Ventech Solution’s game room defuses stress of serious federal contracts

When Ventech Solutions Inc. moved to a new headquarters in the Polaris area four months ago, one of the priorities for founder and President Ravi Kunduru was carving out space for a game room.
“This is a small pet project I took personally,” he said.

It’s open to employees around the clock – and yes, for some final stretches of proposal writing they’re in there that long – with one catch: Only team or multiplayer games are allowed. That’s natural for the pool and foosball tables, but Kunduru wants no solo play on the Microsoft Xbox.

The way he sees it, a sense of fun is one part of workers’ sense of accountability to clients. The the software and IT integration company focuses on state and federal government work, sometimes with high security clearance.
Since the move, everyone in the 45-person office spends an average of 20 minutes a day playing – sometimes they hold meetings there. A dry-erase board is handy to jot down inspiration. (Ventech has 120 total employees spread among other offices and at client sites.)

Game rooms will be part of the package when Ventech opens three new offices in or near Maryland and Virginia for staff on a 10-year, $410 million federal contract with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It will be adding about 200 workers over the next year for the data management job.

Perks like this are part of the package for tech companies. I’ve seen full fitness centers, ping-pong, an indoor putting green and several well-stocked bars and craft brew kegs. Founders say they trust their workers to use their judgement and not overindulge.

(Ventech has no alcohol in the office, by the way. The kitchen has free snacks and drinks and full fruit bowls on the counters.)

But if an office has all the comforts of home and more, that’s because employees are spending so much time there.

Some projects require a lot of hours as deadlines approach, but only occasionally, Ventech CEO Herb Jones said. At other times the company offers flexibility and allows some work from home.
“Life-work balance is very important,” Kunduru said.


IT firm wants to grow from 120 to 1,000 jobs

Ventech Solutions Inc. will nearly triple its staff over the coming year to about 320 nationwide for a federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services contract – but the ultimate goal is 1,000 jobs.

The Columbus information technology company has specialized in government hardware and software jobs for the past five years. Its big win this spring – the $410 million health quality data management project for CMS – brings its total contracts in hand to $515 million over 10 years.

Ventech has proposals submitted for eight-figure jobs that will be awarded in fall, and is working on bids due this summer to other agencies.
The company starts work on bids 12 to 18 months in advance, pulling in vendors and subcontractors and hiring for the skills the job would require. It tracks state and federal contracts that will expire in coming years and follows services that alert bidders to coming opportunities.

“If you wait until it’s time to bid, it’s too late,” CEO Herb Jones said. “You need to have understanding of the customer and understand the program.”
One tactic to growth is to parlay federal work into bidding on state jobs in new locations, or translating one successful state project to another: Work on IT for pipeline safety for New Mexico’s fire marshal led to bidding on underground gas storage tank safety in Ohio. Work for the city of New Orleans led it to bid on a project for Louisiana.

“Wherever we’re going to establish a presence, we’re going to do business with that state,” founder and President Ravi Kunduru said.

Today Ventech has about 120 employees, many in small teams at client sites such as the Defense Supply Center Columbus in Whitehall. It moved its Columbus headquarters to Orion Place four months ago and is hiring for another federal jobto triple that office to about 65 employees. The 200 new jobs added for the CMS contract, mostly in Maryland and Virginia, will include hires from the previous vendor.

Kunduru said honest and open communication will help transferred employees adopt the Ventech corporate culture. Game rooms in the new offices can help.
“These are all IT people who want to do something cool,” Kunduru said “Once we show them how we can do it, I think they’ll get on it pretty quickly.”