For a digital hospital marketing company in Santa Rosa called OptiRev, incorporating concern for employees was ingrained in its business model from the outset.
Before launching the company, CEO and founder Holly Michalek-Byck had a successful career in hospitality marketing. Her job required a lot of travel, but after her first child, she wanted to spend more time with her daughter. She developed a plan that would allow her to work at home and presented it to her employers — but they rejected it.
“Everybody wanted me in the office or in the air,” she recalls. She had lost her father and brother, and knew she wanted to strike a balance between work and family life. “I decided to never look back and wonder what might have happened.”
She obtained a loan and built a lifestyle company dedicated to its team, clients and the community. This allowed her to see her baby’s first steps and everything she would have missed in a 9-to-5 job. And now, with three children, she can volunteer in the classroom and give back to the community.
“We’re on Earth to be stewards to communities, families and to live for life, not a paycheck,” she says.
Michalek-Byck believes it’s important for employees to have the opportunity to enjoy life’s special moments. They can work at home or wherever they happen to be.
“We have a brick-and-mortar office and a weekly in-person think tank that enables everyone to connect. But our people are able to come and go as they please.”
An employee and father of three can pick up his kids from school and attend their soccer games, and doesn’t need permission. Another writes content working from Turkey, and yet another went to overseas for six months to care for his family in Greece.
“He did his job beautifully and I was happy to do that for him,” she says. “We are in constant communication.”
Se doesn’t closely supervise employees, but she does get project updates using Slack, a phone application. “It’s like cutting the office umbilical cord, and involves an enormous leap of faith in every employee.”
She sets clear expectations, engages employees and develops relationships. “The more you let go, the more loyal employees are.”
She discovered the power of loyalty after going through a personal crisis. Following the birth of her third child, she suffered severe postpartum depression for two years.
“I felt like I was living underground,” she recalls. Her husband, René Byck, of Paradise Ridge Winery, was supportive. When he told her employees what she was facing, they stepped up.
“It’s no longer my company, it’s their company. They made things happen and kept it moving. What an amazing team.”
She believes in her approach. “When you hire people, you trust them to do the job they’re hired to do. This allows people to live in a more satisfying way than they ever thought possible.”