Opportunity and Happiness found in Kalamazoo!0
I was neck-deep in job applications and resumes. As a double major in Business and French, I was ready to go just about anywhere to find a job, and my hunt was taking me all over the Midwest. Chicago, Detroit, Grand Rapids - name a big city near Michigan, and I probably applied for work there. That’s the position I found myself in during my final trimester at K College in spring of 2015, and I was pleasantly surprised when the needle ended up falling in Kalamazoo.
I've loved Kalamazoo from the moment I moved here for school, but I had always been afraid that there wouldn't be a place for me after graduation, putting me on a track towards a large company in a big city. Those fears were laid to rest though, when Dan Jefferies and Matt Vollmar came to speak in my business class about a company they were running in Kalamazoo, called Newmind Group. They had a lot to say about how to grow a small business, and what it's like working in the community of Kalamazoo, but what stuck with me was the philosophy behind their company.
Dan and Matt spoke about culture, relationships, and work/life balance in a way that resonated with me, especially after interning at big corporations where there just wasn't much of a team mentality. I wanted to find a place in a company where I could feel like more than just one more spoke on the wheel. Rather than pushing towards goals like profit or short-term growth, Newmind follows a set of core values to create an environment of challenges, rewards, and positivity. Dan Jefferies, who founded the company, even stepped down from the CEO role to take on the position of "Chief Happiness Officer" to drive that home.
After starting there as an accounting intern, the first thing that surprised me was the relaxed feel of the office, and the closeness of the team. Everyone shares workspace, so there's not a rift between the departments and the leaders (better known as 'The Bobs' [a term of endearment]). Whether it's the way they work or the technology they use, the company is always trying new things, and that really struck me as the same way K College wasn't wrapped up in the status quo.
Newminders take pride in getting their work done, but we're all reminded of the importance to take a breather now and then, and appreciate those who work alongside of you. It makes for a happy and productive team, and I think that positivity is reflected onto the clients we work with.
It has been a great place for me to start my career, and I can tell they've really cared about me from the get-go. They encourage me to learn, try new things, and enjoy the time I spend at work. I've had new experiences on the job that I never thought I'd end up doing. Over the past 6 months, I've been able to hold the company at over 95% client retention, and I'm not sure I could have made an impact like that, in such a short timespan if I had been slotted into a bigger organization. I also help with invoicing, billing, and other organizational tasks - I've even spent time helping out our IT support team! It's great to be challenged like that, while knowing there are always people to turn to for guidance.
Those are the kind of opportunities I might not have gotten, had I been relegated to a "cubicle farm" in Chicago or Detroit. The quality about Kalamazoo that really strikes me is that it's a city without feeling like a city - it has a small-community feel, but you're not giving up all the awesome growth and activity happening around town. I think Newmind Group is kind of similar in that way - it's a small shop where everyone knows you have potential, and it's steadily growing in unexpected and exciting ways.
Today I'm confident that I made the right choice, staying in Kalamazoo, and I'm delighted that they took a chance on me. I feel like it has set me on a great career path, and I look forward to everything else Newmind Group - and Kalamazoo - has to offer me in the future!