Celebrates 25 years of IT & good karma
~ By Leah Kellar
Celebrating its 25th anniversary of exceptional service, Graycon Group Ltd.—an IT consulting firm that specializes in the design, implementation, security and support of all IT infrastructure and networking systems—measures its success in good karmic turns in equal measure to monetary profits. It is a unique approach to business wherein profitability is often unquestionably the only bottom line.
“Profitability is not our only bottom line—we have four bottom lines which we strive to maximize; one of which is building good karma. We strive to have an impact. We’re looking for a real heart-in approach. A lot of people are here because they love the culture and the energy we bring to it,” said Douglas Gray, company founder and CEO. “I think this is really what differentiates us from other firms. It’s a unique part of who we are.”
The Graycon difference is measured in a unique balanced scorecard of four boxes or measurable criteria of business success, one of which is what Gray himself refers to as “Grayconian happiness”. What is Grayconian (a.k.a Graycon employees) happiness?
“It literally comes from the belief that if our team is here and they are staying, growing, engaged and positive, then that makes for a healthier bottom line—happier clients and a fun culture where people truly enjoy coming to work,” said Gray.
This translates to growth in other scorecard boxes like, “karma” — the sum of Graycon’s charitable efforts that benefit local communities in terms of donations of time, effort and money. Twenty-five years of business and numerous recognitions also attest to the high measurement of this success factor, including being named one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies by Deloitte in 2013, achieving a fourth place ranking in the Branham Group’s Top 10 Canadian ICT Security Companies and listed at number 102 in its recognition of Top 250 ICT Companies. Graycon has also been named Best Workplace in Calgary numerous times.
While the recognition is nice and certainly is a strong indication that Graycon is on the right track, it is not the only primary measure of success and sustainability for the company after 25 years. Rather, it’s all about keeping a balanced scorecard. The scorecard lists four key ingredients or bottom line goals, indicated as score boxes for the company, in equal measure of: client satisfaction, profitability, Grayconian happiness, and building good karma.
Gray started the employee-only company 25 years ago with a human resources and IT consulting background. It started out as a private company and went public during the .com era of the 90’s and returned to become a private firm at the end of 2003. They have expanded from their headquarters in Calgary, Alberta to Edmonton, and Red Deer, and set up locations in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Kelowna and Kamloops, British Columbia. Interestingly, in an age where we are just beginning to understand the impact of the exponential growth of technology, as each year new technologies infiltrate and become an integral part of our personal and professional lives, Gray stresses the importance of HR over IT know-how in many ways. In fact, he attributes the company’s affinity for strong HR and a customized approach tailored to each individual client’s needs to what separates many firms who merely offer a host of expert IT solutions.
Consequently, Graycon has an incredibly efficient HR department that seeks out exceptionally smart, energized and positive people in addition to possessing the right IT background and credentials. The aim is to hire, train and retain these people. Internal training programs are run through Graycon’s own Gray Matter University, which places an equal importance on social skills, communication skills consultative skills and business skills as well as technical skills.
The emphasis on soft skills in business communications and collaboration is important in IT consulting wherein technology products and systems are becoming more of an automated commodity.
“We’re a growing organization, but we have plenty more to learn. We’ve worked hard at building this well-organized machine that Grayconians help run and steer and will continue to evolve so we can have another successful 25 years,” said Gray.
Gray comes from a Buddhist background and this has followed him into the creation of Graycon to essentially integrate the belief that, ‘If you do good things, good things happen,’ into the philosophy and culture of his company and how Grayconians do business.
Consequently in 2004 the scorebox of Karma was integrated into the business plan as the primary focus. Initially it was a learning process Graycon admits as people would ask for raises to increase their “Grayconian happiness”, but it was well worth the introduction. Many Grayconians are proud to lead fun and engaging Karma events, approximately twice a month, that impact worthy local charities. One of these events was the celebration of Graycon’s 25th anniversary—a house party with over 300 people.
“It’s really about facilitating engagement internally and with the community, our partners and our vendors. Would an energy company with a contracting position pay a little more? Maybe, but at Graycon there’s more to it. You see people who are proud to lead our Karma events, because it’s a charity that is near and dear to them and they can muster a whole bunch of other people to get out and really do some good,” said Gray. It’s rewarding on many levels. Graycon makes volunteering monetarily rewarding as well as personally rewarding by giving a regular day’s pay to Grayconians for each work day spent volunteering in the community.
Approximately 15 per cent of clients are not-for-profits and charities. Graycon donations and gifts-in-kind currently amount to $1.8-million. Good turns and good returns to increase Grayconian happiness and client satisfaction are kept in a fine balance. This balance is maintained largely owing to a levelheaded approach that emphasizes the human element of IT consultation and determining specific client needs over merely technical expertise that may not be catered to what will best serve a particular client.
“Lets be honest, what our clients want—be it an investment bank, an oil company, a car dealer—is to focus on their business. So if they could get the job done with HB pencils, they would. IT needs to enable businesses and enable their business goals. I find a lot of IT companies show up talking about technology as if it mattered, but it doesn’t matter as more and more IT, in and of itself, becomes a means to an end. It’s becoming more and more of a commodity. What matters is how you deliver the Lego blocks, so to speak, in a ruthlessly efficient way, and let businesses get back to selling more cars, extracting more oil, and protecting and enabling their business.”
According to Gray, the bottom line when it comes to what clients need is the difference between the smartest tech expert in the room and the one who can communicate the business value of a solution or service in an enthusiastic and positive way that demonstrates the customized benefit to businesses. Consequently Gray says he is in the business of not just IT, but IT consultancy that is selling smart people’s time and effort to allow businesses to simply focus on their business goals. Gray indicated that Cisco Systems, has been a particularly loyal partner, but there are many others, as well. Graycon’s longest client has been with them for 22 years, and there are some people that have been with the company for almost two decades!
“This speaks to karma and Grayconian happiness. It’s about running a balanced business, and a balanced scorecard that ensures the bottom line is not only met, but exceeded for everyone here,” said Gray.