‘From basement to boardroom’

Filed under: Banking & Finance | Tags:

 She’s obviously done something right.

Nine years ago, Kathy Boe started Boecore in the basement of her home. Now Boecore employs more than 100 people, wins multiple awards, offers a variety of engineering services for the Department of Defense, owns BPS, a technical staffing subsidiary, and recently opened offices in Huntsville, Ala.

Founder and CEO, Boe is also the 2009 Celebrate Technology Entrepreneur of the Year, and was keynote speaker at the latest Peak Venture Group breakfast at the Garden of the Gods Club.

She credits the company’s mission statement — which they actually adhere to and make a priority, unlike many companies — and persistent recognition of employees and their achievements as the basis of Boecore’s success.

Boe told the audience of business people and entrepreneurs that experience is key when starting a business.

“I don’t have an Ivy League degree or a military background — that would’ve helped, but I did have a customer service background and nine years of software programming. If you think you’ll start a business in something you’ve never done — you could end up being a statistic that we hear about,” Boe said.

During her years of gaining engineering and information technology experience, she took notes of people’s failures and mistakes.

“When you’re an entrepreneur, you’d better have goals and objectives — it’s hard to lead a group of people without them,” she said. And optimism is “huge.” She “looks for reasons to be excited” and shares those with the team.

Although some executives are “reluctant to hire people smarter than them — I do that all the time,” she said.

And, don’t even contemplate starting a business if you’re not “passionate” about it.

She started the company after Y2K and before Sept. 11, “So I had to be very careful with money and not buy things I didn’t need,” Boe said, who began without a loan, after saving $5,000.

Another bit of advice she offered is moving forward and not dwelling on the negative or in the past — especially when something happens that could not be prevented or wasn’t the company’s fault.

They have a saying at Boecore, “That’s triple-O-C (out of your control), move on,” she said.

One of the many ways in which she and upper management stay connected with employees and especially off-site employees is to deliver the payroll stubs, along with bagels, to their 82 employees at Schriever Air Force Base. This also gives the employees an opportunity to immediately talk about anything that could be a potential problem. She fiercely maintains an open-door policy with employees and management.

And forget the old command-and-control style of management.

“Our needs come last,” Boe said. “I refer to it as an upside-down org chart. The management takes care of the employees — and it works because the employees take care of our customers.”

She and Boecore are involved in the community and in fundraisers, charity events and company group events.

But when networking, she makes sure to “give something back.”

Boecore was selected by Northrop Grumman as a protégé in the Department of Defense Mentor-Protégé Program.

“I take any opportunity I have to give back to Northrop Grumman for the help they give us.

“Be a giver — not a taker.”

She also sends out “a lot of thank-you notes,” Boe said. “I sincerely am very grateful about the help we receive.”

To retain employees, companies have to pay them fairly and show them they are appreciated. Boecore offers profit sharing, and she personally writes thank-you notes to her employees and makes sure that she knows what their jobs entail.

“Our retention rate is 97 percent,” Boe said. “If you won’t retain them — someone else will.”

The company does one-on-one meetings with employees and also tries to learn from the employees by using surveys to find out what they can offer them.

In addition to hiring “A” players, CEOs have to help their employees grow — otherwise they’ll lose them. “‘A’ players will always have another job,” she said.

To ensure longevity, “Focus — and do what you’re good at. But you’d better evolve at the same time or you won’t stay around.”

And a company’s biggest asset?

Reputation.

“It’s a gradual process” to build one’s reputation, but maintaining integrity is crucial.

“Those of you who are intuitive know when someone’s not being honest with you. Well, your employees also know it, and your customers know it,” she said.

Maintain your integrity, and don’t keep people around who don’t have it.

And, while remembering your principles, values, and mission statement — don’t forget diversity and collaboration, and listening to employees and treating them with respect and appreciation.

The best way to improve the bottom line is to value the people who make it all possible.

As Boe likes to say, “Happy employees make happy customers.”

Rebecca Tonn covers banking and finance for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.