Our Unique Story

This information was originally in of our application for the BBB Integrity Awards for 2016. Turner Technology is proud to have received that award for business under 25 employees that year. We are the first technology company to win this award.

Managing Partner Gary Bren talks about the BBB Integrity Award and what it means to us.

Turner Technology was founded in 1992 by Rick Turner, Gary Bren, and Scott Meyers with two specific goals in mind:

  • To create a business driven by ethics and a values-based sense of responsibility to its team, clients, and community.
  • To recognize that while we are a technology business, technology in and of itself is irrelevant.  It’s a tool to help get a job done.  That job, and the people that need to do that job, are there whether the technology is or not.  We believe that understanding and respecting people and what they do is vital to choosing, implementing, and supporting technology for our clients.

In 1992 we provided—and still continue to provide— four types of services to our clients:

  • Business consulting.  We act as a strategic advisor for our clients, helping them make complex business decisions involving technology.  In this role, we often act as a virtual CIO or business partner to our client.
  • Software development.  We develop everything from simple websites to complex software supporting manufacturing operations.  Our specialty is automating complex business processes.
  • Network Infrastructure.  We design, implement, and support a broad range of technologies for our clients, including desktops, servers, network devices, phone systems, and more.  We provide these services through both project-based and managed support services.
  • Tactical decision making.  This is the day-to-day side of our strategic thinking—helping our clients deal with normal day-to-day issues. 

On the day in 1992 when we first opened our doors at our present location we had four employees and eight clients and were not planning to grow the business for the first two years to make sure we knew what we were doing.  On our second anniversary we had 35 clients and six employees and decided we needed to think about how we could make sure that we retained our values as we continued to grow.  That led us to creating what we today call “The Turner Way.”  These four statements are woven through how we run the company and how each of us acts every day:

  • We treat our clients and team like family.
  • We elevate others’ success.
  • Our actions transcend titles.
  • We lead by example.

How do these statements translate into something that delivers value to our clients? The work we do is really more about the people we work with than it is technology, because ultimately the value of the technology is enabling the productivity of the people using it. Those four Turner Way statements reflect our focus on those people and significantly shape our approach to helping technology to be effective for our clients, as well as defining how we treat each other and our community.

Describe how your organization is led

Our partners operate at a strategic level, looking at our overall direction and making sure we are true to our values and culture.  Our strategic growth plan was developed three years ago to make sure that Turner Technology was developing long-term equity for its team, clients, and the community.  Part of that plan was developing departmental Directors to make sure that our team and clients have tactical leadership available in each of our operating areas.   The departmental Directors are responsible for managing their departments on a day to day basis and are also being mentored as future partners to potentially take the place of our founding partners.

To keep our Turner Way values alive, we do a number of things as part of managing day-to-day operations:

  • All employees sit down with their manager for 30 minutes every month to review their personal development goals and performance.  As part of this process and to give our staff the ability to manage their schedules and priorities, we developed a 360 review tool that transparently shows them their contribution to overall corporate performance and lets them plan their time to include personal development and flexibility.  
  • We have an Associate of Month (AOM) program.  The AOM is the person who most reflects and demonstrates our values during the month.  The company is divided into three teams that are responsible for nominating their AOM candidate and the partners break any ties
  • A monthly company meeting is held with a catered lunch to review what’s going on in the company and to announce the AOM.  The individual nominations are read and shared with everyone as part of announcing the winner. 

Our employees are encouraged to make decisions in support of their clients and to work as a member of a team to deliver outstanding service to our clients.

Describe your mission statement

Our mission statement is to “Support the growth and advancement of small to medium size businesses through effective and responsible management of their technology.”  As noted earlier, we believe that the focus of what we do is more about helping people and understanding their business than it is about technology. 

The Turner Way is the lens that focuses our relationships with our clients and vendors:

  • We treat our clients and team like family.
  • We elevate others’ success.
  • Our actions transcend titles.
  • We lead by example.

We believe in servant leadership and being responsible for the welfare and well-being of our team, clients, vendors, and the community we live in.  It’s been our experience that successful employee and client relationships are about trust and respect…without those two attributes, no amount of technical skill can compensate enough to build a true long-term relationship. 

How we treat our customers

At the beginning of every new client relationship, we let the client know that our contracts secure a price for them and provide the legal protection necessary in every vendor client relationship–the rest of the relationship is flexible to best serve them.  As an example, we allow clients to convert between managed services and traditional time and materials billing if one model serves them better than the other.  We have had clients that insisted on a managed services model and when we demonstrated that time and materials would be cheaper, we convinced them to save the money. 

Our contracts don’t bind clients to our services—if they feel we’re not taking care of them and not listening to their issues, then we deserve to have them leave us.  We feel that the quality of our work should bind them to us, not legal conditions.

As part of the client startup process, every client is assigned a primary engineer or software developer or both, depending on what services we are providing them.  The primary is responsible for customer satisfaction on a day-to-day basis.  At the beginning of each new client relationship the primary is assigned by their Department Director, who meets with the client to make sure that the right match of personality and skill is being made between the client and Turner’s team.  This also builds a connection between the client and the Director. 

Each client is also assigned a Partner, who is available to address any needs or problems that the primary and Director cannot address.  We make quarterly visits to all managed services clients as well as other non-managed services clients.  These visits are used to get a first-hand report on how we are doing with those clients.  These relationships are all part of making sure that we are building a partnership based on trust and respect.

As we execute projects for our clients, every project has a plan that governs its progress and provides measureable milestones for its completion.  If a project should have a problem and the primary and Departmental Director cannot resolve it to the client’s satisfaction, the assigned Partner will be involved to make sure the issue is addressed to the client’s satisfaction.

Communicating our ethics

The most powerful way we address this is by using the Turner Way as the guide for our actions in everything we do. The reason we put the AOM (Associate of the Month) program in place 20 years ago was to have a framework that allowed us to naturally talk about why our values matter, to remind our people why they matter, and to shine a light on people that are living the values.  

Turner Technology trains our employees that when considering any action, they should ask themselves:

  • Will this build trust and credibility for Turner Technology?
  • Will it help create a working environment in which Turner Technology can succeed over the long term?
  • Is the commitment I am making one I can follow through with?

We emphasize that the only way we will maximize trust and credibility is by answering “yes” to those questions and by working every day to build our company’s trust and credibility in the technology marketplace.

Furthermore, we tell our employees we all deserve to work in an environment where we are treated with dignity and respect. We are committed to creating such an environment because it brings out the full potential in each of us, and contributes directly to our business success. We always remind them that we cannot, and will not, let anyone’s talents go to waste.

How do we treat our employees ethically

Again, the Turner Way defines the ethical relationship we have with our team.  The AOM, one-on-one meetings, and the 360 tool are just a few of the things we do to provide our associates with the ability to have a role in shaping their job and the company.  In addition to our annual employee engagement survey, we also do an externally administered 360 review of the management team. 

This review is vital input to making sure that the leadership team is doing the best job possible. It also makes an important point for the whole team:  If the leaders are willing to take and share candid feedback from the team, everyone should be open to positive feedback from each other.  We feel that an ethical, values-based culture has a bedrock made of open, honest communication and we work hard to foster a solid exchange of ideas and viewpoints.

As an example of how we treat our team, we had an employee that was a source of negativity and problems but he held a number of key certifications necessary for us to support some complex products used in mission critical applications by our clients.   We had invested significant time and focus on trying to mentor and guide him, but he was not making sufficient progress and his behaviors were impacting our team. 

We could have let him go and hired someone externally to quickly take his place, but we didn’t feel that gave our associates an opportunity to grow into those skills and responsibilities.  As a result we sat down with the three associates who would be most impacted by the decision.   Working with them a plan was defined to give the employee the best chance possible to resolve his issues, while also allowing the three associates to grow into the skills and knowledge necessary to supplement or replace the employee. 

We then gave the three associates a hand in the decision:  Do we replace the employee with an external hire or follow the plan they built with the involvement of leadership?  We felt it was important that they had a role and ownership in both the decision and its related implications.

They chose to follow the plan that had been developed, knowing that they would have to play a role in giving the employee a fair chance while building their own skills and knowledge.  After eight months it was clear that we were not going to get sufficient change from the employee and the associates had developed the skills to either supplement or replace the employee.  As a result, the management team decided to terminate the employee and recognize the efforts of the three associates.  We have seen a dramatic positive impact on employee morale and engagement as well as customer satisfaction as a result of this process.

How we cultivating positive employee relations within the organization and provide employee benefits that contribute to the quality of family life

There are many examples of things we do to help enrich our associate’s work and family life.  First and foremost, we encourage our staff to find a work/life balance.  Our culture is not to demand people to work more than 40 hours a week…it is to help them be as productive as possible when they are at work. 

Our 360 review tool is used to help our associates best balance projects, personal development, and team needs.   We also encourage our staff to work from home when family matters or weather make that the best choice.  We have three software developers that live in Lincoln and they understand that we’d rather they work from home if the weather looks threatening at all. 

Here are a few examples of some additional ways that we cultivate positive employee relations:

  • We pay 95% of single employee health insurance and 50% of family plans.  We have a feature rich coverage plan with a low deductible by today’s standards.
  • We provide a 401K with matching, life, health, and disability insurance to our associates.
  • We hold a “Play Day” once or twice a year where employees are required to come to the office in the most comfortable clothes possible to play games, watch movies, and eat catered food together. 
  • In addition to the AOM program, we have an Associate of the Year (AOY) award.  To be eligible, an associate must have won an AOM award during the previous year.  During the last calendar year, we had ten individuals that won one or more AOM awards.  The AOY is presented at our annual meeting in early January.  All the nominees’ contributions during the year are highlighted and the winner gets a significant bonus.

Perhaps the most significant example of how we cultivate employee relations is our current remodel of our office space.  During our rebranding project, Daake & Associates interviewed our employees.  One of the observations that came out of that process was that our space was dated and not as pleasant as it could be. 

After careful consideration, the management team decided to embark on a $220,000 remodeling project that is dramatically changing our physical space, making it more open, brighter, and more welcoming for both our associates and any visitors to our offices. The decision to remodel was overwhelmingly based on creating a positive impact on our team, as even with our business growth plans we have relatively few visitors to our offices.

As a final point, our Managing Partner spoke to a group of high school juniors in April and asked them “do ethical business practices help make money?”  The response was ”no” from the audience, to which he told them that ethical business practices both save us and make us hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. 

The most visible impact of our ethics and values is through employee engagement and retention.  Every January we do an employee engagement survey using an externally administered tool.  The results of January’s survey are shown below:

The 5% disengagement was directly related to some short term issues with a new Departmental Director being put in place.  We expect to have no disengagement next January.  What this engagement score translates into is higher productivity and higher retention.  In the last two years we have lost one associate out of 24 people on staff.  Normal churn rates in our industry would be closer to 4-5 per year.  That alone saves us approximately $80-$100K per year.  Measuring the exact impact on productivity of our engagement is hard, but we know that it is significant.

We’ve found through experience that treating people well doesn’t just foster good employee relations…it’s an investment in the bottom line.

Describe how your organization demonstrated ethical decision-making with Employees/Volunteers

In 1996, an employee that had been working for us for a few months came to the leadership and requested getting 5-6 weeks of unpaid leave.   Matt and his wife had been trying to have a baby for seven years and had just gotten word that their adoption request for a Vietnamese boy had been approved.  As part of the adoption, they had to spend 3-4 weeks in Vietnam.  At this point in our history, we only had three network engineers, so this person being out would reduce our engineering capacity by 33%.

We gave him almost two months of paid vacation with this simple directive:  “go pick up your son, then take some time at home to become a family before you come back to work.”  As it turned out, there were problems in country and they needed to be in Vietnam longer than planned.  Their son, Daniel, had some health problems that needed to be resolved before he came home.

The investment we made in Matt and his family was paid back many times over.  Until the day in 2008 that Matt decided he didn’t want to work in technology any more, he was one of our hardest working and most loyal employees.  Over the last 24 years we have made many similar decisions.

Describe a program, pro bono work, collaboration or another activity that has returned value to your community.

Turner Technology prides itself on being a good neighbor and contributor to the community we live in. We do this in several different ways:

  • Every few months our staff engages in a “Turner Helping Hands” event. This is an opportunity for our staff and their families and friends to volunteer their services for a myriad of charitable causes.  For example the Turner Helping Hands project has:
  • Served dinner to homeless families and individuals at the Sienna Francis House and Open Door mission.
    • Baked cookies and served the families of hospitalized children at the Ronald McDonald House at Methodist Hospital, and the Rainbow House at Children’s Hospital.
    • Supported the local Channel 7 effort to stuff backpacks with school supplies for children from less fortunate families.
    • Donated and packaged food items through the Heartland Food Bank for the children who are entitled to free school lunches, but do not have the opportunity for lunches on the weekend.
  • Every Thanksgiving, we have a company fund drive to collect money to support buying turkey and all the trimmings for a Thanksgiving dinner for needy families through the auspices of local churches.
  • Every year at Christmas, we support the Holiday Angels program. This is where Turner Technology “adopts” an under-privileged family identified to us by the Omaha Catholic Archdiocese. Our “adoption” effort ensures that the family and the children get food, clothing and toys so that they too can have a Merry Christmas.
  • For a number of our non-for-profit clients like Child Saving Institute and Omaha Community Playhouse, we offer both rates that are as low as half our normal rate as well as donating pro bono time to them.  The total donation between reduced rates and pro bono work represents about 5% of our annual revenues. 
  • In addition to the company-wide efforts in support of community charities, Turner Technology also supports the individual volunteer efforts of our employees. These efforts include service organizations such as Rotary, the Red Cross, the Boy Scouts, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Royal Family Camp for underprivileged children and more. The individual volunteer efforts by Turner employees are measured in the thousands of hours annually

We do all this in an effort to show that we not only talk about the Turner Way, but that we live the Turner Way.  Especially in the case of community involvement, we want to give back so that we can help others to “…elevate their success”.

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