Meredith Bronk, president of OST (Open Systems Technologies), an IT consulting firm based in Grand Rapids, spoke with DBusiness Daily News about the company’s plans for growth — they recently opened an office in Detroit — and the importance of an employee-first workplace.
1. DDN: What projects are you working on?
MB: We do a lot of custom application development. So a project that we’re working on right now is one that helps to dashboard and illustrate energy utilization for large buildings or universities. We’ve just recently completed one for the Empire State Building that shows energy management and helps tenants better manage their energy uses and, therefore, reduce costs and help the environment.
We also have an infrastructure side, where we have a very large health care presence. We have a solution (virtual desktop infrastructure) that is pretty unique and cuts the time that it takes for physicians and practitioners to deliver their health care service based on improved efficiency through the use of technology.
2. DDN: What can you tell us about your expansion into Detroit?
MB: We opened an office in Detroit last year. We’re headquartered in Grand Rapids, and we’ve always had clients and activity on the east side of the state. But we wanted to more significantly and deliberately invest in what’s happening in southeast Michigan, and we realized that, in order to do that effectively, we needed to get a presence there. So we gained that presence, and that’s one of the two markets that we see the greatest growth opportunity over the next five years.
Minneapolis is the other market, which is a little different from Detroit. It’s different in the type of services that we can offer and what we can leverage from our headquarters to the Detroit market. Also, I think the (client) makeup is different in that Detroit is still fairly manufacturing-focused. So some of the different industries will drive different solution sets, but the opportunity that we have is significant in both location.
3. DDN: Why did you decide to break into the international market with an office in London?
MB: We’ve found that when you do the right things for the right reasons, always in satisfying your clients’ needs, the demand continues to increase. We’ve had over 20 percent compounded annual growth for more than 10 years, and so growth for us will continue to happen if we continue to stick to our roots and stick to our values. In London, we had an opportunity with a client that is based domestically, (for whom) we’re providing a very unique solution. They decided to use that solution as their global standard and asked if we would support them globally.
4. DDN: How would you describe your company’s culture?
MB: It’s entrepreneurial, innovative, and fun. We are an employee-first culture in everything that we do. One example is we had an employee who was scheduled to be on-site for a client (event) that was rescheduled three times. And when the client finally picked a date, they picked the weekend our employee and his wife had planned a weekend getaway for their anniversary. (Our employee) told the client he couldn’t be there, but could be available by phone, but the client said they still wanted him there on site. So our employee came to us, and our CEO Dan Beam, said, “Have their CIO call me. You go on your trip, and we’ll take care of it.” And we backed him, because that’s what you need to do. In the end, the client was pleased and we satisfied their needs, because we’re not going to leave a client hanging. But we need to take care of our employees, because they, in turn, will take care of our clients.
5. DDN: We saw OST give Dexter-based Sweetie-licious a shoutout on its website. What’s the story behind that?
MB: (Laughs.) They won one of those pie challenges on the Food Network five or six years ago, and one of our employees in Lansing would always bring their key lime raspberry pie to us. And then Sweetie-licious just opened a place here in Grand Rapids, so now they’re right down the street from us and their pink boxes are often in our refrigerator. But the fact that we list our favorite pie company on our website is totally our personality. We’re not going to take ourselves too seriously.