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J. Barry Griswell, Principal Financial Group Inc.

Though his office is 65 years old, it’s unlikely that Principal Financial Group Inc. CEO J. Barry Griswell has any plans to retire the venerable workspace that has served him and his predecessors since 1940.

Outfitted with its original art deco fixtures, mahogany paneling and cherry furniture, Griswell’s office at 711 High St. also features pieces from the company’s art collection. Wood plantation shutters frame the windows, which look out over downtown Des Moines.

Perhaps another reason that readers voted Griswell’s office the “best decorated CEO office” is its lack of clutter. Though he uses every medium available to keep up with business trends, he’s carefully organized to keep a minimum of paper or files on his desk, which he meticulously clears off at the end of each day.

Another hallmark of Griswell’s office is his collection of the latest business books, which he buys by the case so he can send copies to colleagues and friends, said Martha Willits, president and CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

“So I joke that we all have the same library, and it’s a good one,” Willits said.

Runners-up: Glenn De Stigter, The Weitz Co., Dan Rupprecht, R&R Realty


Principal Financial Group Inc.

A Des Moines-based company that’s celebrating its 125th anniversary this year has every reason to look forward to a bright future in its next 125 years. The awards and recognition bestowed upon the Principal Financial Group Inc. by top industry publications within the past year could fill an entire page. Among them is a ranking of No. 211 among Fortune magazine’s Largest 500 Corporations, and its place on The Forbes 2000 list, which recognized Principal as the world’s 211th largest and most powerful company based on a composite ranking of sales, profits, assets and market value.

A leader in 401(k) and other types of retirement plans in the United States, Principal manages plans for 34,600 employers and 2.9 million pension plan participants. It is ranked among the 100 largest mutual fund managers, serving more than 900,000 shareholder accounts. In life insurance, Principal is the second-largest group insurer, providing coverage for 1.8 million workers. In international asset management, Principal has more than 5 million overseas customers, and is Brazil’s third-largest pension provider.

Runners-up: Wells Fargo; Krause Gentle Corp.


Flynn Wright Inc.

As Flynn Wright Inc. has grown from a staff of only about 10 employees in 1984 to almost 50 today, the family-owned business is proud to have maintained a culture that brings out the best in people, according to President and CEO Andy Flynn.

Flynn said the full-service marketing and communications firm knows that its employees play a vital role in its success, which is why the company tries to create a caring environment where they will want to work for many years.

“In our industry, we really don’t have a warehouse full of tangible things that we ship every day; we rely on our incredibly talented people to work though the creative process every day,” Flynn said.

Flynn Wright encourages its employees to be involved in the community, and the agency also devotes a considerable amount of time to pro-bono work for local non-profit organizations such as the American Heart Association, Easter Seals of Iowa and Goodwill Industries.

“Because of this involvement, the Greater Des Moines community has become very familiar with our people, our business, our growth and the way we operate,” Flynn said. “They also see how proactive, positive and progressive we are as an agency.”

Runners-up: Storey-Kenworthy Inc.; Palmer Search Group Inc.


Nyemaster, Goode, West, Hansell & O’Brien P.C.

One of Iowa’s largest and legal practices has been recognized by Business Record readers as their choice for best law firm. Founded in 1918, Nyemaster, Goode, West, Hansell & O’Brien P.C. provides a wide range of legal services to clients throughout the Midwest, ranging from Fortune 500 corporations to individuals and small businesses. The firm’s 80 attorneys practice within six specialized departments, supported by a 66-person office staff. The firm, which has offices in Des Moines and Ames, continues to add quality attorneys at a healthy pace, said its president, Richard Sapp.

“I think we have well-recognized legal expertise in a broad range of practice areas,” Sapp said. “We do everything from municipal and governmental law to every kind of litigation you can think of, including some complex areas that not all firms have.

“We try very hard at maintaining our reputation for integrity and professionalism,” he added, “not only with the courts and clients, but with opposing counsel and their clients. Our people, both our attorneys and staff, are very involved in community and civic work. Many of our people are involved in projects important to the city.”

Runners-up: Belin Lamson McCormick Zumbach Flynn; Davis, Brown, Koehn, Shors & Roberts P.C.


McGladrey & Pullen LLP

Kevin Prust, partner at McGladrey & Pullen LLP, attributes the success of the firm to its 160 employees, who he said are focused and committed to helping their clients succeed as well.

“This, coupled with a culture of teamwork, has allowed us the privilege of serving multiple generations of clients,” he said. “This is illustrated by our history of results – nearly 60 years here in the Greater Des Moines area and over 79 years in Iowa.”

McGladrey & Pullen, a certified public accounting firm, operates under an alternative practice structure with RSM McGladrey Inc., a financially focused business services firm. The two independent businesses are able to work together to better serve their clients.

McGladrey & Pullen is the largest employer of CPAs in Iowa, serving more than 2,500 mid-sided Iowa companies. The company provides audits, reviews and compilations, Securities and Exchange Commission registrant services, capital transaction services, forensic accounting, feasibility studies and projections and other services.

Runner-up: Ernst & Young LLP


Ernst & Young LLP

Ernst & Young LLP’s experience in accounting creates a solid background for the company to also serve many financial planning needs of its customers.

“Our core expertise in tax is a key differentiator, as virtually all financial planning decisions, including retirement planning, investment planning and wealth transfer/business succession planning, have income and/or estate tax implications,” according to David Merritt, the senior tax manager for Ernst & Young

Merritt said Ernst & Young, which opened its doors in Des Moines in 1949 as Ernst & Ernst, works mainly with owners of closely held businesses and corporate executives on personal financial planning. The company recently changed its scope of personal financial planning services to comply with regulatory changes. On June 30, Ernst & Young exited the financial services arena, which Merritt said demonstrates its commitment to avoiding potential conflicts of interest between its audit clients and money managers.

“While Ernst & Young will no longer recommend specific mutual funds or money managers, we will still help clients develop a sound investment strategy, including asset allocation and diversification strategies,” he said.

Runners-up: Broker Dealer Financial Services Corp.; Smith Barney



Jim Boyd, WHO Radio’s news director, said he emphasizes the importance of business news to the station’s reporters, from announcements of new small businesses on up to large companies’ quarterly earnings.

“You have your health news, your community news and so forth, but I’m of the background that let’s not forget the business news, because as the business community goes, so does the economy,” Boyd said.

Listeners who tune in to WHO often hear news that is less than an hour old, Boyd said, because the station broadcasts at least one news report per hour, up to as many as five during the morning commute. Several members of the 10-person news staff have worked for WHO for several years and have earned their listeners’ trust through their regular broadcasts.

“Any time you have an organization where you don’t have a lot of turnover, as long as the ideas keep flowing and they’re fresh, that’s about the best situation you can be in,” Boyd said.

Runners-up: WOI; KGGO



WHO-TV News Director Mark Ginther said the station’s staff pays close attention to the day’s top business news and how it affects Central Iowans, making it the best TV station for business news, according to Business Record readers.

“We’re very aware that most of our viewers work, and tell stories that impact their lives, from workplace issues to issues in the business scene,” Ginther said.

He believes WHO has been more aggressive in its coverage of several major business stories in Central Iowa, particularly those involving Maytag Corp. He said the station has tried to forge a stronger relationship with CNBC, enabling the staff to tap into national resources when reporting on business news.

“Whenever there’s a story of significant business impact, we try to understand it and explain it the best we can,” Ginther said.

Runners-up: KCCI, WOI-TV


Betts Auto Campus

At Betts Auto Campus, dealer principal Rich Willis said it’s the people who make the difference, which is a key reason the dealership has been named the best in Des Moines for the 10th year in a row.

“They understand how to treat a customer like a guest in their own home, and with that philosophy constantly in front of them, that’s what helps us earn people’s business,” he said. The dealership has added about 15 workers over the past year in a variety of departments, and now has a staff of more than 200 people.

The past year has seen the completion of several construction projects at Betts Auto Campus. A 27,000-square-foot showroom for Jaguars and Volvos, which had been housed eight blocks from the dealership at 2121 N.W. 100th St., was completed last fall. A specialty showroom for Hummers was completed in the spring. Betts will begin some minor remodeling of its Cadillac showroom in early 2006.

Runners-up: Jordan Motors; Dewey Ford


Principal Financial Group Inc.

Leading a company that’s been voted the best place to be a CEO has a lot to do with the quality and dedication of its employees, says J. Barry Griswell, chairman, president and CEO of the Principal Financial Group Inc.. It may also have something to do with having the best-decorated office, but that’s another Best of Des Moines category that Griswell has won.

Principal, which garnered four other Best of Des Moines awards this year, is clearly deserving of the best place to be a CEO distinction, Griswell said.

“The Principal Financial Group embodies credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie,” he said. “Employees of the Principal work very hard every day to do right by our customers. That’s something that each employee takes seriously and personally. You couldn’t ask for a better group. They are dedicated, caring, smart, and fun professionals.”

Runners-up: Iowa Health System, Wells Fargo & Co.


Principal Financial Group Inc.

The designation of the Principal Financial Group Inc. as the best place to work in Greater Des Moines is an affirmation of what a number of national organizations and publications have been saying about the company for years.

For the third year in a row, Principal was included by Fortune magazine in January in its annual “100 Best Companies to Work For” rankings. Among other national organizations that have recognized Principal for its workplace excellence are AARP, which named it one of the “Best Employers for Workers Over 50,” and the National Association of Female Executives, which for the third consecutive year named Principal one of the “Top 30 Companies for Executive Women.”

In March, Principal was added to Fortune’s lists of America’s most admired companies. It has also been recognized by the Iowa Asian Alliance for its leadership and commitment to improving the lives of Asian-Americans, as well as by Latina Style magazine as one of “50 Best Places for Latinas to Work.”

Runners-up: Iowa Health System, Flynn Wright Inc.


The Weitz Co.

The Weitz Co. was No. 1 in the large-company category of the Best Places to Work in Central Iowa competition last spring, and its progressive approach paid off again here. The contractor can boast of several innovative programs designed to build and retain a strong group of employees. Among these are: entry interviews for new hires and “stay” interviews conducted on a regular basis; coaches for members of senior management; a peer adviser program for new employees; and a Spanish-language proficiency program linked to an annual bonus. Weitz Iowa President Mike Tousley said, “I do believe the pressure is on companies now to make sure their employees are satisfied and content.” Construction can be an unpredictable industry, but Tousley said, “our workforce will remain fairly stable for the next 18 months with the work we’ve got under contract.”

Runners-up: Principal Financial Group Inc.; Wells Fargo & Co.


Flynn Wright Inc.

Flynn Wright Inc.’s employees believe in “doing their homework” before mapping out a creative approach, and that has earned the company the Business Record readers’ recognition as best advertising agency for four consecutive years.

Andy Flynn, Flynn Wright’s president and CEO, says the company’s strategic approach examines a client’s business on the front end by learning about its business and industry to determine what makes that client unique. The agency then applies what they have learned to determine the best creative approach.

“A lot of people in our industry may start the other way around, with creative,” Flynn said. “There is a lot of good creative, but even if it’s creative and clever, it might not be the best approach for that client.”

The agency represents many clients throughout Central Iowa, including Mediacom Communications Corp., MidAmerican Energy Co., Atlantic Bottling Co., Josephs Jewelers, Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino and Anderson Erickson Dairy. In addition to advertising, Flynn Wright is a full-service marketing and communications firm specializing in marketing, public relations, research and interactive media.

Runners-up: Strategic America; Integer Group


Hanser & Associates

In nine years, West Des Moines-based Hanser & Associates has assembled a client base of local and national companies, and has completed work for those clients that has earned the agency numerous awards, including its second Bronze Anvil Award, considered the “Oscar of public relations,” and the distinction as the best public relations agency in Des Moines for the sixth year in a row.

“What has always guided Hanser & Associates is that we’re all about the client and we listen to clients and take the message to the world,” said President Ron Hanser, who founded the company along with his wife, Bonnie.

Hanser said the company’s 10-person staff and $1 million in annual revenues have remained fairly steady “at a time when a lot of firms have gotten out of the business or have been set back.”

Hanser & Associates takes advantage of its relationship with worldwide affiliate offices, as well as Hanser’s role as the 2004-2006 global president of Pinnacle Worldwide, to bring global best practices to its clients.

Runners-up: Flynn Wright Inc.; Strategic America


Markey’s Audio Visual

Doug Hanson has seen the success of Markey’s Audio Visual since it opened in 1996, and what it has taken to come this far. With that in mind, he remains focused on the same steady growth that has benefited his business since day one.

Markey’s is a production and rental company and a branch of Indianapolis-based Markey’s Audio Visual, which has operations in Indiana, Iowa, Florida and Ohio. Hanson’s operation at 4934 Franklin Ave. serves up to 100 customers on a regular basis.

The company rents and sells equipment for audio, video, lighting, staging and special events ranging from in-house business meetings to conventions with hundreds of business professionals. It also provides videotaping and production services for meetings, conferences and other events.

Runners-up: Pratt Audio-Visual & Video Corp.; Screenscape Studios


Wells Fargo Bank Iowa

Empowering its customers to succeed is the goal of Wells Fargo Financial’s team members, who offer a broad range of corporate financial services through 6,000 Wells Fargo banking stores throughout North America.

Wells Fargo’s size is matched by its financial strength. Wells Fargo Bank is the only bank in the United States with an “Aaa” rating from Moody’s Investors Service.

The array of commercial banking products and services offered by Wells Fargo ranges from retirement plans and 401(k) plan administration to institutional asset advisers and asset-based lending and global trust and custody services, as well as traditional banking services such as credit, deposits and treasury management. Other major services include retail private-label credit card services, auto dealer credit services, lease financing, receivables lending and mergers and acquisitions.

Wells Fargo Bank operates banking stores throughout the metro area, which is also home to the headquarters of Wells Fargo Financial and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.

Runners-up: Commercial Federal Bank; West Bank


AIB College of Business

AIB College of Business goes to great lengths to make sure its coursework fits with the demands of today’s business environment, and President Nancy Williams believes that ongoing process of review is reflected in the quality education its students receive.

Williams said AIB’s staff consults with employers in the community, representatives from major companies who serve on the college’s advisory board and its faculty in order to keep the college’s programs up-to-date with business trends and address weaknesses employers see in their workforce.

“This particular year, we’ve been doing a lot of rejuvenating of the programs and updating the individual coursework involved in the majors,” she said. “We have to keep changing so that we’re not falling behind and be proactive in what we’re teaching.”

Williams said the 85-year-old college offers small class sizes and flexible scheduling for students, with day, evening and online classes, which allows students to continue working while earning their degrees.

“We are an importer into the community,” Williams said. “The students choose Des Moines because they can have internship and part-time jobs in the community, and then many of them choose to live here.”

Runners-up: University of Iowa; Hamilton College

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