Reliance Partners, Skuid named best employers by Inc. magazine

Hope Woodruff, left, and Mary Bruce, right, complete their business in the lobby of Skuid Thursday morning inside Liberty Tower. Receptionist Jessica Mazariegos continues her work there.
photo Ken McElrath, founder of SKUID.

Two Chattanooga startup companies, Skuid and Reliance Partners, were named to Inc. magazine's Best workplaces for 2018.

The local companies were the only Tennessee employers on the magazine's top employer list, which included 285 businesses across the country nominated for the award and picked based upon favorable reviews by their employees.

Skuid, a 5-year-old software development firm headed by Ken McElrath, boasts that its "culture is founded on the core belief in the value and dignity of every human being. The company, which derives its name from the acronym Scalable Kits for User Interface Design, has grown to more than 150 employees at its headquarters in the Liberty Tower in downtown Chattanooga and at other offices in San Francisco, London and Zurich, Switzerland.

"To cultivate culture, we've established core principles," the company said in its award nomination. "We hire humble experts, design thinkers, and caring heroes. We invest in the growth and development of our employees and offer an environment of shared goals and values, rich experiences, and opportunities."

Reliance Partners, founded in 2009 and headed by Andrew Ladebauche, is one of the fastest-growing commercial insurance agencies in the country and a leader in the commercial transportation and logistics insurance space. Reliance Partners has locations in Chattanooga, Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Vero Beach, Fla., and Victoria, Tex., with a national client base.

Laura Ann Howell, senior vice president of Reliance Partners, said the company's goal "is to provide and support a road-map to success for every member of the team."

"We take time to understand every goal for each team member and work in a constructive fashion to help them reach their goals personally and professionally," Reliance Partners said in describing its employment philosophy. "We believe that it is up to us to create an environment and support system to help each team member meet her/his goals. Our culture is unique in that we have no physical offices inside the locations where we operate. Employees sit together in a high energy environment. It is not uncommon to hear numerous employees speaking different languages. Diversity is extremely important."

The 2018 Inc. Best Workplaces Awards assessed applicants on the basis of benefits offered and responses from many of workers employed at the companies nominated for the awards. Quantum Workplace, a leading software platform for employee engagement and performance, partners with Inc. to survey Americans in pursuit of the employers that create strong cultures of engagement.

With national unemployment at a 17-year low, Inc,. magazine said businesses are doing more to recruit, engage, and retain talent. Among participating companies, 74.2 percent of workers are highly engaged, compared with 72.1 percent in last year's data set.

"We discovered that satisfying workplace philosophies are even more important than generous policies," said James Ledbetter, Inc. editor-in-chief.

Contact Dave Flessner at or at 757-6340