V I S I O N
2 0 2 0
Today is an important day.
It is August 13, 2020, also known as Paragus day. There will be no staff reporting to their desks, no phones or emails to answer, no clients to service. Today we will be boarding buses and strapping on life jackets as we embark on a companywide white-water rafting excursion. We tackle the rapids together as a way of symbolically celebrating the imminent conclusion to our battle with whitewater as we approach the coveted state of predictable success. Today is also a day of reflection. Itâ€™s a day when we celebrate the conclusion of our first official vision statement. The time passed faster than any of us could have imagined, but as we gather today and reflect back on the past 5 years, there is so much we are proud of.
CULTURE &PEOPLE We begin our reflection by taking stock of what we have always valued most: our culture and our people. We have no greater asset than our employees who, as we continue to approach 100% ESOP ownership, are commonly referred to as partners. While the partners of Paragus no longer share a single physical office, they remain interconnected in a way reflective of our roots. It is not uncommon for our employees to travel to other Paragus offices, either to meet in person, work on special projects, get to know clients or just to have a change of geography.
Controversial as it was bold, after lots of planning, consideration and input, Paragus architected a completely redesigned PTO policy. Rooted in a deep commitment of trust and empowerment, at the center of this policy is a simple statement that says â€œemployees are encouraged to take off the time they need to stay healthy, have an appropriate work life balance, be an active member of their community, and care for their families, free from the burden of having to worry about counting days or having the time be unpaid.â€? This unlimited time off policy was made possible through the hard work that was done to create clear and accurate accountability for every single employee as it relates to the results that matter most. This focus on getting done what needs to get done to drive the business forward rather than managing to static metrics has been one of the most transformative changes Paragus has gone through in the past 5 years. This focus coupled with a sincere commitment of every partner to embody our core values has made possible so many of the other changes we have made and is likely the single biggest contributor to our ongoing growth and success. Recruiting new staff to join Paragus is viewed as the job of every employee. We continue to train our staff in networking, assessment, and casual interviewing skills. This helps us achieve our goal of a consistent pipeline of qualified candidates. These trainings are in support of our fully implemented By Referral Only hiring program where potential candidates meet with an existing Paragus partner before being invited to officially apply for a position. Once in the door, candidates work their way through a highly refined interview process that is both deliberate and casual as we focus each stage on a specific objective that relates to the ultimate goal: hiring those individuals who are going to share our values, add to our culture, strengthen our brand and add to our growth. We committed to having the right people in the right roles while also ensuring that our staff embodies our values. When exceptions to either have occurred, we reacted quickly to provide the support needed for change while staying committed to taking actions when actions were needed without unnecessary delay.
Employing a diverse workforce has continued to be incredibly important to Paragus.
foray into remote employees would include a physical presence where multiple employees would work together in a shared office. We also remained open to granting exceptions when long-term employees of one of our physical offices decided to move. However, no matter the location, each space we open is a unique reflection of our values combined with the local culture and needs of its employees.
We have recruited talent from non-traditional
While recruitment is fundamental, Paragus
sources and increased the diversity of talent
views retention of long-term employees as
applying for positions with the company. In
a top priority. Over the past 5 years we have
support of our desire for diversity but also
continued to adjust our policies, offerings and
growth and retention, we have embraced the
benefits to align with our goal of retaining the
need to employ people who resided outside
talent that we feel is well aligned with our
of Western Mass. We decided that our first
mission, values, vision and purpose.
Once hired, our onboarding program runs like clockwork.
Each day and each week of an employee’s first 90 days has structure, purpose and objectives that are specifically tailored to that individual’s needs.
Aided by tools, additional resources and well-refined processes, new hires become acclimated to the “Paragus Way” while also clearly understanding their role, what’s expected of them and how they can navigate their path to success. This process includes individual orientation sessions for each of our values, conducted by various experienced staff members within the company. These orientations include context, examples and assignments to engage the new hire and help them to explore and truly appreciate the meaning and history behind each value statement. What’s unique about the entire onboarding process is the role the new hire plays in it. True to its training compact, Paragus ensures that the new hire has clearly defined expectations and goals; however responsibility to achieve those goals is placed with the employee. For example, the skills, knowledge and experience required to be successful are clearly documented in a way that can be easily tracked, but then the employee must identify and use the tools and resources available to them in order to check off each item, a process that we refer to as a quest.
At the conclusion of a new hire’s 90-day quest is the start of a much longer journey that will span the rest of their career with Paragus. A huge part of the success of each partner has been their commitment to professional development, growth and learning; a passion that Paragus not only encourages, but supports in many ways. At the core of our program is the comprehensive tracking portal that makes the process easy and transparent. Skills and experiences are equated to badges that an employee can earn along with experience points allowing Paragus to track not only a partner’s ability to demonstrate certain skills, but also measure their degree of mastery as well as time spent learning. Each partner of Paragus spends no less than 50 hours a year working on their own professional development. This could be in the form of a lecture in Paragus University, a class or video online, training at an outside facility, a vendor conference or event or by simply burying their head in a good book. It is also not uncommon for Paragus to bring in outside experts, vendors and presenters to talk about anything from technology to personal finance to business or nutrition. Most classes in PU are also recorded and/or streamed online, allowing partners from other locations to participate while also building an exceptional and curated video library. When not in the classroom, partners have access to a vast array of sandbox environments and internal equipment which they can use to explore, experiment and practice. In addition to training each other, Paragus encourages its staff to share their knowledge with others outside the organization, by volunteering to teach, speak and lecture on any topic they feel they excel at. Walking into our offices you’ll see many examples
Aligned with our goals for retention, Paragus is incredibly committed to encouraging its employees to live healthy, active lives.
of this in our day to day life. First thing in the morning you are likely to see a group of employees arriving just a bit sweaty, having biked, jogged or walked into work (don’t worry – after storing their gear they hit the showers in our locker room and change before they sit down to work.) Other early risers can be found around tables in the Pub
enjoying a breakfast they’ve chosen from the many selections available. We take pride in offering lots of healthy options in the Pub that have been proven to have a positive impact on the mind and/or body and meet a wide range of dietary needs. We also strive to bring as many fresh, local options to the table, while leaving room for the occasional indulgent treat.
Throughout the day employees are encouraged to get up from their desks and raise their heart rate by doing one of many activities. For example, we’ve incorporated exercise into our workday by promoting the use of walking meetings or a lively game of ping pong. We have also expanded our policy of letting employees fit fitness into their workday by making up hours before or after their shift so that they can head to the gym, go for a run, take a swim or learn karate as often as they’d like. Over the years Paragus has steadily expanded its Healthy Employee reimbursement program. Employees can now customize the program to suit their own needs. They can buy a kayak or pay for a gym membership or take a yoga class-- anything that helps them support a healthy lifestyle. Growth in the program has been carefully aligned with the specific goals and outcomes of each participant. This focus on employee health carries beyond the workday. Once the day is done, it’s common to see a group of employees getting together to go running, walking, biking, rock-climbing, etc. We recognize that navigating healthcare systems is a complex process that can create stress that undermines our employees’ health. This is why we have created a “Wellness Concierge.” The Wellness Concierge helps employees minimize the time spent figuring out plans, submitting forms, finding doctors, etc. that are required for our health & wellness plans. In addition, we maintain a directory of other resources that include personal trainers, coaches, health counselors, nutritionists and mental health professionals in the community. We appreciate that though our work is mentally stimulating and often fun, it can also at times be mentally taxing. So we help employees decompress on a regular basis by offering a Quiet Room. There, employees can get away from their busy day for a few minutes (or more) to relax, unwind and relieve their stress. Encircling the room are numerous plants, which in conjunction with the ambient noise and comfortable furniture, makes it a peaceful retreat from one’s desk.
While health and fitness is a priority, nothing has gotten in the way of continuing to make beer an important bedrock of the Paragus culture.
We value the camaraderie that comes from sharing a cold beverage after a long day with friends. We appreciate the time and attention that goes into crafting a well-balanced brew. We have even taken our passion one step further by contracting to have a local brewery create a private label brew that is always on tap and bottled for very special occasions and gifts. 8
One of the things we are most proud of is the progress we have made in recognizing and appreciating each member of our team. For example, what started out as a basic recognition wall has grown to be such a success and such a part of our culture, that we developed ways of digitizing these notes to make them easier to create and display. Our weekly Internal Paragus Newsletter includes content about recent successes and lessons learned, and recognizes teams or people in addition to the other office news and upcoming staff events. However, the crown jewel is our annual end of the year celebration where we have incorporated an awards style ceremony to recognize and celebrate amazing achievements in various areas: Best Wow, Best Onboarding, Best Disaster Response and Best Executed Project.
Despite the fact that we have grown in many ways, we have remained committed to transparency and shared input in decision making.
As we have grown, we have taken measures to ensure we have the right combination of training, tools and communication to enable this to be possible. Our participatory style of leadership has expanded to allow a broader range of contributions from all levels – for example, anyone can lead the Owner’s Meeting if they are heading up a major initiative that should include input from the entire company. We encourage all employees to seek to understand all decisions that
are made by anyone in the organization. Employees are expected to hold each other accountable as professionals, regardless of position, when another employee fails to live up to company values. We still don’t believe in private offices, but rather feel that all staff should have equality when it comes to their workspaces while also encouraging communication and collaboration. All of this transparency and education has allowed us to develop a very strong culture of trust and empowerment that gives employees the tools, information and authority needed to make decisions that are aligned with the company’s mission, vision, purpose and values. Paragus trusts its employees to make sensible decisions and places the responsibility on its employees to own their own success. Leadership went as far as to enact a policy to quantify the amount of risk any employee can take on when making a decision that would be outside or contrary to an existing policy. This allows for timely resolution to important customer issues, facilitates trust between clients and their Paragus team, and encourages solid critical thinking at all levels of the organization. This policy includes a provision whereby after the decision has been made, the employee who made it has an opportunity to review that decision with a member of leadership to analyze the decision and the outcome. 9
Another great example of both our transparency and empowerment is seen in our willingness and commitment to having open and honest conversations about our compensation strategy from holding trainings to explain the strategy, to inviting questions and suggestions about how we might make changes. This can also be seen in our employee advancement program. Getting promoted at Paragus is a science not an art. Employees have the information, tools and support needed to shape their career, change their role and increase their compensation. We have taken our version 1 checklist program and expanded it dramatically to create clear requirements for each position represented as obtainable skills and experience points that are easily tracked, monitored and shared. In fact, we are all receiving 50 experience points for participating in Paragus Day 2020. In order to ensure that there are always new challenges and opportunities for growth available, we have continued to explore the addition of new roles that create additional pathways, giving each employee the ability to explore their interests and strengths. We have also enabled staff to play an active role in defining their own career paths at Paragus, encouraging them to look for opportunities to create value for Paragus while continuing to satisfy their own desire for growth, change or both. Our primary objective remains to always put the right people in the right roles using everyone to their greatest potential.
Collaboration continues to be something that sets Paragus apart from its competitors.
We remain committed to living our value of Succeeding Together by encouraging the sharing of both problems and ideas. Our culture is very much focused on celebrating
the collective results, limiting the emphasis on any one employee’s contributions, but rather appreciating the team effort that went into the achievement of that result. Collaboration has been enhanced by the investment in new tools to help facilitate the identification and communication of the right resources for any given situation. Specifically, we have made collaboration a focal point of our internally developed business management software and has also been a big part of our R&D budget. The fruits of this focus on improving collaboration across the business is an important part of the “secret sauce” that has made us so successful. No tech is an island, no office is an island and no team is an island; we believe that collaboration is essential and therefore we have invested in the tools, training and processes needed to make this possible regardless of geographic boundaries or other limitations. We have also gotten better over the years at mentoring – including traditional mentorships as well as informal peer mentorship that all play an important role in the development and success of our staff. 10
In addition to the many wonderful and creative
The second event is the end of the year event,
events that are scheduled throughout the year,
where in addition to the aforementioned awards
two are considered absolutely paramount and
ceremony, we have continued the tradition of
always drive the largest attendance. First is
awarding Frosties: fun awards given to each
the fall retreat: an annual celebration of our
staff member that reflect their individual
collaboration and shared ownership. At this
personality or contributions. During this event
event we continue to combine fun with hard
we also view a short presentation from each
work and education, working on everything
of the businesses in the Family of Business
from the budget to team building in a 2-day
portfolio that outlines their accomplishments
offsite format. Throughout the year it is also
that year and their goals for next year. Finally,
not uncommon for our various leadership
in addition to the fun, food and entertainment,
teams and even occasionally some of our
this event also contains a â€œvision slashingâ€?
committees to go on mini-retreats of their own,
ceremony where each company crosses off
combining interesting or exotic destinations
the items in their current vision that they have
with creative and undistracted brainstorming.
accomplished in the past year.
At the end of each year a very comprehensive total compensation summary is provided to each partner.
The report is then enhanced by trainings and information that help to ensure every employee fully understands their unique, comprehensive package, its total value, and how the employee
can increase it in the future. We canâ€™t reflect on compensation without mentioning our Employee Bonus Pool Program (EBPP). Over the past 5 years this program has become as refined as it is lucrative. Each employee plays a very active role in contributing to the success and health of the company by having clearly defined numbers that their efforts can directly impact and then rewarding them for their hard work by allowing them to share in the profits. To this point, each employee has a customizable dashboard that gives them immediate and easy access to the data and information that matter most to them and includes features such as customizable alerts and forecasting tools.
Our values matter more to us now than ever.
Not only do we celebrate and demonstrate
aspect of the business, we now engage our clients and vendors
in contests, invite their feedback and encourage collaborative ventures through our monthly newsletter, social media, on our support tools, in our email signatures and on our website. We have also developed an important tool that allows each staff member to rate our company on how well we are adhering to values. This feedback is compiled and analyzed, and helps to shape future company strategic goals and decisions. Finally, as a demonstration of our passion for continuous improvement, we also remain very committed to identifying additional unique and creative benefits, perks and cultural investments that offer our employees more than just a paycheck. This is possibly best reflected in our commitment to adding at least one new benefit or perk each year which so far has included a visiting barber, visiting chef prepared lunches and breakfasts and rental equipment like bikes and kayaks. Paragus recognizes that our employees come from many different family backgrounds – we have kids, pets and even extended family members living under one roof. In the spirit of allowing employees to choose the benefits that are most meaningful to them, Paragus has launched an unrivalled Family First program, which allows employees to select from innovative benefits such as childcare assistance, flexible working hours, or even boarding for pets. As if that wasn’t enough, Paragus’ PTO policy encourages employees to take off the time they need, demonstrating the company’s ongoing commitment and support to its employees and their families by doing the right thing. Long-term partners – those with 10 or more years of continuous service time at Paragus – are encouraged to submit a proposal to extend their learning quest via a 6 week long paid sabbatical, geared towards helping them focus their energies on a major project that cannot otherwise be accomplished within their normal work schedule. No surprise, Paragus is regularly recognized as being one of the greatest places to work in every community where we employ staff, including making Fortune’s 50 Best Small & Medium Workplaces list.
MARKETS, MONEY &SERVICES As we reflect on the investments we have made in our partners, our values and our culture, one might be tempted to ask how that has affected the rest of the business.
Well, those investments are paying off very well.
Paragus crossed the 10 million dollar mark and weâ€™re well on our way to reaching 15 million dollars this year or next. We remain focused on growing our company while also ensuring we have a healthy balance sheet and a strong targeted profit margin of at least 10% each year. We havenâ€™t allowed ourselves to be unprofitable for more than one year in the last 5. Each year during our budgeting cycle our leadership team takes a hard look at our cash position and ensures that we have a reasonable amount of cash we can access to address unforeseen circumstances. We have balanced our revenue strategically, ensuring that we are not overly dependent on any one client or small group of clients. We made sure to never take on a client that would require us to lay staff off if we lost that client. In addition to organic
growth, Paragus continues to assess the role
objectives and goals, adding in additional
acquisitions play in its growth. After applying
accountability and implementing improved
the lessons learned from our first acquisition
systems, we are now able to take the
we continued to target and identify additional
excitement that is created in the sales process
opportunities that aligned with our strategic
and carry it over into the delivery. One
objectives. Our philosophy has continued to be
important manifestation of these efforts is the
that each acquisition we evaluate or complete
90 day check-in, during which, two important
presents an opportunity for us to learn more
questions are asked: “On a scale from 1-5,
about growth and therefore we have remained
how impressed with Paragus are you based
very open to acting on the right deal when it
purely on the past 90 days?” “On a scale from
1-5, how likely would you be to recommend Paragus to someone else”, to which any score
Sales and relationship management was
below a 4 to either question is considered a
certainly not excluded from our strong push
failed onboarding, requiring a thorough post
to systemize our processes. Starting with our
mortem to not only identify opportunities
outbound marketing, every step of the sales
for improvement but also establish a specific
cycle is carefully managed to ensure a high
action plan with defined accountability to
close rate for the clients that fit our model
ensure changes are made in a timely manner.
while weeding out those who don’t. We have added new steps to our process like a tour of
True to our mission statement, over the past
Paragus HQ and the establishment of mutually
5 years we have developed clear guidelines
agreed upon goals and objectives for the first
that new clients must meet before we agree
90 days. Most importantly, this process is no
to onboard them. Once onboard, we have a
longer dependent on a single resource, but
set of metrics by which we can measure each
rather is a collaborative effort by a group of
account in order to ensure that it continues to
Paragus employees whose position or passion
fit with our model, generates what we have
makes them a member of the Paragus Sales
determined to be an acceptable profit margin,
and doesn’t cause excessive stress, frustration or strain on our employees. We haven’t been
Possibly the winner of the “most improved
afraid to let a client go for any of those reasons
process”, our client onboarding has evolved
and have been committed to reviewing
from one of our greatest weaknesses to one
whether or not a continued relationship makes
of our greatest strengths. By reassigning
sense at each contract renewal.
roles, doing a better job of establishing clear 14
Much as you would expect, as the market has continued to evolve and change, Paragus very carefully evaluated the services it was offering, both to identify new services as well as needed changes and improvements to its existing services. One major area for change has been that over the last 5 years Paragus has focused its time and investments in creating offerings that are far less complex to administer on a day to day basis, such as things like DaaS and tools like RMM. As a result, more of Paragusâ€™ labor is now spent working on projects that have a higher value to the customer. Another major change was the development of a special projects division. This division allows us the flexibility to work on projects with organizations that have in-house IT staff without the need for a traditional service contract. These engagements are targeted at organizations who we feel have a significant branding impact, an important learning opportunity and/or the potential for additional work down the road. One of the most exciting changes to our services is an offering that allows us to leverage Vault9 in order to create service offerings that can be made available to serve clients that are outside of the geographic radius of any of our offices, expanding our serviceable market to the entire United States.
Despite managing multiple locations and providing services to clients outside of our geographic reach, brand has always remained our absolute top priority, never have we been willing to sacrifice it for profits or growth. Paragus has absolutely maintained its brand image as a fun-loving, innovative, market leader that prides itself on professionalism. We are a forward-thinking company with a very visible presence in the communities where we have a location or staff. Paragus has continued to stay true to its roots of maintaining its focus on client experience and satisfaction. Paragus also remains focused on creating teams with a strong emphasis on finding and placing employees that will complement each otherâ€™s personalities, communication and work styles while also closely aligning with the specific clientâ€™s needs. While we have been successful, our commitment to continuous improvement that is rooted in data capturing and analytics is stronger than ever. Despite our success, we know that there is always room for refinement and that our continued growth will always dictate the need for additional changes and enhancements. We learn from our mistakes and iterate over time to ensure that our improvements are introduced in a way that minimizes disruption. Over the past 5 years we have prioritized automation and efficiency more than we ever had before, investing in new tools, processes and services that enable our staff to spend more time doing valuable work 15
that they enjoy and less time doing tasks that are routine and repetitive. At the end of each year, Paragus carefully reviews each of its services and evaluates the risk associated with their delivery in order to ensure that steps are being taken in the following year to further mitigate risk, improve redundancy and create additional stability.
Our financial strength and stability is also greatly enhanced by our investments in our family of businesses. We have had a great track record in selecting, investing in, and supporting the growth of new ideas into great businesses. This has helped us to ensure that great ideas that donâ€™t fit the Paragus business model are launched and maintained under a separate brand. More than one of those businesses is still in operation to this day and generating healthy profits and growth of its own. For example, what started out as a Paragus-run incubator for software development was eventually spun off as a separate company in the family of businesses. Not only is it doing exceptionally well on its own but it also remains a close partner to Paragus, sharing many clients and working collaboratively on some shared projects.
COMMUNITY Paragus and its partners are very well known for giving back to each of the communities they call home.
Each year we set our charitable giving budget based on 7% of last year’s profits. Paragus has a charitable giving committee that decides each year how to spend the budget that is allocated to it including
setting a theme for their donations. In addition to our financial contributions, four times each year the staff of Paragus collectively volunteers their time for a charity or cause.
At the heart of our charitable program is our staff match: a program that allows staff to support any non-profit or community organization of their choice and have their contributions matched. In addition to our charitable match, a portion of our annual giving is also now channeled into something we call “Giving Beyond.” Giving Beyond allows staff to submit a grant request to the Charitable Giving Committee in support of an initiative or idea that they feel passionately about but need additional help in supporting. GB requests typically cover travel expenses to reach those in need or in some cases, seed funding to support the creation of something new or less official than a traditional 501C3 organization. We continued to expand the value of Paragus University by offering free classes to the community on how to safely use technology, lectures on important topics, host guest speakers and make the space available to the community for their own use at no charge. One thing that hasn’t changed in the past 5 years is our support for Tech Foundry and the shared responsibility we all feel when it comes to educating and training the next generation of IT technicians. In addition to the many volunteer hours spent conducting trainings, working with interns, and acting as mentors, Paragus has also hired several Tech Foundry graduates on as full-time employees and has also continued to support their efforts through financial contributions. We‘ve grown increasingly more aware of our environmental responsibilities including reducing our waste and increasing our recycling as well as taking steps to both reduce and offset our carbon footprint as we continue to make progress every year towards our goal of becoming completely carbon neutral. Our approach to achieving these goals is diverse and creative. From carpooling to growing our own vegetables, our goal is to reflect the values of our staff in the decisions we make as partners. 17
Itâ€™s been an amazing 5 years and while we have already completed our vision for the next 5 years and are eager to get working on it, we knew that it was important to stop and take this moment to reflect on what we were all able to accomplish together and just celebrate the awesomeness that is Paragus and its partners.
NOW ON TO THE RAPIDS!
M A D E
N O V E M B E R
2 0 1 5