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Michael Smith and Hailey Kolstad
Rebecca Green | SBJ
Michael Smith and Hailey Kolstad

2023 Economic Impact Awards 1-10 Years in Business: Next Level Solutions

Lightning in a Bottle

Posted online

It’s a good thing they’re in insurance, because software developer Next Level Solutions appears to be on fire.

The company ended 2022 with 148 Springfield employees, but 327 companywide, with other offices in Columbia, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and Honduras and a quarter of the staff composed of remote workers.

At the middle of this year, President and CEO Chris Sawyer says he had 375 people in the company, with plans to reach 425 by the end of 2023. About half the staff is in the Springfield office.

“It’s important for me and our company to feel like we belong to something, and our employees certainly feel like they belong to the Springfield community,” he says.

Growth is expected to continue locally, according to Sawyer, who operates from his home in Portland, Maine.

“Over the next three years, our expectation is to have 600, 700 or 800 people there,” Sawyer says.

Next Level Solutions is a professional services company focused on the property and casualty insurance market, Sawyer says. When insurance customers open the big envelope and see how much money they’re paying for what kind of coverage, it may be a NLS work product in their hands.

“We provide a lot of the core solutions that make a lot of those customer-facing things you see when you work with whoever your insurance company is,” he says.

In a highly regulated industry where each state has its own department of insurance, there are a lot of laws for Next Level Solutions staff to keep track of.

He notes the company encourages employees to come into the office three days per week, and higher performers can work entirely from home.

“We’re very much a flex company now,” he says. “You can’t dig your heels in and buck the system to the point of devastating your workforce. You have to change with the times – if not, the times will change without you.”

Sawyer says his company has caught lightning in a bottle with its onshore/near-shore approach. About 13% of its staff is in Puerto Rico, which is easy to get to via a five-hour flight from Springfield. Ditto Honduras, which is a much closer office than the offshore option of India would be.

“There’s a certain cost advantage to places like Puerto Rico, and that allows us to financially compete with companies doing business in offshore India,” he says. “To get to India from really any place east of the Mississippi is a true all-day event.”

The insurance industry is not a glamorous one, but it’s strong, Sawyer says.

“Most of them are rock-solid financially and have a bunch of working capital,” he says. “We do a bunch of work with the Berkshire Hathaway company, and part of the reason Warren Buffett likes insurance companies is they’re flush with cash.”

They’re also great bill-payers, Sawyer says.

“We tend to focus a lot of our energy on core administrative platforms,” he says. “For us, it’s a narrow hole but very, very deep.”

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