The Durango-based business, the 25th largest merchant acquirer in the world, made a mid-August announcement of its partnership with e-commerce heavyweight PayPal that will effectively allow Mercury's base of more than 80,000 merchants to accept PayPal payments in their Main Street shops as well as online. For Mercury, the deal delivers highly customized and locally based payment solutions for merchants to seamlessly integrate up-to-date technology into their existing POS systems.

"These services can grow with the merchants as they scale their businesses, while also simplifying the things they've traditionally struggled with," Taylor said.

As mobile payments and smartphone...

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