GRAND RAPIDS — Growing software design and development consultancy Atomic Object LLC has opened its fourth office with a move into the Raleigh, N.C. market.
Along with the move, the employee-owned company named a pair of Grand Rapids employees, Taylor Vanden Hoek and Ryan Abel, as managing partners to lead the new office.
The idea behind the expansion came after Atomic Object co-CEOs Shawn Crowley and Mike Marsiglia gave a presentation in 2019 that laid out their 20-year vision for the company, which included a goal of growing to a footprint with five to 10 offices. The presentation came just as Atomic Object had announced plans to expand into the Chicago market.
“Shortly after, Ryan and Taylor told Mike and I that they wanted to meet with us,” Crowley told MiBiz. “I usually don’t like to take a meeting that doesn’t have an agenda, but I kept thinking, ‘I wonder if they’re going to want to launch an office?’ Both had been working together, and we watched their relationship grow. Both are extremely talented. Both had been in a delivery lead position in our organization, and they had formed a really strong working partnership.
“But there was also a fear: ‘Is it something else? Is it something going on?’ So I was absolutely delighted when we walked in and they said, ‘We want to pitch you two for opening an office in a new market.’”
The new Warehouse District location in Raleigh adds to Atomic Object’s existing footprint in Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and Chicago, and helps the company expand into a new geographic market.
Crowley said the location fit into Atomic Object’s strategy of looking for “mid-market, Tier 1 or 2 cities. We’re not going to go to San Francisco or New York. And when you look at Raleigh, it has a good balance of multiple sectors and a good talent pipeline. It’s known for product development and innovation.”
In a statement, Marsiglia also cited the “proximity to great universities” and “great quality of life for residents” as important considerations in identifying expansion opportunities for the company. The Raleigh market “checked all those boxes” for the company, he said.
As part of the so-called Research Triangle, the Raleigh area is a hotbed for technology talent, with 3,500 graduates entering the workforce annually with a computer-related degree, according to data from the local Wake County Economic Development. The region has 60,000 tech-related jobs at more than 3,900 companies.
For Atomic Object, Vanden Hoek and Abel have been working to establish the office while they continue to spend facetime with clients in Grand Rapids, Crowley said. The pair have focused on networking within the community, as well as recruiting from within the company to help jumpstart the new office.
To date, one existing Atomic Object team member has committed to joining the Raleigh office, Crowley said.
“We want to go down there with a handful of folks with quarter-over-quarter plans to increase headcount from the local market,” he said. “We want to do it in a paced and intentional way that’s mindful of our process and culture. Once they are in the fold, the new hires will have the ability to onboard and mentor others in our process and our culture.”
While the model Atomic Object is taking in moving into the local market deviates from the company’s playbook in some ways, the team realized that they “have to adjust to the opportunities that you see.”
The geographical expansion comes amid a growth spurt for the company coming out of a turbulent couple of years during the pandemic. Since 2020, Atomic Object has grown its full-time software development team by nearly 30 percent while revenue has grown more than 45 percent over the same period.
Navigating through the pandemic and the resulting workforce and lifestyle changes has been “interesting,” particularly as the company focused the last couple of years on talent retention, Crowley said. The challenge has been compounded by the so-called Great Resignation, as well as companies on the coast picking off employees from across the country for remote positions with higher salaries than what’s typically paid in those local markets.
The situation has caused “pay to normalize across all regions,” Crowley said, noting that he’s hopeful the widespread shift in the labor dynamic “is starting to wind down.”
While he’s mindful of economic concerns that continue to emerge heading into 2023, Crowley said Atomic Object continues to focus on its strategy of “paced growth.” The company aims to have the location of its fifth office accepted within the next three years.
“From the profit perspective, we’re not like a PE-owned or venture-backed firm. Our priority is not the highest amount of profits in the shortest amount of time,” Crowley said. “We believe in paced growth, with a profit margin that’s stable and dependable. If money is not what you’re optimizing for, you can live with a smaller growth rate. But as you march over time, even then that growth really starts to accelerate.”