How We Do It
As CEO of End Point Dev, a tech and software company of about 50 people, I have seen our company tested with many challenges over our 27 years in business: the “dot-com” implosion in 2000, the financial crisis of 2009, and various wars and geopolitical upheavals, to name a few.
The latest, of course, are the well-documented hurdles associated with running a company in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the political divisions that have been simultaneously affecting the world.
Today I want to reflect on how End Point has navigated these churning waters. Perhaps some of our approaches may be useful to others.
End Point is a distributed company and has been since its founding in 1995. This means that most of the staff works remotely from home offices, using telecommunication. This lets us be distributed all over the globe and has allowed us to:
- Minimize office costs, which helps offset our occasional travel costs for in-person meetings;
- Find highly-qualified people wherever they live, not just in the geographic areas near our company offices in New York City and eastern Tennessee;
- Enable staff who prefer to work from home to do so, while those who prefer to work in an office have that option;
- Provide the opportunity to our staff to work for a company they may not have been able to otherwise;
- Hone the skills needed to collaborate effectively with our clients who are rarely near one of our offices;
- Maintain a global 24×7 workforce despite our modest size, helping us serve our clients and their users around the world.
It is crucial for our clients to be able to communicate quickly, thoroughly, and clearly with our engineers and project managers. As a distributed company, End Point was an early adopter of many different methods of communication. Some that we use most often include:
- Text chat with Zulip, Slack, Teams, etc.
- Video meetings with Google Meet, Zoom, Skype, etc.
- Google Calendar
- Google Docs and Drive
- Git version control and GitHub, GitLab, Bitbucket, etc.
- Project management such as Trello, JIRA, Asana, Basecamp, etc.
- Odoo ERP
- QuickBooks in the cloud
- the good old-fashioned telephone
Because End Point’s engineers often work directly with our clients on projects both large and small, we have always made it a priority that our engineers employ good written and spoken English language skills on top of the many excellent technical skills they possess.
Management Structure and Support
Our internal organization needs frequent asynchronous communication and regular synchronous meetings with each other in order to coordinate work, respond to company issues, and plan ahead. Our main groupings are:
- Teams: The company is divided into teams loosely based on area of expertise or type of clients served. Each team typically meets weekly as a way to stay in touch with each other, stay current with goings-on around the company, and to maintain camaraderie.
- Project managers: Our clients range from small mom & pop companies who occasionally draw on the help of a single engineer, to large multinationals engaging full teams of engineers for years. Our project managers meet weekly to ensure needed attention is given to every client.
- Client representatives: Each of our clients has a client representative assigned to them to assure their needs are taken care of from the business perspective. Directors, team managers, project managers, and engineers all step into this role, which helps us maintain client-centric focus throughout the company.
- Team managers: Managers of teams meet weekly to discuss company direction, workload, and staff needs.
- Officers and directors: We steer the company and help others with their challenges.
Individual Pride and Job Satisfaction
End Point works hard to make sure that people are recognized for their accomplishments. Our company culture foremost has been the acknowledgement that our staff are people first, with family and other personal needs as well as their jobs. We try to create an environment where our staff feel supported and cared for. Some ways we work at this include:
- Internal newsletter: Featuring company news, personal events, latest accomplishments, interesting facts and anecdotes, milestones, and more.
- Reviews: We hold informal reviews monthly for new hires and mid-year for veterans, as well as formal reviews yearly for everyone, to discuss their work and the bigger life picture too.
- Monthly company-wide meetings: Each month the entire company joins together for a video conference with presentation and discussion on topics ranging from new technology to reviewing security protocols to demonstration of completed client projects.
- Milestones: Bonuses for longevity in the company.
- Annual bonuses: End Point does its best to provide staff with annual bonuses around the December holidays.
- Shout-outs: We frequently recognize accomplishments by sharing them with the whole company.
- Celebrations: It’s a small thing, but staff birthdays and special achievements are celebrated with lunches and dinners.
- Support: End Point makes a strong effort to be flexible when it comes to individuals’ extenuating life circumstances. We want our staff to feel supported.
- Flexibility: We all strive to be flexible with each others’ schedules. Each team comes up with a model that works best for its members. Staggered start times, variously coordinated stretches of work, and planned meetings are taken into consideration as staff are encouraged to fashion a work day that best fits them personally.
- All-staff letters: Pre-pandemic, I sent occasional letters to our staff, mostly on holidays or to rally spirits when unusual situations arose. Over the past two years I’ve made this a much more frequent practice, from simple well-wishes to company-wide matters to more extended writing on world events such as COVID-19.
End Point started as a two-person web development shop. Through the natural progression of technology, our clients’ needs, and the desire to adapt our company to economic tides, we have diversified our offerings and products.
End Point is particularly diversified for a company of its size. While that can be difficult to balance, it has aided in continuing the growth of the company. Some of our key areas of technical expertise:
- Consulting: E-commerce, hosting, business applications
- Database: migrations, performance, support, disaster recovery, and general consulting
- AI: Robot Operating System (ROS) and artificial intelligence engineering
- VisionPort: Formerly called End Point’s Liquid Galaxy, it has many visual presentation and multi-screen capabilities
- EpiTrax: A disease monitoring and reporting platform used by many states
I have always maintained that End Point should strive to have a mix of small, medium, and large clients, each having their own needs, engagement timeline, business processes, and project lifecycles.
Often there are circumstances beyond our control that determine how long they engage our company. Over the years, hundreds of clients have come through our virtual doors, with some moving on and some still with us after many years.
Today, through a mixture of work, evolving skills, and no small degree of luck, End Point maintains a base of about 125 clients. This diversification has helped us to weather storms affecting specific areas.
Making lemonade out of lemons
End Point has not been immune to economic and business setbacks.
As an example, at the beginning of the pandemic there was a significant slowdown in sales of VisionPort because the real estate industry ground to a halt. We used that opportunity to innovate and improve many areas of this product, including building a new content management system and new features that enabled our visualization platform to be managed and shared outside of the office.
On Wall Street there is a well-known expression: “Past performance is not indicative of future results.” This applies to many facets of business management. My takeaway is that one never knows what the future holds. There is no escaping that, aside from general good practices, one can never fully plan for tough times. We must improvise and adapt to circumstances.
Our company isn’t perfect, but what I have discussed here has helped keep our company stable. As CEO of End Point, I’m proud that we are a company that works hard to be there for our clients and our staff in both good times and bad.