SBJ: What are the keys to your company growth?
Michael Smith: With our industry and the market that we work in, it’s really about building your reputation and building your name. Once we were able to break down those barriers, people started recognizing us as a full implementation partner. Another key has been our ability to seek out talent. One of the main keys for us and our business model is that we really look to provide a more intimate relationship with our clients as far as same time zones, face-to-face when needed.
SBJ: How have you managed massive revenue and employee growth?
Smith: Since we were selected for the award, we’ve actually grown and we’re at 208 people now. The big challenges with the rate at which we have grown – we’re just shy of 3 years old – it’s really been about keeping up with the demand. We don’t want to take on more work than we can be successful at. I’ve worked with other vendors that the sales team really just doesn’t ever say no, and they ended up not being able to provide the quality of work that maybe they intended to. Our recruiting team is phenomenal. We work in a niche software suite. It’s not as easy as just hiring the technology guys or girls that are out in the industry. Finding those people has been a challenge.
SBJ: What’s the strategy of having additional offices in South Carolina, Puerto Rico and Honduras? How do you maintain company culture?
Smith: Springfield was kind of a natural choice because I’m fairly local to here. I’m actually from Marshfield. South Carolina seems to be another one of those hot points of talent. Our CEO is a resident of Puerto Rico, and we’ve actually been able to tap into a lot of their technology educational programs down there to source talent. That really provides us the competition to the offshore model. The benefit that we believe that we have in that is being what we call nearshore. It’s East Coast time zone; it’s easy access for travel, pandemic aside. Community hasn’t been a walk in the park. It’s definitely one of our hardest struggles. If we’re going to do an event in Springfield, we make sure that we do an event in South Carolina, and we also do a good job of adhering to the remote culture, as well. We try not to leave anybody behind. We’ve done a holiday lunch here in Springfield and (Marketing Director) Aislynn (Hamilton) has shipped out gift cards – something to make them feel like they’re getting to celebrate with those of us in an office.
SBJ: How have your goals for the business changed in the past three years?
Smith: When we started in 2018, it was just Chris and I. He was CEO, and I was managing partner. As we began to hire a few and spread our wings a little bit with additional projects, we started setting a little bit larger goals for ourselves. Where we are right now is long term, we want to be insurance carriers’ first choice. It’s a very competitive market with what we’re doing. There’s a lot of good partners out there in the software platform that we’re working in. But we want to set that really high. As we work toward that end goal, I think it’s really about continuing to provide high quality, high value and just really solid relationships with our clients. But we want to do that while we continue to maintain a solid work-life balance with our employees.
SBJ: What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Smith: Something that my father-in-law told me – he owns his own business as well. He said that the most important thing that you can do is always take care of your teams. That’s something that Chris and I both have really taken to heart, as we’ve built this together. We really make it a point to always stay on top of everybody the best that you can. There’s kind of a joke that people make of me that I only had to remember the first 100 names and it gets harder and harder as you grow. I feel like I at least make a good effort to continue to build those relationships and foster that community.
The Forward SGF comprehensive plan was born from the input of residents, and one message that came through loud and clear was their desire for connection.