On May 6, 2013, I attended the Eastside Business awards, sponsored by the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, along with several of my Caiman Consulting colleagues. We were among a select group of local businesses to be honored that day, and as I enjoyed the key note speech and presentations, I also reflected on how far we've come as a company. Then again, it’s not always just about the “company”, it’s a personal story as well.
I've been with Caiman since 2006. I'm "Employee Number 9", and I originally intended to give consulting a one or two-year trial before moving on to join the ranks of some other company with an interesting set of products. And yet, I’m still here, seven years later. Attending the award session reminded me of just why that is.
Caiman was initially invited to take part in the annual award process by the Chamber, and we opted to participate in the “Best Small Business” category. We were evaluated by three general criteria, and each one represents a reason for why I am still here.
Companies will be evaluated by how they demonstrate a history of innovation, use of new technology, adaptation to challenging conditions, and forging new and unique partnerships.
Caiman was started with a simple concept, to be a "different" kind of consulting company. That doesn't necessarily mean that we wanted to reinvent Project Management or other standard services provided by management consulting firms, but that we wanted to find ways to enable consultants to do them better, sometimes with a more personal touch. Additionally, we wanted to be the type of firm that many who work for the more traditional "Big 4" type of firms dreamed about: a flat structure, less politics, low administrative overhead, and more time for quality delivery for our clients. Not only that, we're virtual, which calls for us to wisely identify tools and processes in order to stay "connected" day-to-day.
Companies will demonstrate commitment to workforce excellence, including the promotion of diversity.
Caiman is a minority-owned business and 40% of our 42 employees are women. We make a real and sustained effort to recruit people from diverse backgrounds, and I am proud of that. Caiman also encourages employees to grow their skills, and in many cases will subsidize their efforts. We enjoy an excellent compensation/benefits package, and are regularly recognized as a top firm to work for in both local and national publications like Consulting Magazine and the Puget Sound Business Journal.
Companies will demonstrate the accomplishments of the leadership team in meeting the unique challenges faced by a small business.
One of our co-founders has been recognized as one of the Seattle area's Top 40 Executives Under 40. Our other Directors and managers also have received similar types of recognition. That is all great, but what impresses me the most is that while we've grown and endured challenging times, they all retain that "human touch" that many companies lose as they expand. Small companies usually want to grow into larger companies, and we're no different, but as we do our leadership has managed to hold on to this core value. Whether it’s our annual company trip (usually to somewhere tropical) or just an impromptu get-together, our leaders try hard to maintain that small-company sense of connection with all of us.
As I was reflecting on all of this, the winner in our category was announced... and unfortunately it was not us. John Phee, one of our Directors, immediately exclaimed "Tied for 2nd! Great job, everyone!", and that exemplifies our company culture to a tee. Sure, we'd rather win, but being a part of this whole process was a victory in and of itself, one that we can still celebrate. We are pleased to be recognized as a top small consulting firm in the Puget Sound area and thrilled to participate in this great event with our local community leaders. John recognized the event as a great opportunity to connect with our community, fellow business leaders, and to forge some of those unique partnerships mentioned above.
So there you go. I’ve had seven great years with Caiman, and what was supposed to be a temporary phase in my career has become so much more. With regards to the award, you can’t win them all, but it’s an honor to be recognized as a finalist amongst other great companies, and we’ll keep striving to reach that mark. That’s why I've made this company my home for so long.