Honorable Mention: Small Business Person of the Year Featured

9:42am EDT July 22, 2002

Two words sum up the business philosophy of Gary Quick: people first.

“It’s all about people and keeping them happy,” he says. “And you don’t have to spend a lot to do it.”

The president and founder of Columbus-based Quick Solutions Inc., a computer consulting company, offers more than monetary incentives to keep retention and productivity levels high. He maintains that’s important in his line of work.

“In the information technology business, there are more jobs than people to fill them,” he says. “There’s a bidding war going on for our people.”

Quick, 48, spent 18 years as an executive headhunter before starting Quick Solutions in 1991, an experience that provided ample insight into workplace dissatisfaction in the information technology field.

“Many IT employees do not feel appreciated because they are an expense to a company,” Quick says. “When corporations have to cut their IT spending, low fixed annual increases and cuts in IT training usually result. At QSI, we do everything possible to make sure our consultants feel appreciated. We also do everything possible to communicate with them and meet their career goals and objectives.”

Although some of his consultants accept permanent positions in the companies they assist, Quick says his company has little turnover because of a supportive environment that IT personnel appreciate.

“Most big corporations don’t give a hoot about their IT personnel,” he explains. “Unless you’re in the computer consulting business, where IT people generate revenue, they’re an expense and they get treated like an expense. They don’t get any recognition. So I love to hire people from big companies. We do all kinds of things to stroke them.”

For starters, Quick Solutions offers its 200-plus consultants additional technical training that improves their overall marketability and matches their skills with client projects to make assignments more challenging and satisfying. A consultant generally interviews with a client to assure a good fit which, Quick says, is unusual in the industry.

“We can put people to work almost as quickly as we can hire them,” Quick says. “The challenge has always been to create an environment that gets attention. I think we go overboard in making sure that the project and the assignment we put the consultant on is one they want to do.”

Michael Holdcroft left Nationwide three years ago to join Quick Solutions as a consultant and has become one of its 20 consulting services managers. Holdcroft and his wife were impressed with the gift basket they received from the company when he came on board. And as a consultant, he appreciated the flexibility of getting whatever technical training he wanted.

“It’s a very entrepreneurial environment,” Holdcroft says. “Our consultants are given freedom to take their careers in any direction they want.”

Holdcroft says although he can make more money working for a large corporation, he doesn’t think he’ll go back.

Quick also takes care of his recruiting and marketing staff who, he concedes, are naturally proactive and need very little coaching.

“If you take care of the client by doing good service and you take care of your people who actually do the work, you really don’t have to worry too much about growing,” says Quick.

Managers are honored in quarterly recognition events and can spend a week every year in a company-owned condominium in Santa Bella Island, Fla. Administrative staff earn weekly cash bonuses based on units of work achieved. In 1999, Quick started giving out $1,200 travel bonuses and monthly housecleaning services to reward all staff who have at least three years of service.

Quick’s giving approach is paying off in a big way. In less than a decade, his company leaped from two consultants to 220, serving more than 80 clients, including Honda, AEP and Bank One. QSI has a total of 50 employees in its Columbus headquarters and regional offices in Charlotte, N.C., and Chicago. The company hit $24 million in revenues last year and expects to increase that figure 30 percent this year — the same increase it saw in 1999 over 1998 revenues.

This March, Quick started his quest to make stockholders out of his employees by offering an employee stock ownership plan. He believes employee ownership will improve attitudes and performance, resulting in even greater profits.

“If you really take care of employees,” he says, “they’ll return it 10 times.”

Muntaqima Abdur-Rashid is a Columbus-based free-lance writer.