Roy Chomko of Adage Technologies
Roy Chomko, the founder/president of Adage Technologies, discusses how his company became the best place to work in Illinois.
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Tell me about how the company got started
- Wanted to build web apps. Lots of opportunity at the time.
- Became complicated. So we’re moving away from custom web apps to more just ecommerce and webspace.
- Started with myself, a business partner, and 2 employees. 5 employees in the first 5 years. Then 5 to 20. Then 20 to 55 people.
You were also with GE, had you ever formed other companies?
- A few false starts.
- Had been in sales.
- Got involved with guys in web dev stuff, which lasted 2 years until dot bomb. Went into some other things for a while that didn’t work out.
- After that, began Adage.
What are the key things you do that help build your culture?
- 5 core values, which took a while to document them. Integrity and success, and delivering success to our clients. Those are our drivers for how we act, and help impact the rest of the company.
Tell me about the process of drafting your core values
- When we first started out, we didn’t know what they were. As we got into situations, we found that we agreed on how to deal with them. Things aren’t black and white in many business decisions. As we worked through issues the values revealed themselves over time. Integrity is big.
- If we’re not delivering success to people, we’re not helping them so why are we in business?
Does success parle into career planning and other stuff as well?
- In this day in age, I don’t expect people to be company lifers. It’s about making the most of each employment situation in the moment. Grow yourself and figure out what your goals are. We can grow together.
You have a culture committee, how do you make that successful?
- There have been challenges and cynicism, so we do an annual survey to measure responses. So we’ll take the three lowest scores and try and attack those. So when they meet the talk about how to improve and how to make Adage a better way to work.
Do you do any other surveys?
- We also do external ones for various awards
- Heartbeat score is done quarterly. Brief survey with quick responses.
How has the culture of the business changed over the years?
- You start out looking to survive.
- I wish we would have defined our values sooner.
- Hire and fire based on them as well
Do you guys do anything special in your hiring process?
- Our process starts with an HR interview. On time, communicate well, present themselves well. Good fit for the role.
- Then the manager takes the next interview.
- Maybe a code review online, depending on the role.
- Then an in person interview with the team they’re going to be working with
Your Glassdoor reviews are great. They said the upper management is very engaged. How do you do that?
- One thing I try, and other leaders try, is to not live in our ivory castle.
- We eat lunch with everyone
- After 45 days I take new hires out to lunch and talk about how everything is going
- Talk to people about their projects when I run into them in the kitchen
- DON’T micromanage
Has it been hard to adjust to as you grow?
- You hit a milestone of 50-75 people, and a lot of firm struggle to get past because you need another layer of management.
- The communication flow needs to go from leadership to management to staff, and it needs to be thought out and planned. And ideas should be vetted by managers.
- Communicating often is very important.
One person said that Adage is a very challenging environment. How do you manage that?
- We’re technology and consulting. Every situation is a little different. So that’s challenging.
- Our customers rely on us to provide them with direction, and sometimes our pace isn’t in sync. So sometimes we get into crunch time in the end, which is challenging.
- You have to be adaptable (another core value) – if you don’t want to learn new things, it’s not the right place for you.
When building company culture, what are things that you’ve tried that haven’t worked, or things that you screwed up and fixed later?
- Soliciting feedback too much can be dangerous, you have to do it carefully. Too frequent is too much. Once a year is good–you can make action items and actually get stuff done.
- Suggestion boxes don’t work.
Is your feedback anonymous?
- The employee surveys are anonymous. Don’t kill yourself trying to figure out who made what comments and why. Don’t take it personally.
What is the quickest win that someone could change to positively impact your company culture?
- The core values solidify who you are
- Search for your why (Simon Sinek)
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