Under a Blooming Tree

Madrona jpg

Madrona Solutions Group’s management team has made the
company an oasis of camaraderie in an industry that is often cutthroat. Left to
right: Practice Director Matthew Johnson; Principal Jeff Finken; Eli J (on all
fours); Principals Brian Paulen and Scott Kostojohn.

If you search deep in the red-brick heart of Pioneer Square,
you’ll find Madrona Solutions Group, a small consulting firm that is turning
out large-scale services. This 16-person outfit specializes in implementing
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems—that’s a term for digital tools
that organize interactions with clients. CRM is no niche field, though; Madrona
works with companies ranging from WinShuttle to Corbis to Microsoft and

Madrona’s expertise in fostering relationships isn’t limited
to clients and customers. The five-year-old company gives its full attention to
its employees, too—and it has paid off.

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In a sector that’s often cutthroat and exhausting, Madrona
has created a balanced atmosphere that both challenges and recognizes
employees. In the words of one staffer, Madrona has a “culture of camaraderie
where everyone shares information and experience. There is not a sense of
competition or ruthlessness.”

Those are rare words in the world of consulting, but Madrona
Solutions Group garnered across-the-board praise in a survey of the company’s
employees. Madrona’s  workers
described the group’s culture as diverse, dynamic, fun and relaxed. Perhaps
that’s due to the monthly Friday afternoon happy hours or the gym memberships.
Or it could be due to the full suite of health benefits. More than likely, it’s
all of the above.

Madrona’s co-founders, Brian Paulen and Jeff Finken,
encourage their employees to strive for professional and personal growth. Each
year, the company provides every worker an educational budget of $2,000, which
can be spent on classes or training of the employee’s choice. Madrona even
offers additional bonuses if the chosen class benefits the employee’s job.

The perks keep coming: Madrona’s employees are eligible for
annual and spot performance bonuses; they receive monthly stipends for mobile
phones and parking; and they’re free to work at the company’s headquarters, at
their current project site or at home as needed. In addition to regular social
events and a holiday party, Madrona hosts yearly weekend getaways to Northwest
resorts—spouses are invited; work talk is not. 

From the company’s beginnings, Madrona’s leadership fostered
a spirit of community service throughout the organization. (CEO Brian Paulen is
president of the board for the Music Center of the Northwest.) An in-house
charity committee solicits donation suggestions from all employees, and the
group participates in volunteer projects every quarter.

Madrona prides itself on its flat organizational structure,
which allows employees from any level to approach and collaborate with
management at will. That ease of communication is reinforced at all employees’
twice-monthly one-on-ones with their manager. “There’s no political drama,” one
employee wrote, “and there are so few levels/titles that everyone is treated
the same.”

It’s evident that Madrona Solutions Group has been planted
on some very rich soil. And with the way that soil is being turned and
enriched, it seems clear that this tree will continue to grow.

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