Don’t bite off more than you can chew is something that Michael Vargo reminds himself of, a lot.
Over the past three years, the sister companies Vargo Adaptive Software LLC and Vargo Integrated Systems Inc. have undergone tremendous growth, which stemmed from a 2006 acquisition of a small boutique software group.
“I don’t recall ever just waking up one day and realizing, ‘Wow, we’re on a different path.’ It feels almost as though we’ve kind of morphed into this,” says Vargo, president and CEO of the business his father founded.
The Vargo companies have taken on a completely different look and feel — working in the same industry but becoming more entwined with customers in direct-to-consumer distribution and retail fulfillment.
“Prior to that acquisition, we were like any traditional systems integrator. And, you know, the way we looked at solving or identifying these problems was pretty traditional,” he says.
Now, the organization is learning how to deal with an accelerated interest level and growth rate on the software side, and Vargo hopes it can keep pace with all the available opportunities.
Interacting with clients and providing material handling solutions like warehouse racking or storage used to be the focus. But today, Vargo says what consumes his entire day is putting into motion a strategy for controlled growth.
“That’s something that we have to be very careful about, controlling this growth, because it is so mission-critical, the solution that we provide,” he says. “We just can’t bring on bodies. And we have to be pretty specific about who’s joining our team and who is fitting the culture of our company and in what way they are bringing value.”
The talent search
Rapid growth may not alter operations much, but it does affect the business structure and personnel.
COO and CFO Bart Cera says the company is on a constant recruiting effort.
“You can never let down the recruiting arm,” he says. “Your recruiting arm is kind of an everyday process of looking for good people. And not necessarily looking at good people for a specific role, but looking for good people and then looking at what role they could provide value in.”
Management is perpetually interviewing job candidates and discussing opportunities with recruiters in order to find the right attitudes and skill sets, particularly from a software standpoint.
The growth also has softened the company’s stance on people working remotely.
“It’s been a new endeavor for us — finding out that people are reluctant to move to one of our offices whether it be Berkeley, Austin or Columbus,” Cera says.
In order to get the talent, management has allowed people the freedom to work from home, while determining how to hold those folks accountable.
“We’ve got folks working remotely in Michigan, and other places in Ohio that don’t necessarily have an office to drive to every day,” Cera says.
“While we were averse to that in previous years, we’re becoming less and less averse to that — finding out that it’s attractive to individuals with talent,” he says. “The talent to us is more important than having somebody reporting to an office every morning.”
Empower by stepping back
During the growth, employees have taken on an attitude of ownership and pride — not treating the work as an 8-to-5 job. This is something Vargo seeks to foster.