Larry Lilley, the chief executive officer at CTS, feels a lot of positive energy these days at the company he founded in 1994 with Bill Fenton and another friend from the University of South Alabama in Mobile. In 2006, CTS joined forces with another small company headed by Sanjay Singh, who Lilley says “has been instrumental in the development and growth of CTS.”
CTS, which stands for Computer Technology Solutions, is an IT consulting company that provides professional services for clients in five areas: software development; quality assurance; business intelligence; portals and collaboration, and application integration.
The company relocated to Birmingham, where it is now headquartered, in 1995, and has six offices in the Southeast: Birmingham, Mobile, Atlanta, Charlotte, Chattanooga and, as of this month, Nashville.
CTS has grown organically, opening offices when the clientele in a particular city supports it. Lilley believes the company’s model is unique. “We believe in being local whenever possible—expanding, then providing service in the community, ” he says. “We don’t create jobs; we create careers.”
And the company promotes completely from within. “We’ll relocate someone, and from that base we’ll hire locally and try to build on relationships, ” he says. “We pretty much integrate ourselves into the community by servicing clients locally.” Career paths and criteria for promotion are clearly laid out for each employee, backed up by a support network through the human resources department. Employees are given “a lot of autonomy, ” Lilley says.
In all its offices, CTS offers a “very family-oriented culture, ” according to Lilley. A comprehensive benefits package including health care, vision and dental plans, tuition reimbursement, life insurance, paid training and certification bonuses “goes without saying, ” he adds, and is “second to none.”
“In the IT world, especially in consulting, you have to burn the midnight oil, ” says Lilley—so the company offers concierge services, from dry cleaning to lawn maintenance to car servicing.
Each month, employees are encouraged to participate in a “fun team” event, whether it’s CTS’s take on the Super Bowl (where they go bowling), March Madness (a bracketed competition in ping pong or air hockey) or the annual Geekathlon (also known as the Nerd Olympics, in which all employees gather at the Birmingham headquarters for a day of activities). “We literally do an event every month to lighten the mood, ” Lilley says. Families are invited to participate in crawfish boils and barbecues, as well as trick-or-treating at Halloween.
“My mantra is to make this place a place people want to work, and to grow an extraordinary company, ” he says.
As a result of his efforts, CTS is seeing a turnover rate that’s less than half of the industry average right now, according to Lilley.
Lilley believes it’s important to give back to the communities served by CTS. “This work force generation really appreciates that and participates by donating their time and talent, ” he says. CTS staffers help raise money for about 50 nonprofit organizations. “Part of our mission as an organization is to help grow communities, ” he says.
“As we expand into new locations, the employees have strong ties back, ” Lilley says of CTS’s plan for smart growth. “As the company grows and flourishes, the team celebrates with it. There’s lots of positive energy and excitement, and employees are given opportunities they might not get elsewhere.”
The company has grown from two to six offices in the past couple of years, and Lilley credits that growth in large part to CTS’s “leadership team, ” who are on a fast track and given a good deal of autonomy. “They get to share credit for their success, ” he says. “It’s a direct result of their efforts.”