Best Companies to Work For, Part 1

  1. Posted on July 10, 2007 2:25:PM by Steve McConnell to 10x Software Development
  2. best companies to work for, Management, Construx Software

[Warning, bragging ahead]

At the end of June I was very pleased to learn that Construx Software (my company) had been recognized as the Best Small Company to Work For in Washington state. Washington CEO magazine published a list of the 100 Best Companies to work for. Construx topped the "Small Companies" category. With a total score of 148.87 (a total of the employee survey scores and judges' scores), Construx easily topped the winner in the "large company" category, which scored 128.69, and the medium category winner, which scored 132.64, making Construx easily the highest scoring company overall.

Construx has been a finalist all four times we participated in the survey since I founded the company in 1996, so it was wonderful to come out #1 in 2007. One reason I like the recognition is that it shows that my books and articles aren't just theoretical -- I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is for practices like private offices, morale events, and so on -- and the survey results show that employees respond very favorably to these practices.

Washington CEO considered 10 categories, including

  • Communication
  • Training & Education
  • Responsibility & Decision Making
  • Performance Standards
  • Rewards & Recognition
  • Benefits
  • Leadership
  • Work Environment
  • Hiring & Retention
  • Corporate Culture

For scores from the panel of 5 judges, Construx received perfect scores in all 10 categories, for a total of 50.00 points, the maximum possible. The winner in the large company category scored 41.95 from the judges, and the winner in the medium company category scored 39.94. In other words, the other category winners achieved only 80-85% of Construx's winning score.

It's always interesting to compare what outsiders think vs. what insiders think. In this blog posting, I'll tell you what Washington CEO included in their description of what makes Construx a best company. In part 2, I'll tell you what Construx's employees think. And in Part 3 I'll tell you what I think.

What Makes Construx the Best Company to Work For, Part 1? (Washington CEO magazine view)

Washington CEO magazine mentioned numerous specific points that they felt made Construx a best company:


Construx is led by a software industry guru. [that's me -- I didn't write that]. Construx's CEO avoids arrogance and defensiveness, and strives for perfection in everything. He takes time to talk and listen.

Construx's COO communicates openly and directly. He spends a lot of time worrying about morale. He makes sure that issues don't tend to fester.

When our company hit hard times during the dot com collapse (when many of our clients went out of business), Construx's management team was very open about fully disclosing all aspects of the company's financial condition with all our employees. We laid out every possible option so that employees could "walk with us" through the decisions we had to make. During that difficult time, rather than just laying off employees, we gathered input from our staff, and based on strong staff consensus, we applied across-the-board salary cuts rather than laying anyone off.


Benefits are generous, including 401K with 100% match up to 10% of salary; fully paid employee health-care premiums, with dependents paid at 75%; 24 days of vacation minimum, increasing with seniority. Pay is industry average salaries, with bonuses for "those who exceed expectations" [we wouldn't word it that way, since virtually everyone receives bonuses of some kind or other]

Employees have lots of flexibility. They can set their own schedules, to balance their personal and professional lives [within the constraints of how they can still satisfy their clients], and employees can turn down assignments that aren't appealing to them as long as they're pulling their weight overall.


Construx holds weekly "wind downs," during which employees drink beer and wine, sit on sofas, and chat.

Construx has a "cozy, modern looking cafe" where employees can get free bottled water, soda, Gatorade, and most other kinds of bottled drinks.

The whole company has read Built to Last and discussed it. Everyone in the company can recite the company's mission: Advancing the art and science of commercial software engineering.

Focus on Employee Satisfaction

We explicitly make employee satisfaction a top priority. The COO's comp package actually ranks employee satisfaction above profit and revenue. We have a kegerator, a white refrigerator with beer taps and three home brewed beers on tap [the number actually varies, but that's what the article said]

Construx's business philosophy is "hire competent smart people and let them do their jobs." Construx expects employees to regularly develop their professional skills. Construx also supports them in getting better, by emphasizing professional development, particularly, Construx's Professional Development Ladder.

My Reaction

I've been interviewed enough times that I've learned that minor factual errors are to be expected. That said, I thought the Washington CEO article was quite accurate. We gave them 5-10 times as much content as they could describe in a short story, so they left out more than they included, and what's interesting to me are the specific points they chose to highlight.

Does the Washington CEO article really capture the reasons that our employees like working at Construx? We're having an all company meeting Friday to discuss that, and I'll write up my employees' view of what makes Construx a Best Company to Work For in a future blog entry.

susan said:

July 10, 2007 11:05:PM


Keep saving and growing your traditions.

Craig Ferril said:

July 12, 2007 12:43:PM

Congratulations Steve!

Construx is a shining example of what a software development company can be.  I will be following your example with my own company.

BryanPflug said:

July 13, 2007 8:21:AM

This gives me hope. I am always toting the benefits of high morale through honesty and respect and how important this is to productivity. And now there is evidence. Brag away!

dangdude said:

July 16, 2007 1:50:PM

Congratulations to you and the people at Construx.  I'm looking forward to reading parts 2 and 3.  I've long used your books, CxOne material, and myriad other postings from your website in my work and in my training and mentoring.  I'm pleased to see continued and deserved praise and recognition for your and Construx's work.  That is certainly something to be quite proud of.

Maksym Shostak said:

July 17, 2007 4:46:AM

I wish more large, publicly held companies could get away with some of those things, and sometimes wonder why they don't/can't. Conversely, I wonder why small companies *can* get away with allowing employees to drink alcohol as part of a company event, for example. Are the liabilities really that much smaller for a small company? I would think they would be proportionately larger--one huge lawsuit could wipe them out, whereas a large company could settle out of court and carry on.

Congratulations on the award; I didn't mean for my ramble to sound negative. I just wish I had some of those benefits, too.

Practicing Earl said:

September 10, 2007 1:29:PM

Steve McConnell (my boss) is bragging about his company since it got voted the best small company to

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Steve McConnell

Steve McConnell is CEO and Chief Software Engineer at Construx Software where he consults to a broad range of industries, teaches seminars, and oversees Construx’s software development practices. In 1998, readers of Software Development magazine named Steve one of the three most influential people in the software industry along with Bill Gates and Linus Torvalds.

Steve is the author of Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art (2006), Code Complete (1993, 2004), Rapid Development (1996), Software Project Survival Guide (1998), and Professional Software Development (2004). His books twice won Software Development magazine's Jolt Excellence award for outstanding software development book of the year.

Steve has served as Editor in Chief of IEEE Software magazine, on the Panel of Experts of the SWEBOK project, and as Chair of the IEEE Computer Society’s Professional Practices Committee.

Steve received a Bachelor’s degree from Whitman College, graduating Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and earned a Master’s degree in software engineering from Seattle University.
Contact Steve