Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: SilverTech brings 'old-school' ideals to high tech
MANCHESTER --SilverTech is conveniently located across the street from 7-Eleven. That probably doesn't mean much to its clients. It's not likely the folks from Dell, Polartec or the Miss America pageant are going to be grabbing a Slurpee and a Big Bite when they come to town, though they might dig the stylish Currier Museum of Art or want to stay at the Ash Street Inn.
Headquartered in the former Ash Street school - which, like its bed-and-breakfast neighbor, was built in the mid-1870s - the digital marketing and website development company's sign on Bridge Street commands a striking presence in the neighborhood. It's as if a bit of the Manchester Millyard's technology brethren decided to gain a foothold a few miles east.
The company's home in this renovated elementary school boasts an upscale chic common to young tech companies. Original elements, including the wood flooring and coat hooks on the walls, are blended with modern touches, like the fish tank in the lobby. No, SilverTech does not have a ping-pong table, not anymore anyway, but there's Skee-Ball, a pool table and a few vintage arcade games.
Those are small perks compared to the 100 percent company-paid health care SiverTech provides to employees and their families and the 401(k) company match, the kind of magnet you need if you want to attract and retain top tech talent, especially an hour north of Boston.
On the third floor, where the software engineers solve all those complex problems, a giant LED screen built by company founder and CEO Nick Soggu displays classic video games (Take that Dyn!).
Soggu is also responsible for the Sirius "'80s on 8" channel that is frequently piping old pop hits into these high-ceiling offices and can be controlled from a panel on the wall. It's easier to operate than the old school's clocktower, which the company reactivated after buying the brick building nearly six years ago. That requires a caretaker to come by every two weeks to rewind the clock, whose bell goes off on the hour.
Welcome to the fast-growing company that Manchester Young Professionals recognized as the Company of the Year in 2013. From its fledgling start on Candia Road, SilverTech also has called Elm Street and Commercial Street home, but it has plenty of room to grow in its current stately home.
And this year, it decided to grow a lot bigger. SilverTech started 2013 with 28 employees and is now up to 48.
It's an unusually large jump for a company that has gradually added workers just as it has completed renovation of the 19th century building in phases, making sure it didn't over-extend itself, says Jeff McPherson, the company's director of client development. The sign outside didn't even go up until last year.
"As a small company back then - there were 18 to 20 of us - you have to be careful, so we focused on the interior of the building," he said. "We didn't want to over-finance ourselves and then have a downturn in the economy or something happen and then lose this great building."
During its second year in the school, SiverTech focused on the exterior, McPherson said, adding that Soggu wanted to bring green space around the entire building, which meant ripping up asphalt.
The company's pride in its local digs is an extension of a service-based company that aims to create a culture where its employees contribute to the community through charitable activities and working with nonprofit boards. Jen Nickulas, who joined SilverTech a year ago to handle marketing efforts for the company, said she spends much of her time organizing such efforts.
That local focus has developed in tandem with SilverTech's growth to become a national player.
While the company has such local and regional clients as Catholic Medical Center, the Jimmy Fund, the Common Man restaurant group, Visit NH and the New Hampshire Union Leader, more than half of its business came from outside of New England last year, McPherson said.
SilverTech has clients in Washington, D.C., Florida, Iowa and other locales. McPherson, who joined the company 13 years ago - reuniting with his high school friend Soggu - made 38 trips on behalf of the company last year.
"We've become a national agency and have become well-recognized as a national agency," he said.
But it's been a gradual climb, which in the tech world is something of an anomaly.
"We've always done things the old-fashioned way. We never got funding, never brought in a financial partner. We just grew it organically," McPherson said. "Now we're in a much different position with the size we're at. We've also learned a lot. We grew up in this building ... We tried a lot, and we failed a lot."
Kind of like going to school.
Mike Cote is business editor at the Union Leader. Contact him at 668-4321, ext. 324 or firstname.lastname@example.org.