For Tony Purcell, being in the right place at the right time made a lifetime's worth of difference.

Working for a company whose employees were "griping and moaning all the time," Purcell would often cross paths with workers from a nearby company who felt very differently.

"They always seemed so positive and upbeat," Purcell recalls.

The company was Medical Solutions Supplier in Glen Mills, which distributes compression pumps for patients with lymphedema, chronic wounds and circulatory diseases. This year, it was named the No. 1 small company in our Top Workplaces survey.

Purcell approached the company's CEO, Joseph Carberry, to sound him out about how he motivated his employees.

Fast forward from that conversation five-plus years ago and Tony Purcell is a senior compression therapy consultant for Carberry's company.

He transferred to Fort Myers, Fla. to cover the company's South and Southwest Florida territory and to be close to his son's family and he couldn't be happier.

"They make it easy to care because they're caring for you," Purcell said.

Carberry sums up his philosophy this way: "We think one really good person can do the job of three good people."

"Culture doesn't come from the profit margin," Carberry said. "You only get great value from your employees when they feel they can effect change."

Medical Solution Supplier is a small company with its 60 employees about evenly split between the Glen Mills headquarters and the rest of the country.

A sample of employee comments provides a window into why the company is considered an outstanding employer:

  • "Decisions are made with both the head and the heart."
  • "Leadership is always asking how they can make our job easier. Always feel that my work/time is valued."
  • "Our core values are at the heart of everything we do. And we have a true team environment in which we are able to maximize everyone's talents."

It helps that employees at Medical Solutions Supplier have regular contact with the people they serve.

Representatives like Purcell not only call on physicians to sell their product, they also teach patients how to use it and help both groups wade through the paperwork thicket required for insurance reimbursement.

Most of their patients have conditions that can't be cured, but the pumps help them lead the most normal lives possible.

Purcell spoke of calling on a patient who would likely lose a leg without the pump. The man did not have insurance coverage but Medical Solutions gave him a pump through their donation program.

"He couldn't believe it," Purcell said.

A big part of Carberry's work is keeping employees involved in all aspects of the company.

"Training is an ongoing process," Carberry said. "Everybody in the company is part of the 'daily huddle.' They report any positives they're experiencing, any 'choke points.'"

"We want to know where they stand on their workload every day."

Outside representatives like Purcell are backed by a highly trained support staff in Glen Mills.

"They're constantly on the phone with patients," Purcell said. "I couldn't do my job without them."

The company recently supplemented the top leadership with a "PIT crew," an acronym for Process Improvement Team. A volunteer from each department spends six months on the team providing feedback to top management.

Carberry said that the uncertainty of the health care environment in the past few years has made it tougher to maintain a positive corporate culture. "With less money around, you have to be more creative," he said.

Part of that job falls to Colleen Fitzpatrick, whose official title is "executive assistant" but whose unofficial title is "fun officer."

"Sales reps can feel isolated," Fitzpatrick said, and she is partly responsible for seeing that they don't.

For example, if there's a headquarters event that involves food, Fitzpatrick makes sure food is shipped to them.

"Everything I do here each week, I try to simulate for them," she said. This includes a March Madness basketball pool.

At company headquarters, she has staged scavenger hunts in the city or a fundraiser for Alex's Lemonade Stand in which Carberry was duct taped to a wall.

Purcell might miss those, but he misses little else.

"They care for you and you're working for the patients," he said. "It's kind of like a fairy tale."