LEXINGTON, Mass. – Data files, networks and messages. Eleven offices. It’s a virtual business at Ipswitch, Inc. But for four days this week, company founder and CEO Roger C. Greene says the business will be real, and social – in Florida.
This fall – Sept. 12 – Ipswitch will mark 20 years in business. On Thursday, some 485 people – almost all of the private company’s employees, plus invited friends and family – will converge on one of the nation’s most elegant resort hotels for a four-day celebration of the past two decades – and face-to-face chances to talk about the fast-growing company’s future.
Greene sees the time, travel and tab at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla., as an investment in Ipswitch’s employees and company culture. “It’s intended to bring us closer as an organization through both formal and informal time together,” says Greene, 53, who founded Ipswitch in his apartment in 1991 with less than $100,000, and no banking or venture-capital support. Growth was funded internally.
Management gurus have studied the communication challenges of “virtual” corporations. As Ipswitch has grown organically and by acquisitions – to almost 300 employees, five U.S. and six worldwide offices and affiliates – Greene and top managers have sought to maintain a sense of community and teamwork.
Will the Florida trip help? Ipswitch managers hope so. Employees are being encouraged to publicly “tweet,” blog and photograph the experience. Enterprise customers have been asked to understand there will be two days of limited support (although a support “command center” and hotlines are being set up in the hotel).
“Throughout the weekend, you will get the opportunity to meet or catch up with the people you usually work with via e-mail and telephone,” Greene wrote in an email to employees in February. “There will be plenty of down time between scheduled events and activities at which kids are welcome.”
Millions of people worldwide use Ipswitch software to securely transfer files, manage IT infrastructures and communicate via messaging. The practical software works easily for network administrators, managers and users in organizations of all sizes. Three years ago the company split its operations into three distinct divisions – one for each product class – and Greene named presidents for each. He says the impact has been “profoundly positive.”
One result so far: Two of the fastest-growth years since the company’s founding, including five separate acquisitions during the period. In April, Ipswitch headquarters moved a half-mile down the road in Lexington to a larger building, under the approach path to a Hanscom Field runway – and next door to the company’s 1990s-era office building.
“Our potential exists because of our managers, our customer base, our reputation, our brands and our technology,” says Greene. “Our 19 years of continuous profit and growth, our stronger-than-ever market position and potential – this is all cause for celebration!”
The Florida trip isn’t the first off-site teambuilding effort for Ipswitch. Ten years ago, when it was a much smaller company, Greene took everyone on a sea cruise. Longtime employees still talk about it. Now, while celebrating in Florida, Greene’s team is working to manage the growth, maintain a close relationship with customers and communities, and welcome new employees and acquisitions.
Last year, Greene started experimenting with blogging in his own voice on the corporate website. Because the company is hiring, it’s looking for ways to, as Greene puts it, “attract smart, ambitious people who share our values, which emphasize honesty, integrity and treating people with respect.”
Ipswitch has been recognized repeatedly for its commitment to give five percent of profits to charity. It does this partly by matching employee’s own donations and by giving each employee $500 for charitable gifts. It focuses the company’s own giving primarily on services which benefit youth and teens, both local to Ipswitch offices and around the world. One Ipswitch division designates a particular charity, and then gives employees paid time off to help it. Another division donates to Trees for Life every time one of its software products is purchased. By 2007, the company recorded $1 million in cumulative giving to more than 100 charities and is now past $2.5 million.
The new office includes a spacious kitchen, complete with a fireplace, and two sets of sinks and stoves for home-style cooking — intended to serve as a spot to nurture informal meeting, conversation – and healthy food. An open house is planned.
While Greene ponders how to maintain a community-centered corporate culture amid business growth and success, there is evidence the effort is working. On May 3, for the second year in a row, Ipswitch was named one of the best places in Boston to work by the Boston Business Journal.
About Ipswitch, Inc.
Founded in 1991, privately held Ipswitch, Inc. is headquartered in Lexington, Mass., with research and development and sales offices in Georgia, Michigan, Utah and Wisconsin, and distributors, resellers and OEMs in Asia, Europe, North America and South America. In addition to developing world-class software, Ipswitch values community involvement. Visit http://icare.ipswitch.com to find out how to become involved. Ipswitch, Inc., has three divisions:
- Ipswitch File Transfer (FT) has high-performance integration and managed file transfer (MFT) solutions to manage a broad spectrum of business interactions – from enterprise application integration to mission-critical data transfers to simple person-to-person file exchanges.
- Network Management is a developer of the WhatsUp Gold suite of innovative network monitoring software and server management solutions.
- Messaging makes communication and collaboration tools with integrated security services used by millions of people worldwide, including the award-winning, Outlook-compatible Ipswitch IMail Server and Ipswitch Instant Messaging.
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