‘Know Your Employees’ Ethos Leads to Growth

Every Nov. 11, the entire staff of Optomi spends the day giving back to the community. It’s how the IT staffing firm celebrates the anniversary of its founding in 2012.  They call it Opt2Give Day.

“We have literally torn down a kitchen and helped a family rebuild it,” says Amber Gerard, vice president of corporate relations. Other activities have included tutoring kids at a local school, serving meals to the homeless, mulching miles of trail in a park and organizing food at a food bank.

Optomi LLC is an IT staffing firm that focuses on filling positions — both contract and direct hire — in the software development life cycle. It is based in Atlanta and has seven other established offices, with a new Austin branch launching next month and plans to open more.

Founders Michael Winwood and Todd Black “wanted to create a unique atmosphere with extremely strong core values,” Gerard says. “With that, you’re bringing on a very dedicated and passionate team.”  The founders had experience with large firms where upper-level managers didn’t know the individual recruiters and account executives. Although its growth has been impressive — the firm has doubled in size each year and has about 100 internal employees — Optomi is different.  “They know everyone,” Gerard says. “They call to congratulate them on their first deal and they call them on their 20th deal.”

The firm’s top executives serve as mentors to more junior staff and many have regular one-on-one chats with the founders.

“The whole executive staff is heavily involved in developing people,” Gerard says. “We want each recruiter to have the opportunity to become a managing director or a vice president.”  Hiring the right people in the first place is key. “Do they have the integrity, the drive, the motivation that’s going to set them apart?” Gerard says. “We hire people that could walk into a room and hold a conversation with a stranger, and the next day the stranger remembers them.”

Once hired, employees are shown that they are an integral part of the company. They are able to earn phantom stock in the company and are given a voice in how it is run. The Platinum Club, which rewards top performers, takes a trip to different Caribbean locations each year. And there is a strong focus on promoting from within.

“You can come here straight out of school and be promoted within a year or two to run another office,” Gerard says.

The firm’s charity program, which extends beyond the annual Opt2Give Day, builds camaraderie among its employees.  Each office holds a quarterly charity event, as well, when employees give their time to a local cause.   “For every deal we do, we give back to children in our local communities who are food insecure,” Gerard says.  They have fed almost 3,000 children so far.

The firm is continuing to grow and innovate. It just launched Provalus, an onshore outsourcing company that will work to support clients with technology, business and data solutions through talent in underserved US communities.  “We want to stay in our niche at the high end of the IT world, but Optomi is all about being innovative,” Gerard says. “Our offices are still growing – they have not hit max capacity.”

The firm is also constantly on the lookout for ways to improve the business. “The executives actually go out on the floor and ask recruiters and account executives, ‘What would you do if this was your company? How would you change it?’” Gerard says. “Then they put those ideas into play.”