Lansing is known as a rural township, not necessarily the home of business giants. But high tech companies along Warren Road are powerhouses in the marketplace. Envisage Systems specializes in solutions for the retirement industry, a market that is becoming huge as the so-called ‘baby boomer’ generation is reaching retirement age. In the past five months the company has brought 80 new jobs to Lansing, and is about to do that again. Since 2009 the company has grown from 30 employees and $5 million in revenue to 200 employees with $20 million revenue.
“I think we’ll do better than that in 2013,” Executive Vice President John Miller says. “I hope we do.”
Miller credits an exploding market and a passion for excellence on the part of founders President/CEO Steff McGonagle and Sr. VP Finance & Administration Robb Jetty.
“Steff likes to do things properly,” Miller says. “A lot of what he saw was not done properly. It took some time to create the kind of products that he would be proud to offer to the market. At the same time I think the single most important thing here is the culture. It is very collegial, team oriented.”
According to Inc. Magazine Envisage is the fastest growing financial technology company in the United States, the fastest growing tech company in New York State, and is #383 on the Inc. 500. Clients are large companies that manage retirement products that need existing data to be easily accessed and integrated with other companies’ data and new information. Envisage creates interfaces that work similarly to a printer driver on your home computer. The firm’s flagship product is a suite of Web based financial access programs called Enveritus. Other products handle payroll, connect remote data sources, and ways for groups of workers to share documents.
Any program on your personal computer can print on any printer when the right driver is installed. The driver translates the computer information into a format the printer understands. In Envisage products the ‘driver’ translates between a simple common interface (comparable to your computer program) and whatever databases the client companies happen to use. The company has developed a significant toolbox of such ‘drivers’ and interfaces. With these tools they provide the functionality a client needs within a short period of time, bypassing the several years it would take for the client to develop it in-house.
A recent example cropped up when the State of New York changed the rules to allow individual municipalities like the Town of Lansing to participate in the retirement plan that is offered to the State University of New York. Starting in July that will mean that instead of servicing only 400 universities and schools, they will add 4,000 municipalities, many of which McGonagle says still do payroll on a napkin.
“So how do you service that group?” he asks. “One wanted to have a Web site where you can type data in very easily if you’ve got people doing their payroll on a napkin. But it’s got to feel like a napkin. It’s got to be that easy to use. And you know these people are not well trained to use a system, and the data that they’re putting in is not going to be very accurate.”
McGonagle was writing software for the Computing Center in the 1980s. Originally he wrote software for the store, and then the store offered custom software he wrote to clients. He and Jetty connected one day when Jetty was visiting the store, resulting in Jetty joining the software writing group. In 1990 they spun off the software business into their own company. After some time the company fell on hard times and shrunk back to one-person with McGonagle staying and Jetty getting what McGonagle calls a ‘real job’.
Envisage had been providing scheduling, billing, and tracking software for the home health care industry. In 1995 the company found its niche when it was asked to look into retirement industry issues issues, and by 2002 it was 100% focussed on that industry. In 2009 the Envisage had grown to 30 employees with about $5 million in revenues, located in a small office in Genoa that had room for 25 to 30 people. Soon 50 employees were packed into that office, forcing to expand into construction trailers parked outside.
By 2007 the company was solid enough for Jetty to rejoin. As the company burgeoned it rented the first floor in a building in the Warren Road Business Park, next door to their current headquarters. Soon it consumed the second floor as well, until the current facility became available. They bought the building and gutted the interior, creating what is essentially a ring with spacious rooms where teams of programmers work together. The company moved in last April.
With business booming and constant new hiring that building is already full. Telecommuting and branch offices in Endicott and Syracuse have provided some relief, and the company is contemplating opening an office in Rochester. McGonagle says they knew the current facility would only serve for a short time, but they didn’t anticipate the huge amount of growth the company enjoys.
“If the business holds over the next two years we’re going to revisit the facilities issue in a much more serious fashion,” he says. “We may put something in the Lansing Business Park when that comes to be. Lansing fits our personality. We like the quiet, low profile, friendly place. Lansing is one of those quietly kept secrets. It’s a neat town with a supportive philosophy without being big and flashy. That’s what Envisage is attracted to.”
The first clue you have that Envisage is bursting at the seams is when you drive into the parking lot. Almost every space is full. Programmers at the firm don’t seem fazed by the office space problem. Airy, sunny rooms are filled with rows of computers where people work on products that are both Web and Back Office based. One room is filled with new hires, intent on their screens during a training session. The atmosphere is calm, but driven with small groups working together.
“The growth is there and our challenge right now is figuring out how to keep up with it,” McGonagle says. “We’ve been very blessed. A lot of very talented people choose to work here, and we;ve got some really great clients who help us grow and learn what the market needs. A lot has come together for us. We can very easily see ourselves trying to figure out where we can have a nice little Envisage campus.”