The employees of Algonquin Studios provide Internet content management, software development and information technology services to the company’s clients. Just don’t call them a technology company.
“We’re a company that sometimes uses technology to help other businesses achieve their goals, but technology is not the end-all, be-all,” said company President Stephen M. Kiernan II, at the company’s offices in downtown Buffalo.
Algonquin Studios, formed by three friends in 1998, is one of the veterans of the local high-tech sector.
The company has seen steady growth, even during the recent recession, and has expanded its headquarters space in the Brisbane Building.
Algonquin Studios has offices in New York City, as well, to help the company serve its long list of out-of-town and international clients.
The firm earlier this month spun off its IT group and looks to do more hiring as it hopes to attract business in New York City, Boston, Chicago and other large U. S. cities.
Beyond the business side, company officers emphasize the importance of giving back to the community and ensuring their employees have time for their families and their faith.
“It’s just like everything else — a balance,” said CEO Steven B. Raines.
The company’s three founders are Raines and David M. Thiemecke, who met at Orchard Park High School, and their friend, Adrian A. Roselli, who later attended the University at Buffalo with Raines.
The trio was working in the Internet division of SOFTBANK Services Group when they decided to form their own technology-services company.
The name, an inside joke from their school days, borrows from the Algonquin Round Table, the widely quoted group of writers and other wits who gathered at New York City’s Algonquin Hotel in the 1920s.
“We went around, we tried to come up with a good name for what we were going to do, we couldn’t come up with anything, so, Algonquin Studios,” Raines said.
Shortly after forming the company, the three co-founders brought on as CEO a veteran business executive, Stephen M. Kiernan Sr., who had hired Algonquin when he worked at North American Health Plans. The senior Kiernan remains as chairman of the board.
Algonquin Studios soon moved into about 750 square feet on the fourth floor of the Brisbane Building, which offered low rent and proximity to the city’s telecommunications hub.
The company survived the bursting of the dot-com bubble in the early 2000s, and the recent recession, and now occupies about 20,000 square feet on the building’s second floor.
Its offices in New York City are staffed on a rotating basis by employees from Buffalo.
Broadly, the company provides software development and consulting solutions to its clients, for everything from invoice processing to data mining.
For example, its clients in the health care field use an Algonquin Studios system to electronically share medical records between doctors and patients across the country.
And law firms use the network’s system to manage their websites and to easily create detailed presentations for prospective clients.
“There’s great breadth in what we do,” Kiernan said. “We also evolve — it’s not necessarily our way or the highway.”
In one case, Algonquin Studios developed an intricate system to handle much of the business operations for a client, Big Bear Inc., a contract embroidery and fulfillment company.
Algonquin Studios later stepped in and took over management of what is now Big Bear LLC, owned by Algonquin and some of its partners.
When Algonquin spun off its IT division, Raines said it was to give those employees the chance to run their own business, now named Station 28.
And, Kiernan said, those IT employees have demands and responsibilities that are distinct from other employee groups at the company, so splitting them off made sense.
Providing network solutions is a competitive field. The difficult economy only makes it harder to win new business, with would-be clients looking carefully at the amount of money spent on tech consultants.
Kiernan, however, said this provides an opening for their company because they can offer their clients the chance to save money in the long run through greater efficiencies.
Algonquin Studios is a good alternative for companies considering outsourcing technology services to India, Belarus or other countries, Raines said.
The company had about 35 employees at the end of 2007, and had 55 by the end of last year, including the 10 workers who left with Station 28, Raines said.
Raines and Kiernan said Algonquin Studios hasn’t had trouble finding employees with the right skill set and training in Western New York. The company has a close relationship with, and draws much of its workforce from, area colleges.
The company boasts some touches of Silicon Valley — a pool table and video-game systems in its Buffalo office, for example, and a monthly companywide meal cooked by employee volunteers — but visitors won’t find workers wearing shorts and flip-flops.
Officers also don’t want employees working unreasonably long hours at the expense of their family and faith, two words used regularly by Algonquin Studios managers.
The senior Kiernan led the company to set up the nonprofit Algonquin Sports for Kids, now run by Tom Garigen, a member of Algonquin’s sales team.
The biggest piece of the nonprofit is the Buffalo Soccer Club, which over the years has provided an athletic outlet for nearly 600 young people, most from Buffalo’s East Side.
Algonquin Studios has hired three new employees since Jan. 1 and may hire as many as another dozen by the end of the year as it launches new products at major trade shows.
Officers believe Algonquin Studios can pick up more business from clients in large Northeast and Midwest cities, including New York, while staying true to its local roots. “We’re really looking to, first and foremost, grow here. This is home,” the younger Kiernan said.