THEY DON'T LIKE Marmite, freely admit when they have been "chumps", and run a software business with 182 employees working for clients from small businesses to Walt Disney Studios. Neil Davidson and Simon Galbraith set up this private company in 1999 "in the beautiful, if rather flat, university town of Cambridge", and named it after the hillier vista in Florence, Italy. Davidson used to live on Via Porta Rossa and named the company after this "red gate street" which is near where Leonardo da Vinci arguably invented the database in 1512.
The firm has been a Best Company since 2007, when it debuted in eighth place, and has trebled in size in this time. Last year, the joint chief executives suggested a new set of values, which were then published in the first Book of Red Gate.
The firm — winner of our special award for innovation in engagement practice — creates "ingeniously simple tools" for more than 500,000 Microsoft technology professionals worldwide, and also values "being reasonable with each other", "motivating without carrots or sticks", "counting contribution and not hours" and another value along the lines of "not being an ass". Staff say Red Gate is run on these strong values (89%) and that senior managers truly live them (88%).
The company has a top 20 score of 87% overall for Leadership, and senior managers make a habit of listening to their workforce (86%). The Red Gate website explains that in the early days: "We were chumps because we didn't really listen to what our sales team was telling us." Now Davidson and Galbraith have open ears.
Everyone was recently asked to submit ideas to a "nine postcards" forum and "it's not uncommon to find yourself in a Monday afternoon yoga class with Simon, completing a crossword in the canteen with Neil or having breakfast or lunch with both of them", one employee tells us. They are inspiring too (87%), and Davidson has won a local businessman of the year award, and writes books, blogs and tweets for 2,500 followers on Twitter.
Red Gate is also good at Giving Something Back (77%). It supports its community (74%), promoting computer science studies to local sixth-form students, giving an award to the best in this subject at Cambridge University and sponsoring the university's MPhil course as well as an internship programme. Last year, it helped fund the city fireworks, and it also offers rent-free office space to local start-up technology companies.
There's a charitable activity day each year and all this is not just done for good publicity (79%, the 11th highest score).