In November, the business community will celebrate the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce most prestigious awards – the Business of the Year awards – highlighting the best of business throughout the Gainesville region. Last year, Infinite Energy, the “Best Overall Large Business”, and PeerFly, the “Best Overall Small Business”, truly embodied the theme of the event, innovation that inspires.
These 2013 recipients were chosen because of their dedication to innovation in their business as well as the community. Leading up to this year’s Business of the Year awards ceremony, I took some time to sit down with Peerfly and Infinite Energy to find out more about the company culture and reputations that set them apart.
Peerfly, Inc. is a full-service sales and marketing company located in Alachua, whose main source of pride is in their custom software, which they built from the ground up.
“There are some really great ideas out there, right in our backyard,” Davey Taylor, Director of Services at Peerfly, said. “The [people] are incredibly kind and techy, it’s easy to draw motivation from them.”
Peerfly is currently working on building their dot net site and online representation. They are hoping to boost the dot net side of Peerfly nationwide quickly in an increasingly competitive market for online companies.
Chad French, Founder and CEO of Peerfly, spoke of Peerfly’s growth. “Last year at the Business of the Year awards, we were at 12 [employees]. We just hired our 16th employee.”
“With the dot com site we’ve branched out to just over 170 countries, servicing an average of 15 million clicks a month,” Taylor said. “It’s always been my vision to take these services to our local businesses.”
Taylor is referring to the many businesses that thrive in the Alachua area, but are looking to expand. Without large advertising budgets, it’s hard for these businesses to track their customers and growth – that is what Peerfly is looking to implement with the dot net site, Taylor said.
During a time of growth and change, Peerfly remains true to their unique company culture. French refers to this culture as a “mixture of the corporate world and a new tech feel.” As CEO, he has done a lot of reading on successful tech companies like Google and Facebook and how their company culture influences the workplace.
“From the beginning as we brought on more employees, there was always a reward program in place,” Taylor said. “A couple of months ago we took a day trip, during business hours, to reward the employees for their hard work during quarter one. We went down to Islands of Adventure for the day and all had a great time.”
Peerfly is thankful for the success their company has had and makes it a priority to give back. ”It’s very safe to say the biggest weakness of everyone at Peerfly is children,” Taylor said. “We make sure to give back and help out local kids and charities.
“We constantly try to find a purpose,” French chimed in. “We want to have an overall positive impact on our employees, business and the community around us.”
Giving back to the community where their businesses began is what gives companies like Peerfly and Infinite Energy the edge of inspiration in the Gainesville area. These philanthropic efforts are something the two 2013 winners have in common.
“We believe it is the responsibility of a successful entrepreneur to mentor others and give back to the community,” Infinite Energy CEO, Rich Blaser said.
Infinite Energy has been named one of the best companies to work at by Florida Trend magazine for the last five years and it is no mystery why they have earned this title. Blaser commented that they see their employees as a part of their family.
“Rich and I know that it’s not just us,” Infinite Energy CEO, Darin Cook said. “It’s our belief that people want to participate in something bigger than themselves. It gives you a sense of purpose.”
Keeping the employees at the epicenter of their company is what makes Infinite Energy such a success. Blaser and Cook explain that all decisions start with their values and morals, then the impact on the company, then the effect it would have on the department, and last, the decision’s effect on themselves.
“When it becomes about your own ego or your own need, that’s when companies begin to falter,” Cook said.
A key component of Infinite Energy’s success is the mutual respect that Blaser and Cook have for each other. The pair credits much of the company’s success to the friendship they were able to develop early on and the trust that sparked from that relationship.
“We have this crazy confidence that our ideas will be successful,” Cook said. “As entrepreneurs, we are calculated risk takers. If we had a 90% chance to double the profit of the company, but a 10% chance to fail – we would assess what we could afford to lose and decide from there.”
In 1994, Blaser and Cook left their jobs and created Infinite Energy. This was the first example of their “crazy confidence” that Cook spoke about. Since then, their company has grown to over 400 employees and provides natural gas to four states. In 2010, Infinite Energy began providing electricity in Texas. Their company mission is based on having an unparalleled customer experience.
Despite having zero customers in Alachua County, Infinite Energy remains located in Gainesville because of their strong ties to the area.
“I enjoy being a part of this community,” Blaser said. “I see Gainesville as my home. We could be anywhere in the country – but we chose here.”
Peerfly and Infinite Energy will soon be joined as Business of the Year winners by our 2014 honorees. For nomination and event information, visit GainesvilleChamber.com.