Graycon Group – A Company That Believes in Karma
Every business celebrates company culture in some capacity – be it a standard of integrity and honesty, a customer-forward approach to sales, or a commitment to client satisfaction. Yet some, such as the Alberta-based Information Technology (IT) Support and Solutions company Graycon Group, bring these values to the forefront of every business exchange.
Led by founder and CEO Douglas Gray, the Graycon Group integrates its business philosophy into every aspect of the company. The central message of Graycon’s philosophy is simple: Do good things for your community, and good things will happen..As explained by CEO Douglas Gray, Vice President of Operations Matthew Ball, Vice President of Corporate Services Chris Beatty, and Vice President of Sales & Marketing Chris Black, this Karma-focused corporate belief system is the cornerstone of the company’s success. Now in its 25th year of continual growth, Graycon brings more than enough evidence to prove that when a business has a heart, it has true potential.
The Graycon story is one of continual evolution. Douglas Gray first established the company as a business student in 1989; although, at the time, he viewed his work as simply a way to help family and friends with their technological needs.
“The IT business was very different when I started. I realized there was less of a need for purely technical IT, and more of a need for business IT,” CEO Douglas Gray explains. “I started off helping those I knew and the companies of family friends. By the time I left school, I had enough of a client load to support a small business.”
‘Today, we focus on taking the pain of IT decision making away from executives,’ Vice President of Sales & Marketing Chris Black explains. ‘We accomplish this through a pragmatic approach to IT Management.’
For several years, Graycon experienced slow, steady growth from its headquarters in Calgary. In 2000, Gray sold the business to a small public company. Thus, Graycon became a wholly owned subsidiary of a publically traded corporation. In 2004, after much deliberation, Graycon decided to again privatize.
“Being under a public company was a very educational experience for us” says Gray, “In the public sphere, your quarterly financial growth is the number oneconcern – however, that just wasn’t our only or even primary goal. It ran counter to many of our values as a business and a team.”
“In a way, being public was great. It showed us that the money wasn’t the only bottom line, and revealed what was important to us.”
The return to the private business realm led to several amazing transformations at Graycon. The company established a philosophy of ‘Karma,’ outlining the importance of charity and goodwill within the business. Graycon also began experiencing significant growth, allowing it to expand throughout Western Canada.
Today, Graycon employs over 160 staff members in six different cities throughout Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia. It provides IT Support and Solutions to over 600 clients per month, and has been the recognized through several awards, including being named one of Alberta’s Top 65 Employers (2014) and one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies (2013). Graycon is also a three time finalist in the Branham 300 Top 10 ICT Security Companies and Top 250 Canadian ICT Companies (2012-2014).
A Balanced Approach
When Graycon chose to privatize, the leadership team spent significant time determining how they would steer the future of the business. The team developed what Gray calls the “Balanced Scorecard” as a way to drive their operations and assess their corporate success.
The Scorecard is divided into four equal segments: (1) Client Satisfaction, (2) Sustainable Profitability, (3) Grayconian Happiness, and (4) Karma. Each segment carries equal weight in the way Graycon does business.
Client Satisfaction is the happiness Graycon can bring to customers through providing high quality IT services. As explained by Gray, “We have customers we’ve been doing business with on an ongoing basis for over 23 years. Many others are well over 10 years. A significant portion of new clients come from referrals. Our clients keep us around, we grow with them and they tell their friends!”
Sustainable Profitability is the ability to maintain the other three Scorecard segments through continually remaining ‘in the black’. This segment supports all of Graycon’s initiatives, making the business viable.
Grayconian Happiness refers to the satisfaction and enjoyment Graycon’s employees experience at work and in their daily lives. The Graycon culture aims to build an environment where people are happy, engaged, and passionate about what they are doing.
“We believe clients can tell when a team member is truly engaged,” says Gray. “They know when someone wants to do what they’re doing. And it’s a hell of a lot more fun for our employees to walk into an office that’s happy!”
The final and perhaps most critical segment of the Scorecard is Karma. Karma is the philosophy that if you do good things for others, good things happen. Graycon meets this corporate requirement through charitable efforts and positive community involvement and the intent behind their decisions.
Each year, every Graycon employee is given one paid volunteer day to contribute at the charity initiative of their choice. As a company, Graycon tries to ensure every positive initiative gains support, with a special focus on community efforts. To date, Graycon has provided both local and national charities with over $1.9 million of donations and gifts-in-kind
“We’ve focused on everything from homeless shelters to mental health support, food banks to education,” Vice President of Corporate Services Chris Beatty explains. “There isn’t really a charity ‘niche’ we fall into – we believe all positive causes in our community are worthy of attention, and we try to contribute in any way we can.”
In 2013,Graycon partnered with Cisco Canada to support its Connected North initiative. Connected North is a ground-breaking virtual program aimed at bringing educational innovations and technologies to schools in Canada’s remote northern regions. Through its involvement with Cisco Canada’s Connected North initiative, Graycon addresses the challenges faced by Canada’s most isolated schools.
“Students in the remote north may not be able to connect with teachers and professors in the traditional sense,” says Beatty. “Through joining Cisco Canada’s Connected North initiative, we’re helping reduce Aboriginal dropout rates and bring in technology that can make a real impact.”
Karma also extends into Graycon’s business operations.
“About 15% of our clients are not-for-profit organizations,” says Gray. “When we complete projects for these groups, we break even at best. We offer a cheaper price, allowing the charity to dedicate funds towards their community goals.”
“The Scorecard is also an integral part of our processes even from a talent acquisition and human resources perspective,” notes Beatty. “We assess candidates based around their alignment to the Scorecard’s values. Our annual employee reviews include how each employee has embodiedthe Scorecard’s message.”
The Scorecard has resulted in two core differentiators that separate Graycon from the competition. The first is Graycon’s dedication to providing an outstanding ‘Client Experience’. As explained by Vice President of Operations Matthew Ball, “When a company chooses to partner with an organization for a portion or all of their IT planning and requirements, they want to make sure they choose a team who knows what they’re doing, understands the technology landscape and is able to help its clients achieve their business goals and objectives…together.”
The second differentiator is the people Graycon employs. The Scorecard focuses on ensuring not only that employees are happy, but that the people who work at Graycon hold similar personal values as the company.
“ We sit with every new employee and let them know the impact they have on the entire organization. A client’s impression of a single team member is their impression of Graycon as a whole,” says Ball. “We make sure our employees not only have everything they need, but that they are a part of a company they enjoy working with and have the opportunity to grow in.”
A “Changing Landscape”
The greatest challenge for any IT company is staying ahead of constantly evolving technology. Each year, new innovations emerge; each year, IT firms such as Graycon must adapt and grow with these changes to survive.
“The IT arena is a constantly changing landscape,” says Gray. “But at the end of the day, our clients will still want IT to be seamless, easy to use, and positively enabling their business goals. Yes, the tools are changing; cloud technology is growing more prominent. It’s our job to evolve with the technology in order to provide what our clients need.”
The plan behind Graycon’s future growth again centralizes around the Balanced Scorecard. There is always a possibility for more Customer Satisfaction, more Sustainable Profitability, more Grayconian Happiness, and more Karma.
“The Scorecard is all-encompassing,” Gray concludes. “It’s about how we communicate, how we install infrastructure, and how we envision ourselves as a company. If we could be bigger next year but had to let the Scorecard drop, I would not do it.”