LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIPS DRIVE CULTURE
Cipher Systems, a boutique firm celebrating its 20th anniversary of providing consulting and technology services, and its 40 employees are focused on helping clients make smarter, faster decisions. Managing director Peter Grimm and director of business development Beau Oliver say the company prides itself on developing long-term relationships with both employees and customers.
“One of the things we’re most proud of is some of the long-term client relationships we’ve had and, on the flip side, long-term employees that we’ve had the ability to retain … as they grow as individuals,” says Grimm.
When Cipher Systems looks for new clients, the company is focused on those who want to form a mutually beneficial partnership, rather than a transactional relationship. Much of that focus derives from the culture set for employees.
The company aims to have a culture Grimm describes as “collegial” and based on collaboration. Employees from all areas of the company came together to create a set of core values under which Cipher Systems operates. These values are reinforced through a monthly newsletter and are designed to make Cipher Systems always operate in a customer-centric manner.
Building the culture at Cipher Systems starts by focusing on members of the team and how they treat and interact with one another, the expectations for those relationships, and then how people in the company treat clients and demonstrate their level of service and dedication to client success.
A key that Cipher Systems strongly believes in is giving employees advanced experiences early on, and putting them into positions that they might not be afforded at larger organizations until much later.
“By pushing down that level of experience required to interact with clients and getting that experience early on, we really push that it’s a team effort,” says Oliver. Clients and employees can see the value everybody on the team brings, while the team also grows with the client.
“We make a lot of investment into employee development, … but we also put relatively junior folks in front of clients much earlier than they would typically get that opportunity at a bigger firm,” Grimm says. It’s an important investment in those employees so they can continue to grow at Cipher Systems, but also helps them advance their own experience a lot earlier.
It’s that level of skill the firm believes gives it a leg up when it comes to client development and retention, a focus across the organization.
Cipher Systems has a very strong client retention rate for both the software side of the business and the consulting side, and it demonstrates its abilities to clients by starting small and building trust as the relationship grows, something Grimm believes affords it an advantage over larger firms.
Even when a client relationship suffers, the collaborative nature of Cipher Systems helps to rebuild the relationship.
When Grimm first joined the company, a relationship with a large healthcare company was struggling. Employees from the business-development side of the organization, as well as the sales and consulting side, came together to determine how to demonstrate value to the client. The employees joined forces and took ownership of the client relationship. This included letting the client know how much their business was valued, and listening to clients’ concerns. Ultimately, Cipher Systems was able to not only mend the relationship, but also build a more positive partnership.
Today, this is one of the closest client relationships Cipher Systems has, and the client has also become a referral source for additional relationships.
The biggest advantage that Cipher Systems believes it brings is a personal touch — it’s hard to have a partnership without personal interaction. The company tries to set up at least bi-weekly interactions with clients to ensure they’re getting what they want, and to get their feedback on other areas of the relationship. Cipher Systems seeks candor from clients on the question of how it can improve.
“I think it’s obviously critical for every business to work on customer relationships and invest in those relationships,” Grimm says. “For a company like ours, a relatively small boutique consulting and technology firm, it’s absolutely crucial. We can’t afford to lose any customers, so that’s our number-one focus day in and day out.”
Photo (L to R): Peter Grimm, Managing Director; Beau Oliver, Director of Business Development; Conor McManus, Knowledge360 Product Owner; Fred Hoffman, Director of Operations. Not pictured: Mark Kelton, Director of Insider Threat Solutions