Onebridge turned 15 years old last week and I’ve never been more excited about our future. To celebrate, we have some great news to share. But you have to wait until the end of the post for that! As I think about where we’re going, I’d like to take a minute to reflect on where we started and what we have learned.
15 years ago, Karen Cooper and I embarked on the biggest – and riskiest – undertaking of our professional lives, we started a business. This business. Then known as SmartIT Staffing. And then, just like now, the first key to a successful business is to know your why. There are lots of reasons – change the world, build cool things, make lots of money, etc. All are valid, but it’s really important to be honest about your reasons because it will guide everything you do. For us, it was two things. (1) have flexibility to prioritize our families and (2) work with, and develop, people we like.
While prioritizing your family may sound like an odd reason to go into business, it wasn’t for us. We wanted flexibility. We wanted to not miss anything in our family’s life. We wanted to be able to spend time with the people we love. And we have modeled that behavior for 15 years. Today it’s part of our fabric and what makes Onebridge part of who we are. Yes, we deliver to clients. Yes, we have teammates who count on us. But we can do all that better with our priorities in order. This mentality has led to greater dedication, motivation, and appreciation over the years…powered us to who we are today as a company.
The second item was equally important. We wanted to work with people we like. We spend 8+ hours a day with co-workers, too much time not to care about bolstering positive team relationships. And despite the industry we are in, we never prioritized the technology over the people. Specifically, we focused on how could we help our people grow? Grow to serve clients, each other, and the community. And that is where our mission statement – Empower good people to do great things – came from. And it is just as valid today – honestly more so – as it was back then.
We learned a couple things along the way too. We learned that change is a journey, not a destination (one of my favorite sayings). And that change, by itself, it not helpful. It must be in pursuit of something better. For Onebridge, our employees, clients, and community. That’s how we went from an IT staffing company of 2 to where we are today – a leading technology services company of 300+ people building applications and doing data and analytics work for the largest companies in our market, utilizing some of the coolest technology out there.
We learned we are really in the people business. I know it may seem obvious, but we have been determined to never lose sight of that. We have won many awards in our time. We have been Inc. 5000 many times, and listed in other publications for size or growth. But the one that always matters most is Best Places to Work. And last year, here in Indiana, we were voted (by our employees) as the #2 Best Place to work in the Large Employer category. I love this. They say you can go fast alone, but far together. We have gone far here. You can have the best opportunity and strategy, but without the right people you’ll never execute. We’ve always believed in the Peter Drucker quote, culture eats strategy for breakfast. It’s true, every time.
As the business has been going through its phases and changes, Karen and I have been discussing our own futures, to figure out the best way to align the business’ best long-term interest with our personal interest and that of all of our employees interests. We considered the future for all stakeholders at Onebridge – owners, employees, clients, community, partners, our families. All those groups have guided the answer to the question of where do we go from here? Something that allows Karen to achieve her personal goals of retirement. Me to stay engaged and help the company to its next phase. For the Onebridge team to continue to grow, get better, and have better opportunities. What does the optimal win-win-win look like?
Here is the good part, the solution. A solution that maximizes the opportunity for all and takes the business to its most exciting place yet. Most importantly, a solution that stays consistent with the reason we started this business 15 years ago today.
We sold the company. To the employees.
We celebrated our 15-year anniversary with an announcement to our team that Onebridge is now a 100% employee owned company (ESOP). We wanted to reward the people that have gotten us to this point and give them the upside on the business going forward. Karen retired the day of the transaction and I am committed to sticking around at least 5 years. We chose a solution that will allow nothing to slow down our momentum or disrupt our team, quite the opposite. Everyone from leadership on down stays and has the same day-to-day responsibilities, they just do it as owners of the business. Employee ownership will only enhance our service to our clients as our people are more personally invested in client success. Our community engagement will ultimately increase as there is now even more pride and personalization in Onebridge and how we support our local community.
I couldn’t be more excited that we are now an ESOP, this truly was the best path for us. This move will make a huge difference in our long-term success and only accelerate our growth initiatives. As a former owner, I can tell you nobody cares more about the success of our clients, our people, and our community than an owner…and Onebridge now has hundreds of them. You are all in good hands! Thank you to everyone who has had a part in our adventure these past 15 years, I appreciate you all and can’t wait for the next chapter.