Empowered employees fuel success for IT company.

When Srikanth Gaddam and Kiran Beeravelli launched their IT services company, ERP Analysts Inc., the business partners were committed to creating a company that took workplace culture seriously.

They even use an acronym of their company name as a reminder of their culture and values. ERPA stands for empathy, responsibility, passion and agility. The company's attention to culture has earned ERPA recognition as central Ohio's No. 1 Top Workplace among small employers.

At the heart of the way they conduct business is the Golden Rule, says Gaddam, who serves as ERPA's CEO. “Treat everyone the way you wish to be treated.”

For the leadership team at ERPA, that means allowing employees the freedom to do their jobs, paying attention to work-life balance, providing opportunities for personal growth and finding time for fun, says Beeravelli, the company's chief innovation officer.

“Having fun at work helps people open up and establish bonds,” he says. “It helps them feel invested.”

The strategy has worked for the company, which began with three computers in a living room in 2003 and now employs 81 at its main office in Dublin with nearly 500 at branches in Georgia, Florida and Nevada. Many of the new hires are referrals from current employees, Gaddam says. “We've grown by word of mouth. Employees are always referring another employee.”

He and Beeravelli want people to be happy and find success at work, which is why they give employees the freedom to do their jobs as they see fit. Treating employees with respect is one way they demonstrate empathy at the company, they say. They empower associates to make decisions and suggestions, which Gaddam says is good for the company and its clients.

ERPA has benefited time and again from its policy of encouraging associates to make recommendations and solve problems, he says. The company's emphasis on responsibility creates a results-oriented culture in which employees willingly go the extra mile, they say.

Often, employee-generated solutions have a direct impact on customers, and Gaddam says that enhances relationships. “Every customer has different needs,” he says. “When our people provide innovative solutions, it's advantageous to their business. When we take care of our employees, they take care of our customers.”

ERPA also asks its managers to adopt the mindset that the “field employee is always right.” Gaddam says this strategy allows employees to vent their concerns, which goes a long way toward resolving issues. “They want someone to listen. Often it heals itself.”

The company also operates with a dedication to openness. Employees are regularly informed about ERPA's goals, successes and plans, Beeravelli says. “We have found that the more information we provide, the more open that we are, it's a benefit to the company,” he says. “The benefits outweigh any risks.”

Employees truly believe their contributions are making an impact on the company's success, as well as its clients' businesses, says Manjusha Akkapeddi, a lead in the human resources department. She describes the culture as “firmly grounded in a meaningful purpose.”

The leadership team consistently builds the needed structures and processes to ensure that people can take responsibility for their work and get results, she says. “Thisis a place you can do great things while having a great time, with others who want the same,” she says. “You get an opportunity here to work with people you like and respect.”

The business partners have found that hiring the right person for the job is crucial to creating an exceptional work environment. That's where the passion comes in, Gaddam says. “We like to hire passionate people, people who love their work,” he says. “For them, it's not about putting time in at work. They feel like they're missing out on the action if they're not here.”

The partners also work hard to create a sense of ownership among employees, which drives their passion and their commitment, Gaddam says. “Once you hire passionate people, you don't have to tell them what to do. Often you have to tell them when to stop.”

The company fuels employees' passions by providing opportunities for career growth and development, says Akkapeddi, who joined the company as an office manager and now has a leadership role in the human resources department. When her managers noticed that she had a knack for working with people, they helped her get the necessary training to join the HR department.

A critical piece of creating—and maintaining—the culture is careful hiring, Beeravelli says. The team spends hours interviewing candidates and leaves positions open until they find the right fit.

Once hired, employees enjoy flexible hours, a solid benefits package and a clear understanding of what's expected of them and how they can advance within the company, Akkapeddi says. The company also maintains an online service center to answer employees' questions. The portal is constantly monitored, and employees are guaranteed a response within 24 hours.

“It's a way to be more proactive in addressing employee questions,” says Akkapeddi, who handles the inquiries. “Employees like it because they can ask questions even if they don't know who to address them to. They appreciate knowing that they will receive a timely answer.”

ERPA's focus on agility is another value that helps employees and customers, Beeravelli says. He and Gaddam believe everyone in the company should be growing and developing new insights about their work.

“One of the founding principles is that the company is a platform for growth,” he says. “Employees should be growing with the company.”

Often that means being open to change, which is one way the company demonstrates its commitment to being agile, Gaddam adds. To achieve that, employees are routinely sent to training and other educational opportunities.

The leadership team challenges itself by appointing a diverse group to its advisory board.

“We like to be challenged all of the time,” Gaddam says. “We need to change, and as part of that change we need to learn every day.”

Melissa Kossler Dutton is a freelance writer.