The first thing to know about VGM Group Inc. is that it’s employees own the place, thanks to an employee stock ownership plan, also known as an ESOP.

“We’re 100 percent employee-owned. This business is completely owned by the staff here,” said Amy Streeter, manager of talent acquisition and development for the business services company. “When you talk about companies that value employees, that is very true about VGM.”

That ownership sets the tone for employees in the Waterloo headquarters and across the country, Streeter said. People take pride in the company, she said. And they’re empowered to make decisions and problem solve on their own. “I’ve never worked at an organization that puts so much confidence in individuals to make decisions,” she said.  “It’s not micromanaged. Its extremely macro-managed.”

When asked to describe the company in a survey, VGM workers routinely used the word “family,” Streeter said. When employees have children, they’re gifted VGM-branded onesies. Families are encouraged to bring their families to VGM’s on-site fitness center. And the company offers regular events that blend family into the workplace, whether it’s free family tickets to watch Waterloo Black Hawks hockey games or family movie nights at VGM’s farm, an events venue, complete with carnival games and picnic foods.  “For employees to want to get together with their coworkers and their coworkers’ families ― that says a lot,” she said. “Family is huge. Everyone cares about each other.”

Marketing team member Jarrod Lister says that feeling was apparent the first day he started at VGM as an intern in 2016.

Read more: Iowa’s Top Workplaces: VGM Group