Starbucks coffee, in-office massages, fitness club memberships, employee movie nights, foosball, stock options, flexible work schedules, telecommuting privileges and company-subsidized high-speed home Internet access: These arent perks to most high-tech employees — theyre givens.
But in blue-collar Pittsburgh, these are novel enough business practices to have won CoManage the accolades of its 165 employees — and a nod from its home state, which in December named the two-and-a-half-year-old start-up one of the 100 best places to work in Pennsylvania.
"If you think high tech in Pittsburgh, what you think is Westinghouse — a white lab coat over a shirt and tie," says Ethan Evans, vice president of operations at CoManage. "We pretty much changed that image of high tech here. Both of our founders worked in Silicon Valley, and they decided to import the best of the relaxed, West Coast atmosphere and merge it with the Midwest dedication to getting the job done."
The merger seems to be a success for CoManage, whose Integrated Service Manager software helps telecommunications service providers manage network services like virtual private networks, Voice-over-Digital Subscriber Line and broadband Internet. Evans says the company, which counts AT&T Broadband Network Solutions and Cox Communications among its customers, enjoys a low turnover rate — it was 2 percent to 3 percent last year.
But Evans likes to think its more than just the grocery home-delivery service, the fresh bread baked each morning by one of the companys engineers — who has been dubbed "The Bread Czar" — and the other perks that have employees like him singing the companys praises.
In a town dominated for years by old-line companies — "where you were hired to do the same job, every day for the 20 or more years you worked there," CoManage is able to offer a work environment that requires employees to respond quickly to changing market conditions.
CoManage also operates using what Evans calls "the Reasonable Person Principle . . . the idea that rather than try to write down what we expect people to do, we tell them, Youre adults, and we expect you to be reasonable, " Evans says. "We have trust in people and dont have a lot of rules in place."