From transitioning to being an employee-owned company and moving its headquarters, Twisthink LLC is going through many changes as the digital consulting firm aims to attract more people to its team.
Company leaders had been weighing opportunities to relocate their offices and considering options to transition the business for the past several years, said Robert Niemiec, managing partner at Twisthink.
The Holland-based company officially transitioned in September 2022 to an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) and is now 100 percent owned by its team of about 50 employees. As well, Twisthink is set to move into its new office in the Michigan State University Grand Rapids Innovation Park this summer.
Twisthink’s move to an ESOP model earned the firm recognition as the 2023 MiBiz M&A Deal of the Year in the technology category.
“The ESOP made a tremendous amount of sense to do,” Niemiec said. “It aligns culturally to who we are, more than selling the firm to a strategic buyer or to private equity. Before the ESOP, our employees exhibited an ownership mentality, so it was a natural fit.”
Twisthink was founded in 2001 and helps companies navigate digital acceleration. The company has partnered with several public and private entities in the past, including for a water quality monitoring system around Lake Macatawa. Twisthink also has worked with Aradatum Inc., a Michigan tech startup that aims to deploy self-powered telecommunications towers across the country.
“In recent years, we’ve doubled down on the mega-trend of digital transformation, which is anchored in the world of technology,” Niemiec said. “The digital world is creating opportunities and growth for every organization.”
Twisthink is in good company in West Michigan as an employee-owned firm. The city of Grand Rapids ranked 12th in the country last year for the top 25 markets in the U.S. for ESOPs, according to Certified Employee-Owned LLC, a San Francisco-based company that certifies businesses with employee stock ownership plans. The organization reported 21 employee-owned companies had a Grand Rapids address, according to 2022 data.
Sorting through the ESOP transition started three to five years ago for Twisthink. In a sense, the company had to create another team to help carry out the process, which was “super inspiring” to do with people outside of the firm, Niemiec said.
“We’ve been looking for years to transition the business that will allow the team to experience and see the success that we’ve been fortunate with over the last 22 years and prepare it for the next 20 years,” Niemiec said. “It brought clarity that this team and the ownership of this team will remain in West Michigan for a long time.”
Twisthink is also doubling down on West Michigan by investing $2.2 million in creating new office space in downtown Grand Rapids, which will be built out by Rockford Construction Co.
The Michigan Strategic Fund supported the relocation project with a $300,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant. The company anticipated the move will lead to the creation of 37 new jobs by 2025.
“We’re continuing to grow our team,” Niemiec said. “The move to Grand Rapids is all about being in that community where we have access to more talent to fuel the growth.”
Besides looking for a bigger talent pool, Twisthink also has physically outgrown its current office space in downtown Holland, Niemiec said. The company also is looking at other regions of the state and even out of state for potential satellite offices in the future, he added.
“Last year was a huge year for us,” Niemiec said. “We launched a new brand, then we closed on new office space in the summer, then in the third quarter we closed on converting the businesses to an ESOP.”