Fighting the current

When Pennsylvania was a river of departing jobs, Jonathan Brassington was navigating his company upstream.

Earlier this decade, with many jobs leaving the Keystone State, LiquidHub was one of a small group of companies that created jobs during the post-Sept. 11 economic downturn.

Since its inception in 2001, Brassington’s systems integration and technology consulting business has grown from 35 employees to more than 300, and its sales rose from $2.9 million to about $35 million.

Smart Business spoke with Brassington about how he creates jobs and finds the right talent to fill them.

How do you recruit and retain the best employees?
It’s spread among types of employees. There are a lot of IT services companies who have a percentage (of people) who are full-time employees, and then they might use subcontractors or hourly employees.

One of the things that we felt very early on was that because our focus is on technology solutions, we wanted to hire people full time and train them and indoctrinate them into our methodology, our approach and build a long relationship with them. So we made a conscious decision to hire full-time people.

After that, the first thing was how to build a company culture that would attract talent. We started to define a set of guiding principles on how we go forward to bring in the right talent. We asked ourselves, ‘Why would people work at LiquidHub, and why would they stay here?’

From the perspective of what is attractive and how do we get employees to want to be part of the company culture, we invest a ton of effort in training and put a ton of effort in practice areas.

How do you do that?
It’s very common in a lot of systems integration companies where you have employees out in the field and they never really get to meet each other, they never really get to build a bond with other associates.

We felt it was extremely critical to build a framework where people come into the organization, they have a career path and they feel like they belong to the organization, that they’re not just a part of one of our client teams.

We have a soccer team, we do paintball events, golf league activities. We put a lot of emphasis on that and not just having a transactional relationship with our associates.

We made a distinction early on that we would refer to employees in the organization as associates. We felt ‘associate’ was a more inclusive and entrepreneurial interpretation. We wanted everyone to act as a stakeholder and ambassador of the business.

We have a tagline that says, ‘Our business revolves around you.’ The ‘you’ refers to both our customers and our associates.

How do you make sure you’re hiring the best people?
Find references not listed by the candidate. Find someone whom the candidate worked with previously.

In a two- to three-hour interview, there are a lot of things that you might not pick up. But by talking to people who have worked with an individual for a long period of time, you get a lot more honesty from that kind of a reference.

We like to bring in a candidate multiple times. We try to avoid having only one interview with a candidate. We have them meet key people one day and other key people another day.

We like to see people and meet them over a couple different days, to see if there is an on day and an off day.

How do you empower employees to do good work once you have hired them?
One of our core values is entrepreneurship. We practice a concept of meritocracy, aggressively promoting and rewarding the best ideas regardless of where they come from.

That concept is a big part of our culture. We might form a project team comprised of senior associates all the way up to managing directors. But when you’re at that table, the associate might be the project leader and someone in a more senior position in the organizational model might be reporting to them. We have a difference between your role on the team and where you fit in the organizational model.

We work very hard to make that a part of our culture, to promote ideas and to reward them publicly. If you look at our eight directors, four of them joined the company as associates. So we reward and recognize talent and contributions.

HOW TO REACH: LiquidHub, (484) 654-1400 or