SF Business Journal – Article

The software company, headquartered in San Rafael, has made active sports a part of its culture, and counts hundreds of athletes among its 1,500 employees. More than 100 employees race in the annual Corporate Challenge, which pits company against company in a 3.5 mile running race. The company’s CEO, Carl Bass, holds a three-on-three basketball tournament every year and the company hosts a department vs. department annual softball tournament and has hosted an international soccer tournament, where teams compete from Autodesk offices all over the world.

It has fielded teams in the Climb California event, where individuals race up the 52 flights of stairs to the top of the Bank of America building. Plus, Autodesk says employees who run marathons, cycle and compete in triathlons are supported by a company-paid triathlon coach. The company also sponsors events like the Susan G. Komen breast cancer walk, the Marin Human Race and the San Francisco AIDS walk.

The dedication to sports can be attributed to several things: a management team that loves sports, a location in Marin with easy access to running and biking trails, on-campus gym and showers and an inordinate number of employees who love to sweat.

“There’s definitely an environment here that fosters that type of activity,” said Mark Dolan, an avid runner and assistant treasurer at Autodesk, who coordinates the Corporate Challenge event for the company. Dolan said he doesn’t think the company necessarily seeks out athletes to employ, but athletes may be attracted to the great access to trails and the community of employees who value a healthy lifestyle. And Autodesk gets more than just employees who like the perks of an active workplace. “The company recognizes by having healthy employees who actively exercise, it keeps health care costs down,” Dolan said. “We have brown bag lunches here on wellness topics from a standpoint of eating right and exercising.”

Autodesk has in years past hired local triathlon coach Neil Fraser to train employees for various events. Fraser, owner of TRIMORE Fitness, a triathlon training business in Novato, has trained employees at lots of Bay Area companies for running races, triathlons and more. He said employees tell him that training has positive benefits in their work lives. “They tell us they are more alert at work and more productive,” Fraser said. “They say they are happier, more confident and more motivated.” Tom Phillips, founding partner of Sports Basement, said he wants employees to have product knowledge of the sports apparel and equipment the store sells, and therefore athletes are a good fit. “We don’t necessarily recruit athletes, but obviously a lot of athletes are drawn to work for us,” he said. “So the benefit is to the customers that our employees are active.”

Phillips said Sports Basement provides $1,000 in reimbursement annually to employees for race entry fees. The company provides a fully stocked kitchen and flexible work hours. In return, the majority of Sports Basement’s employees are active and many are athletes trying to extend collegiate athletic careers. That sort of support, he said, “helps keep employees here.”

lriddell@bizjournals.com / (415) 288-4968

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