Change is a constant at Access Development, but so is its family atmosphere

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Access Development employees attend an open enrollment benefits meeting at the South Salt Lake company on Nov. 16, 2017.

South Salt Lake • Staying on top of innovation to take a business from catalogs to instant, location-based mobile software has kept Access Development going and growing, but creating a family-type atmosphere is how the South Salt Lake company found its true success.

Access Development links people to a network of more than 350,000 discount offers ranging from dining to shopping to travel through merchant loyalty programs, membership clubs and perks given to employees, professional associations or as gifts for fundraisers.

CEO Casey Kleinman has been with the company for more than 17 years. In that time, he’s seen Access expand from 20 employees to more than 150 and its once 100 percent print-based business shift entirely to digital with websites and mobile apps in just five years.

Even with that growth and innovation, Kleinman says the company’s culture has changed very little.

“I know work/life balance is an overused term, but there is a concentrated effort [at Access] to take care of our people,” he said. “Our employees take care of each other. It really is family.”

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Access Development CEO Casey Kleinman talks with the company's employees as they attend an open enrollment benefits meeting at the South Salt Lake company on Nov. 16, 2017.

Access Development’s evolution and its homey atmosphere earned it top honors as the state’s best midsize workplace for 2017 in an Energage (formerly WorkplaceDynamics) survey for The Salt Lake Tribune.

The company’s offices sit in a fairly industrial-looking complex that abuts the Jordan River Parkway near 2100 South. With the warehouse-style buildings now bereft of what once were reams of paper, catalogs and coupons, the space boasts a basketball court, a net for hitting golf balls, a place for weekly yoga and CrossFit classes and a large room with a stage where monthly companywide meetings, known as “birthday parties,” occur.

On a sunny September day, several employees are out doing a cleanup project along the parkway trail, where they often spend lunch breaks walking or jogging. Some use the path to bike to work.

The trail cleanup is just one of dozens of projects the company participates in each year to give back to the community. Access collects food and money for the Utah Food Bank, holds a barbecue to benefit the American Diabetes Association, gathers shoes for children during the holidays, provides clothes to The Road Home shelter, assembles back-to-school backpacks for the Granite School District and stands ready to rally around an employee in need.

In anonymous comments for the survey, employee after employee mentioned that Access co-workers felt like family, that staffers looked out for one another and that they felt supported by their colleagues and bosses.

This past year, David Cook, a 17-year employee and vice president of corporate sales for Access, was killed in a car crash. The company raised money for Cook’s family for the memorial service and to create an educational fund for his children, said Lisa Oyler, director of human resources.

“This is a company that cares about each other. We have one employee who has a sister with cancer and people are donating their PTO [paid time off] to her,” said Jim Elliott, the chief operating officer.

“Managers meet regularly with their employees to keep expectations clear and set goals both inside and outside the company,” Oyler said. It’s not uncommon for managers to make an “individual development plan” with their employees to help them create a path to accomplish goals in their private lives, such as saving to buy a house or getting a degree.

On a lighter note, Oyler has known managers to work with the families and spouses of employees coming up on an important anniversary with the company to find just the right five-year or 10-year gift.

Forget about gold watches and gift cards. One worker received a much-desired mountain bike, another collects Godzilla figurines and got a sought-after collectible along with a weekend getaway in Zion National Park, according to Oyler.

Lizzy Fenton, an email and marketing manager who has been with Access for six years, just completed a master of communication management degree through a remote program offered by the University of Southern California.

Fenton says she was given flexibility in her schedule to travel to California a couple of times a month to attend classes and could change her hours after late night study sessions.

“They’ve trusted me if I’ve had to work from home. I’ve never felt micromanaged. I feel empowered,” she said. “They take an interest in your personal life and your personal development outside of work.”

Cameron Willes, director of national partnerships, has worked at Access Development for 12 years.

“I’m having open heart surgery in November. People have come up to me and said, ‘I’ll donate my PTO to you.’ I’m very much on commissions. They’ve said, ‘I’ll wrap up your deals for you.’”

He says his wife has asked him, “Couldn’t you go somewhere else and make more money?” But Willes says he feels a part of a family at Access and envisions a bright future.

“I’m excited about what we’re working on technologywise. I think the money will come,” he said. “I’ve invested 12 years into this company, and I want to see it succeed.”

Company President Kelly Passey says what Access Development may lack in a flashy office or free lunch, it more than makes up for by encouraging employees to innovate and bring up new ideas so they can share in the company’s success.

“It is really that entrepreneurial spirit. They know if they help us grow the business, there is room to grow for them,” he said. “[They have] the opportunity of [knowing], ‘I’m not going to be in the same position in 10 years.’”

Passey notes that three Access vice presidents have risen through the ranks from entry-level jobs in the sales department, the data center and customer service.

The company’s success in keeping current with rapidly changing technology is what lured software engineering manager Cyril Thomas to Access Development four years ago.

“We have the opportunity to be on the cutting edge,” he said. “Our CTO [chief technology officer] has invested in trying out new things.”

When Emily Hayes, vice president of client success, started with the company 17 years ago as a receptionist, there were 35 employees. Access has exploded since then, but it has never stopped feeling like an intimate workplace.

“It’s kept the closeness. The sense that everyone’s success is tied together is in its DNA,” Hayes said. “In management meetings, we constantly hear ‘your people matter, your people come first.’”

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Access Development employees get food truck lunch tickets, on the company, after attending an open enrollment benefits meeting at the South Salt Lake company on Nov. 16, 2017.

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