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August 27, 2013

Atlantic BT Does The Impossible – Inc. 5000 For Five Years

Less Than 10%

Less than 10% of the “fastest growing private businesses” who achieved the Inc. 5000 award five years ago will make the cut for the fifth year. Atlantic BT is in rare company with our 10th Inc. 5000 award. Inc.’s growth requirements are so high repeating once let alone five times can be all but impossible.

Atlantic BT Passes Test of Time

Time may be the great overlooked judge. Google uses time in their algorithm not granting trust until trust is earned. Achieving the Inc. 5000 award for five years straight speaks to a company’s ability to design and execute process to create satisfaction. Satisfaction implies customer support and no five time Inc. 5000 winner can achieve the award five times in a row without amazing customers.

The other side of the satisfaction coin for a web design and software development company is employee satisfaction.

Every skill Atlantic BT teaches and employs is in high demand. Headhunters practically camp in our parking lot, so employee satisfaction is as important as high ratings and word-of-mouth from customers. Atlantic BT’s second year on Triangle Business Journal’s Best Places To Work speaks to our company’s ability to balance on a beam between customers and employees.

Secret Sauce

I’ve had the honor to work for great companies such as P&G and M&M/Mars. I’ve started four companies and so can appreciate how difficult Jon, Mark and our team at Atlantic BT’s achievement can be. In my almost two years at Atlantic BT I’ve learned about where success lives.

Atlantic BT Secret Sauce

  • Inspirational people (starts with CEO Jon and President Mark, doesn’t end there).
  • Great Team.
  • Willingness to HIRE NOW and figure it out later.
  • Myth Creation.
  • Business Processes.

Myth Creation & Business Process

At first I didn’t understand. In my career cultural events were either formal (M&M’s) or missing (when you are burning 401k money nose is firmly to grindstone in companies I started and that was a mistake of epic proportions <smile>). Atlantic BT’s need to haul out their medieval Trebuchet once a year to see how far they can smash pumpkins seemed inconsequential and strange.

Atlantic BT's Trebuchet graphic WRONG!

The more I got to know Jon the more I understood Atlantic BT’s culture. Jon started Atlantic BT in 1998 when he was nineteen (what were you doing at 19, I was NOT doing anything that might one day employ more than 70 people). It is rare I meet someone whose brain spins at faster cycles than mine. This is NOT to say I am smart as much as chaotic (lol).

Jon is one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever worked for or with. His ability to see the unseen connection is the best I’ve ever experienced and I’ve had the honor of working with some amazing people. Jon is so competitive he works all night on his egg drop contraption or tries to figure out how to rescue a Ford Bronco on his “free” time.

For every brilliant grey cell of Jon’s there is a need for balance. Mark provides the perfect balance. Mark, or someone with Mark’s leadership and management skills, is the missing element in my four startups. Mark makes trains run on time and that they run on the right tracks. Mark doesn’t try to manage a company this size alone. He gets great help from solid Project Managers and an expanding layer of “coach/leaders”.

Inspirational people can wander around in the dark forever without defined yet flexible processes.

Atlantic BT has several well defined business processes. My favorite example is our Continuous Quality Score or CQS.  CQS was a brilliant answer to a clear problem. As projects increased in size and time to market the management team noted we needed to check and catch wobbles before they became cracks.

CQS is brilliant and cool, but it is also a living breathing and important “business process”. When bad things happen they get fixed long before brush fires become infernos. Every Friday the company meets before Jon buys everyone lunch (a sizable bill with more than 70 employees). CQS is one of the fixtures of Atlantic BT’s team standup meetings. CQS is the voice of the customer and customers are respected and appreciated at Atlantic BT.

Dov Seidman in his great book How: Why How You Do Anything Means Everything explains our business processes are all the “intellectual property” left. In a “no secrets” flat and connected time how a company forms their work, identifies market needs, responds to customer concerns and creates a family atmosphere where employees feel valued and loved is what a company owns. Inspirational people, myths, process and fun create the strange alchemy that is Atlantic BT one of the fastest growing private companies in America for the 10th year.

In a few months I will “retire” to work on Story of Cancer Foundation and Cure Cancer Starter, one of the first crowdfunding cancer research websites being created by Atlantic BT.  Life is a strange twisting journey and TIME is our most valued and often overlooked nonrenewable commodity. In my long strange trip of a business career I’ve consistently voted for creativity and challenge. Like most people I judge a “job” on its ability to teach new things.

Working for Jon, Mark and with the amazing team at Atlantic BT has been like going to Internet marketing graduate school all over again, the school that never ends <smile, sigh>. This is NOT to say I skip home from work everyday, but the character of this company wants to do the right thing.

Perhaps the highest compliment a cancer survivor can pay is I’m glad I spent two years learning, working and contributing to Atlantic BT. Success will continue for Jon, Mark and the team at Atlantic BT because their heart is in the right place and our minds (whether employee or customer) know it. Maybe having your heart, passion and mind in the game is the secret sauce that brings Great Place To Work and Inc. 5000 awards to Atlantic BT.

Note
I published this post erroneously with 10 years initially, but the extensive research I did last year into the Inc. 5000 was in anticipation of Atlatnic BT’s 5th straight award. Less than 10% of Inc. 5000 companies make the list 5 years in a row. Apologize for the mistake, but Atlantic BT’s 5th year on the Inc. 5000 is a substantial accomplishment sure to be followed by many more.

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