Business Excellence Awards
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By Michael J. DeCicco
PBN Staff Writer
By Michael J. DeCicco
PBN Staff Writer
Fresh management problems pop up fast and demand attention inside a growing business. That is partly why the chief of Envision Technology Advisors LLC in Pawtucket is so thankful he hired Britte Jessen-Balint as a receptionist nine years ago.
Todd S. Knapp, CEO of Envision, said, “She’s been an award winner for years in my mind. She is the most persistent person I’ve ever known and way smarter than anyone else I know.”
Envision, a business computer consulting firm founded 16 years ago, has grown from a small company of a handful of people to a firm earning a gross annual revenue of $7.3 million in 2013. The staff has doubled from 20 to 40 just since 2011. The company provides network consulting services, virtualization, integration, Web services, wireless, and cloud and managed services.
Jessen-Balint “immediately began to add structure to the business” after she came onboard as receptionist, said Knapp.
When Envision needed to replace its back-end computer systems, Jessen-Balint spent six months getting trained on the new software. She then developed a rollout and mitigation plan, and trained employees and management on the new system.
When the company was too small to afford a dedicated human resources manager but was growing too fast to be without one, Jessen-Balint volunteered to add the responsibilities to her other job duties. She built an organizational chart, wrote an employee handbook and developed vacation, time-off tracking and reimbursement procedures.
Within her first two years with the company, she began to add structure to business operations by standardizing the company’s procedures around billing and collections, and developing a number of processes to better manage the company’s cost accounting.
At the time, Knapp said, “We were struggling with the organization of our billing and collection systems, and we were all wearing a lot of different hats. One moment we might be working on servers and network platforms, and the next we would be running errands to get copier paper.”
Jessen-Balint adapted well to this environment and soon was promoted to office manager, then to her current position of controller.
The latter promotion, Knapp said, was initiated the day she walked into his office and said she would like to earn an MBA to help bring additional value to the company.
Jessen-Balint enrolled in the MBA program at Bryant University in 2007 and graduated in 2009. “It was an extremely challenging schedule,” she said. “I went two nights a week over two years and worked at Envision full time. But Todd gave me a great deal of flexibility. All I’ve accomplished at Envision I owe to his faith in me to let me grow.”
“While working full time and maintaining her home, she completed her degree program without any impact on Envision,” Knapp said. “She has since applied what she’s learned to help the company grow even more than before.”
Examples of her abilities and accomplishments include a period when the company was struggling to find a quick way to qualify customers for credit. Jessen-Balint found just the right way to do it, Knapp said.
She has spearheaded the company’s outreach to charities, particularly Foster Forward, a nonprofit that educates and supports foster children and foster parents. Envision runs fundraising events for the organization and provides technical support to the organization at these events, committing its donor cards to computer memory.
“She’s taken her vast intelligence and her unflappable persistence and applied them to myriad issues,” Knapp said. “Every time we needed a new process, she’d step up to the plate and have a solution.”
Jessen-Balint said the secret of her success at Envision is Todd Knapp himself. “Everything I’ve learned about this business is from him,” she said. “I was given the ability to grow, the opportunity to learn. I’m so grateful I had the chance to raise myself up thanks to him.”
Before joining Envision, Jessen-Balint was a graduate of Boston University with a liberal arts degree. She also had graduated from the International Yacht Restoration School and was working as a boat builder. She decided she wanted to take a break from that kind of work.
“I just fell into this business,” she said. “When I started as a receptionist and office manager, Envision had a staff of six people. The business grew along with me.”
During the past nine years, however, she hasn’t left her talent for woodworking too far behind. She and her husband own a mill building in Woonsocket that they rebuilt themselves. Her husband is a graphic artist with an office there and the two live on its second floor.
She said she would advise anyone seeking success in the business world to do as she did: get the proper education and find a mentor.
“Find the right company to help mentor you, to support you,” she said. “Be willing to go above and beyond. Anticipate the company’s needs and the needs of the people you work for before they know it. At this company, I saw what was going on. This company needed me before they realized it.”
Knapp wrote in the award application: “Britte has had influence over a broad range of issues at Envision from accounting to HR, and even spent several long evenings helping to coordinate vendors during the construction work in our new office. Building a business is among the hardest things that a person can do. The vast majority of small businesses fail in the first three years. I consider our success at Envision to be a function of the people in the company, and Britte is principle among them.”