TREATING CUSTOMERS AND EMPLOYEES AS EQUALS
Consulting is a very customer-focused industry, and that holds true for Jovian Concepts, which offers services in software development systems, engineering policy compliance and tactical training. But president, CEO and treasurer Richard A. Scheper also credits an equal focus on the company’s 55 employees as a success factor.
“It’s somewhat rare in our industry, [but] we spend as much energy focusing inward on our employee culture as we do on our customers,” Scheper says. “We feel like that effort needs to be equal for us. Relationships are very important in the customer space; there’s a lot of trust that has to be built up over time, and that’s how we generate and sustain our business.”
Being able to recruit and retain top talent is critical to Jovian’s growth plan. So the company focuses on providing employees with everything they need to perform their jobs optimally and creating a support structure for them.
That culture extends to employees’ families as well, Scheper says. In addition to regular social get-togethers, Jovian Concepts hosts an annual retreat for all employees, as well as their spouses and significant others.
Company employees are spread throughout the country, so the goal is to seek a central location for the all-expenses-paid getaways. Locations where employees have traveled include Asheville, NC, Cancun and Hilton Head, SC.
“We want to lure them to a place that they’re going to find fun and comfortable. We do an all-day meeting where we really focus on company issues, but then we also have unstructured and structured fun time throughout the weekend,” Scheper says. “The nature of our business is our people are spread out all over the place, so to maintain a cohesive culture, you really need to bring them together on a regular basis.”
In addition to the getaways, the company also has monthly happy hours with open bars, as well as a holiday party, to try to regularly keep bringing employees together in a pleasant way.
Jovian Concepts also tries to avoid a top-heavy management structure, which Scheper says is important, especially given the fact that the company has employees spread throughout the country.
“We hesitate to call it management, but we do. It’s structured so that no manager has more than five employees to keep track of,” Scheper says. “We feel like that’s really the limit beyond which people feel overtaxed, because it’s not just managing people, but you also have your day job.”
Scheper says the company has a lot of managers, which to some people seems like a top-heavy structure, but it helps support and maintain the culture Jovian Concepts wants, where the company is able to respond immediately to events that impact employees, such as birthdays and even crises.
“The only way you can do that is if you have that regular communication and people are getting in contact on a regular basis,” Scheper says.
To maintain its culture, Jovian Concepts offers benefits such as an upfront tuition plan, where employees get 100 percent of tuition assistance costs upfront, rather than after the fact. Jovian Concepts also covers the costs of employee testing and any costs related to maintaining certifications.
Jovian Concepts ideally wants employees to remain with the company for their entire careers, and these initiatives help position employees for internal growth.
When it comes to culture, Jovian Concepts also needs to be mindful of how its employees interact with government staffers and those from other companies when working together on collaborative projects.
“Sometimes, if we’re not careful in how we communicate, it can have a negative response just because people might feel like you’re bragging a little bit, so we’ve had to tune down the way we talk about ourselves a little bit in certain environments,” Scheper says.
On the other hand, however, Jovian Concepts also wants prospective employees who work at other companies to have a good understanding of its culture and what a good place it is to work, Scheper adds.
Photos (L to R): Richard A. Scheper, President, CEO and Treasurer; Heather L. Johnson, Senior Vice President; Anastasia A. Scheper, Secretary; Michelle J. Marzullo, Legal Counsel