Bob Duffy on Leadership, Company Culture and SimVentions
In the early days of their business, the founders of Simventions were told that they shouldn’t openly share their commitment to Biblical values. And, if they’d followed that advice, they would be a different company today. Needless to say, they didn’t listen. Their faith can be found in their mission statement, on the décor in their offices, and in the practices of their company. They even pray before company meetings. Innovation here includes not just technology, but the corporate culture too.
After two years at the top of “Best Places to Work in Virginia,” Simventions has been named one of 2016’s top 50 places to work in the United States by Inc. Magazine. During 2015, more than 500 companies were audited in three areas that every employee cares about: “Wallet and Workplace, Employee Feedback, and Performance Innovation.”
When you dig into what’s behind this notable achievement, you’ll discover something that is familiar to FCS parents. At the core of their business is the conviction that faith should inform the quality of work, depth of relationships, and the experience of a company’s employees.
A Culture and a Community
We had a chance to catch up with Bob Duffy—a senior executive at Simventions—in their center court (which looks more like Google than the inside of a government contractor’s building). He shared his perspectives on company growth and the local commitments they’ve made to the community, including Fredericksburg Christian School.
He’s clear about what has brought them consistent growth and recognition, like this latest placement in the top 50 best places to work. Simventions has worked to openly and consistently serve our nation with a community founded on Biblical principles. Even though it might seem counter culture in the world of government contracting, Bob says, “We’re very up-front about our values, and we’ve found that it creates trust right away with both clients and employees. We’re authentic, and people like that.” One employee responded to how this openness impacted her: “they helped me become a better person.”
To get a real sense of the culture, we interviewed a number of employees at various levels within the company. We were surprised as we continued to hear, “I feel like this is my family,” from employee after employee. Unlike a canned statement that you might hear from well-coached interviewees, these employees talked about a place they feel they truly belong. It’s a far cry from a cubicle farm or a cold technology contracting firm.
During lunch with Bob, Jamie Williams ‘06 walked up and sat down. Unlike other corporate settings, Jamie didn’t behave like an underling. He joined the conversation like he was coming to the family table. It was a refreshing experience.
We talked with Jamie about his experience at Simventions. He shared that the confidence exhibited at Bob Duffy’s table is rooted in the culture at Simventions: his perspectives as a millennial are respected and his contributions valued. He also credits FCS for preparing him by “substantially forming his worldview.” Jamie is continuing to experience the same kind of great relationships at Simventions that he experienced with instructors at FCS.
Servant Leadership in Action
Simventions makes it a practice to find and invest in the development of young leaders. That often begins during their college years, and Josh Storms ‘08 is a great example. After graduating from FCS, Josh attended VA Tech. It was during his junior year at VA Tech that Bob began building a relationship with him—working on a graphics project that is still being used by the company. Today, Josh is thriving in this environment and brings graphics expertise to business development and contract projects. He says, “I feel a little spoiled,” because he gets to enjoy the technical thinking along with the opportunity for lots of diverse graphic projects.
Certainly every employee at the company does not have the same faith perspective that Jamie and Josh share, but what they all experience as an employee is an environment of servant leadership in which each employee is treated with dignity and included as a team member regardless of their faith viewpoint.
Their mission is to “Seek, and operate upon, biblically based wisdom and principles; develop strong and lasting relationships with our employees, our customers and our communities of interest; and to set the highest standards for customer satisfaction, technical excellence, and employee satisfaction.”
One millennial employee who has been there almost a year, Katherine, summarizes it this way: “Simventions is all about servant leadership.” She describes her work as the “selfless pursuit of technical excellence.” When she first heard about Simventions, she — like many millennials — had a skeptical response. She couldn’t believe that a company like this could even exist. Now, she loves coming to work and says: “it’s like I’ve always been here.”
Investing in Education
It’s exactly this kind of consistent faith and integrity lived out in the open that aligns Bob’s and Simventions’ continued support for FCS and its mission. “FCS is growing the kind of leaders that exhibit confidence, who are comfortable with people and communicate well—they take a Christian worldview into life.”
Bob has served on the FCS board for 18 years and is currently serving as the board chairman. He’s committed personally, too – his children have spent a combined 45 years at FCS.
“We moved to Fredericksburg in large part because of Fredericksburg Christian School. The school really sold us on the area,” says Bob. “We were looking for a community and a school that would truly nurture the faith and character of our children in a way that supported our worldview. That’s what we found at the school.”
This kind of investment in leadership extends to the community too, and that’s where Fredericksburg Christian School comes in. “They are growing the kind of young leaders—leaders with values—that our community, company, and country need,” explains Bob. He believes that primary and secondary education are the right place to put your emphasis in the development of young people. “If we make the right, early investments, college will take care of itself,” says Bob.
To Bob and Simventions, there is nothing more valuable than people. That includes the community organizations and the employees that, together, make up a very unique work family. To its employees, and to the reviewers at Inc. Magazine, Simventions is a remarkable place to work.