MOUNT AIRY — The two-room office of Quality IT Partners is unassuming. Located adjacent to a barber shop in an older building on Ridgeville Boulevard, the slick chrome and glass one might associate with the tech industry is nowhere to be found.
But it's here that you'll find one of the best places to work in America, according to Inc. magazine.
Quality, which provides information technology consulting to health care organizations, was named the Third Best Place to Work in the Small Business Category of the publication's Best Workplaces Awards.
Founder and CEO Mark Debnam said that the status of a fancy office building is not important to Quality. "We don't live in a mahogany shell," he said. "Our focus is our family out in the field."
Family is a word that comes up a lot at Quality. When asked what makes the company different from other places she has worked, Director of Ethics Practice Kelly Stellmacher said: "One word, family. It really is different. That's what attracted me, and what has kept me at Quality."
The magazine determined the rankings through a 30-question survey taken by each businesses' employees and taking a look at the benefits the business offers. More than 1,600 businesses participated, which were then sorted by small, medium and large size.
"It means a lot," Stellmacher said. "It's something that we're all proud of and something that we all share."
Debnam said he is humbled by the award because it was based on merit. "This isn't an award we paid for," he said.
The company has 12 salaried employees plus contractors, who range in age from their 20s to their 60s and above.
In the release, Debnam said, "I consider it my primary responsibility to nurture and preserve our business culture of kindness, respect, and genuine caring for the wellbeing of everyone."
He started the business working on his dining room table in 2000. It first focused on health care providers in Maryland and Washington, D.C., but in the years since has expanded across the U.S. and internationally.
"I'm not sure there's a state we haven't worked in," he said.
From the beginning, Debnam said that crafting a positive company culture was a priority at Quality. He comes from a tech background and said that the work involves long hours and heavy travel. When the company culture is bad, employees get burned out quickly.
"Regardless of the size of the company, regardless of the growth pace of the company, we wanted to develop a culture that would be supportive and family oriented," Debnam said.
One of their challenges is the fact that employees are traveling so often. Vice President of Finance and Operation Kerri Young said that communicating remotely with employees can be more challenging than face-to-face conversations.
But she said that the company's offsite trips are helpful in getting everyone together in one place and fostering camaraderie. During these team-building trips, the company flies its employees and their families out for a trip that is part work and part play.
"We always take care of business," she said, "but when we're together, we always have a good time."
Debnam stressed the fact that wherever in the world they might be working, "nobody goes it alone." He said, "I communicate personally with everyone on staff weekly — sometimes every day."
They also provide employee benefits that include a health care plan; a profit-sharing program; roll-over vacation; retirement fund matching; a program called Quality University, which helps employees continue their education; and a program that carries consultants on full salary, even during the downtime between projects.
Debnam said that despite the cost to the company, "I refuse to do it any other way."
The company also participates in local and international philanthropy through its One Patient, One World program, which aims to pair patients with organizations that can improve their experience and increase funding for health care organizations researching new cures for illnesses, according to their website, onepatientoneworld.org.
"We've found that when you give back, there is no better feeling," Debnam said.
The business values its location in Mount Airy and enjoys the town's diverse community and small town feel, Debnam said.
He also spoke of its geographic advantages in the health care field, like its proximity to major hospital systems in Frederick and Baltimore. "Mount Airy offers more than most people think for a business," he said.
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