Victory!


Last Thursday I received the call that we had been awarded the contract we have long been awaiting a response on. I actually can only recall the first few seconds of the phone call because once I got the word that we won, I was done. My mind raced with so many emotions….pride, excitement, amazement, nervousness, and anxiety because now the hard work begins. If we can’t produce results then we won’t survive to see the end of this 5 year contract we have just been awarded.

When I started integrateIT in 2004, people used to always ask me, what my goals were for the company. My goal has NEVER been to sell the company and cash in. My goal has always been to grow a company that people want to work for and one day retire working for this company. Our number one goal has been to win a prime contract. The reason this is big in our industry is for a few reasons. For starters it provides a little more stability for a company and also more flexibility in your ability to hire the people you want without needing to get approval from another company. The other reason winning a prime contract is important is because it shows other people you know what you are doing and gives you the confidence that you can do it again.

3 years ago we attempted a prime contract bid and we were slapped in the face by reality. At that time the reality was we were not ready or qualified to be a prime contractor. The government had no problem telling us this in our debrief in what was a painful hour long meeting where we were bluntly told all the things we did wrong or could have done better in our proposal. It was demoralizing and at that time I wasn’t sure if we would ever attain this goal. Fast forward to last week and you can see why we were so overjoyed by this award. We had to make a tough decision to go forward with all of this work to submit this proposal after the last experience of being shot down big time. We did it. We really have come a long way and it feels great. So many people deserves thanks for helping us get o this point…..a great co owner, our families for supporting us, mentors who have helped give us guidance along the way, and of course our employees that provide us with an incredible story to tell to our potential clients of previous successes we have obtained.

I think what my co owner Dave wrote last Thursday sums up how I feel about this award. “I think we made it”!

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Geoff is the CEO of integrateIT (http://www.integrateit.net). integrateIT strives to provide innovative solutions to organizations within the public and private sectors in the Washington, DC metro area and beyond. We aim to supply clients with qualified, energetic resources that foster both a winning team attitude and a wealth of technical and management expertise. integrateIT strives to add value to clients by successfully completing projects within budget, scope, and schedule requirements.

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The Waiting Game


So it’s now a few months since we submitted our proposal to the government. We have submitted the proposal, been brought in for a 3 hour oral presentation, been asked follow up questions and then………*crickets*. We have literally heard NOTHING and it is consuming us.

A few days ago we called because work is scheduled to begin on October 1st and we were told COB Tuesday. That was now 2 days ago and still …NOTHING. We are at the mercy of the client and we are literally sitting around hitting refresh on our email and checking the fax machine non stop.

We have a list of items we want to tackle next but they are all on hold until we hear the decision on this award. We don’t want to start all these new projects only to have to put them all on hold if we find out we somehow won this thing. It’s actually amazing how our mindsets have changed throughout the process. What started with us just “tossing our hat into the ring” has now turned to us sitting by thinking we may actually somehow win. It’s actually pretty exciting for us and shows us how far we have come since our miserable failed attempt at a prime contract 3 years ago. Our documents have improved so much, our maturity as an organization has improved so much and apparently the clients are noticing since we have made it this far. So now back to waiting …..and waiting….

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Geoff is the CEO of integrateIT (http://www.integrateit.net). integrateIT strives to provide innovative solutions to organizations within the public and private sectors in the Washington, DC metro area and beyond. We aim to supply clients with qualified, energetic resources that foster both a winning team attitude and a wealth of technical and management expertise. integrateIT strives to add value to clients by successfully completing projects within budget, scope, and schedule requirements.

Performance Reviews – Overkill or Necessity


Now in our 8th year of doing business, one of the topics we have always struggled with is what form of performance appraisal system is required in order to meet our needs, our employees needs, but also not be overkill or too much of a burden on our staff that sometimes join a small company in order to get away from bureaucracy like this.

Let’s face it, we all hate performance reviews. Employees hate filling them out, customers hate providing feedback for them, managers hate taking the time to write them, and nobody likes to be told what they are not good at. That being said, my opinion is that it is critical to have some form of a review system in place because it is not fair to an employee that is looking for feedback on how they are doing on their job to not receive it. It’s also not wise for us to let an employee flounder in their job if we feel we can help them improve not only their work experience but also that of their customers.

We have tried it all. Mid Cycle reviews, Year end Reviews, Informal Reviews, Virtual Reviews. This year I think we have finally found what will work for us. A very simple year end review that requires the employee to rate themselves on a few of our core competencies, followed by input that is provided by the client, and then management input that will culminate with an in person review between the manager and the employee.

My thought on it is that if you are going to have a performance review program than it should serve the purpose that it is in place for. It needs to be honest as tough as that may be at times. In the past we used to sugar coat things and I think it was a disservice to our staff. Reviews aren’t meant to just tell the employee what they are good at. If you can’t be honest and tell your employees what they need to improve upon, your customer eventually will and at that point it may be too late. Our goal this year in writing our reviews is to give all staff members something that is actionable for them to improve upon. This doesn’t by any means think they are not good at their jobs. It just means that they are not perfect and that we are trying to help them improve themselves and in doing so also improve our company reputation with our clients.

I know that many of our staff hate the fact that we require this review and that they are forced to rank themselves and then sit through a review with their manager. In all honesty, I know that our management doesn’t really like having to do them either. After a few years of back and forth on this topic though, I think that we have come to the realization that it is our duty as management to provide our staff with an honest and useful review so that they are never blindsided by this information after it is too late.

What kind of feedback do you provide to your staff?

Branding


Coming into 2012 we set a goal to increase our brand awareness. It sounds sort of funny for a small company to be thinking about brand awareness and realistically what could we expect to gain by this increased brand awareness? Our goal wasn’t to be looked at like the next Apple or anything but rather to just focus more on getting our name out there. Just 2 months into the new year I am happy to report it is working….in a big way.

We started by trying to increase our attention to social media. We set up accounts on Facebook and Twitter and began posting updates about things going on within our company. We didn’t have any false ideas that we would start recruiting people or anything through these mediums but simply viewed it as a way to get our name out there to family and friends and when it comes to twitter to get our name out there to other companies.

We started to pay a LOT of attention to our website and ensuring that we had fresh content on it. We realized that a lot more people than we thought were visiting our website (www.integrateit.net) and each time a person went to our website it was similar to meeting a person face to face making that first impression. If they went to our site and were not impressed they probably wouldn’t go back and may not have any interest in contacting us for more information. We also updated job postings on the site to ensure they were current and improved the method by which people could contact us through our website. It has worked. I have received several resumes that have come to us through our website whereas  in the past we have had to seek out resumes. We have also had several inquiries from accountants, recruiters, and just last night a call from the local economic improvement board looking to work with us as we were a local small business.

Charity Events -This has always been something we have taken pride in. We are a company that is very active with charity. What has changed is that we used to not advertise it because it was not why we did it. What I have learned over this past year though is that a LOT of people view our involvement with charity as a huge reason to want to join our company. We are about to start our first ever March Madness Pool for all of our employees where they will each fill out a NCAA basketball bracket and play for $500 for the charity of their choice as well as $200 Visa Gift card for themselves. This event has garnered a lot of excitement among the staff and I am very excited to share updates on our Facebook page on not only how everyone is faring in the pool but also which charities are staff have chosen to play for.

On March 29th I have been asked to speak to the Capstone program at George Mason University. This is a very big deal for me as well as the company. For me, it has been weird to speak to the dean of the program as well as the professor of the classes I will be speaking to and see their excitement in having me come to speak to their class about my story. I don’t view my story as anything out of the ordinary but to them it is a chance for these students to hear a different story from the usual large company executives that normally come in and speak. It is a chance for them to hear someone that is passionate about what they do and where their company is headed. For our company it is an awesome opportunity to get our name out there to individuals that will be entering the job market soon and to grow a relationship with a local university. I am so excited for this opportunity.

Finally, last week we were informed that we have been named a finalist for the Washington Business Journals 2012 Best Places to Work. Being named a finalist for this award is affirmation that we are doing some great things and that it is being noticed. When I started integrateIT in 2004 I had this vision in my mind that I could start a company that would be a really cool place to work, that we would be looked at as experts in our field, and that we could do great things for our community. Being named a finalist for this award sort of gives me a push and makes me realize that we are doing it. We still have a long way to go and there are a lot more things we can (and hopefully will) do.

The Biz and I have been really busy this year trying to increase our brand recognition and get our name out there. It was something we thought was important heading into this year and after a few months we are already starting to see a big payoff from these efforts. If anyone else has any other branding ideas we could take advantage of that are outside the box we’d love to hear about them.