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GeoLinks using Silicon Valley-style office to attract employees

GeoLinks co-founders Skyler Ditchfield, left, and Ryan Adams in the lobby of the company’s new [Silicon Valley-style] headquarters in Camarillo.

Original Article

Ventura County telecommunications company GeoLinks hopes to lure tech talent to Camarillo with a new Silicon Valley-style office, tripling its workforce after doubling its revenue two years in a row.

The company inherited the 38,000-square-foot space — tricked out with an onsite gym, pool tables, a jukebox and arcade games by previous owner Zindagi Games — and added a kitchen stocked with healthy breakfast, lunch and snack options in the hope of filling it with around 100 additional staff.

Rebranded in June from its former name, California International, the internet service provider was “bursting at the seams” prior to the move, said CEO and co-founder Skyler Ditchfield.

“Once people kind of find out what we’re doing here behind the scenes and meet with us and speak with us, the facility kind of sells itself,” said President and co-founder Ryan Adams. “Our big focus is on our clients but also the culture. We want people when they walk through these doors not only to feel appreciated but to want to come in every single day.”

GeoLinks debuted at No. 6 on the Pacific Coast Business Times 50 Fastest -Growing Companies list in 2017, reporting prior year revenues of $8.8 million. It also ranked No. 640 on this year’s Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies.

The company has a few initiatives in the works to connect to local universities, as well as employing several graduates from Thomas Aquinas College, but “we’ll take talent, wherever it’s from,” Adams said, from project management, communications and sales employees, to more technical applicants.

Launched to serve rural broadband customers around Ojai, the company got its first real break in 2013 with the Lake Sherwood development contract south of Thousand Oaks. From there, it moved toward business-to-business services in the Greater Los Angeles market before launching its wholesale business selling to other ISPs, now around a third of its revenue.

By offering fixed wireless, rather than fiber or satellite, the company has also picked up state contracts for schools, hospitals and libraries in remote areas of California and other states. Since government grants from programs like the Internet for All Act and the Connect America Fund help cover upfront costs of installation, it joined a Federal Communications Commission advisory committee working group and the Schools, Health & Library Broadband Coalition to advocate for additional resources, including the use of “white spaces” frequencies proposed by Microsoft.

“We’re helping shape policy for how to expedite procurement of federal lands for internet services, and we’re pushing other agendas in terms of getting more spectrum freed up,” Ditchfield said. “Right now all the wireless spectrum is owned by all the cell operators. They have an abundance of it, but they’re hoarding it, and we really need that freed up to be able to connect these rural areas and low income houses.”

If company revenues and federal programs continue to grow, GeoLinks might look to open additional satellite locations for rapid deployment, like the one it already has in Santa Fe Springs serving Los Angeles customers. But the two Ojai-native founders said they would never want to uproot.

“Nothing beats Ventura County,” Adams said. “It doesn’t matter how many homes we worked that week, or if we worked over the weekend, there’s a certain energy in this building, and it’s contagious. I don’t feel like this is a job, even though there’s a lot of work that happens, to be a part of something that’s growing like this.”

The company brought on a director of corporate wellness and culture to help handle the transition from a 50-person operation to a much larger one, as well as adding fitness and nutrition programs.

Teambuilding through group activities, basketball games and yoga classes help introduce people to the leadership team, promote interdepartmental communication and enable regular wellness checks.

But it remains to be seen if the Silicon Valley approach will help it find the right talent.

Companies have to make sure they’re not focusing too much on the “soft perks” over things like time off, workplace flexibility, salary and stock options, said Maria Ballesteros-Sola, assistant professor of management at CSU Channel Islands.

“Perks come down to the underlying culture, and not the other way around,” she said, but added that “big conversations and big ideas can be generated at the water cooler and the conference room. If you have the foosball table, and people start playing to disconnect and re-energize, they might have the conversation to solve a problem or a new project.”

Early on, competitive salaries were tough to match, and raises to retain workers stretched the budget, Ditchfield said. But with the continued growth, the company has not only brought up salaries, but invested in sustainability initiatives like solar and wind at its relay stations, as well as considering onsite childcare options.

“One thing we talk about internally here is ‘what is our living wage?” Ditchfield said. “We don’t want to ever be paying anyone a level of pay that they’re suffering with. We want to get to a point where we have a minimum threshold of salary that we hire people on, and if there’s a job below that, we either need to automate it or consolidate it.”

And if there’s anywhere to promote work-life balance, Ballesteros-Sola said, it’s the Central Coast.

“It’s just imperative for us to do this organically to where we came from,” Ditchfield said.

• Contact Marissa Nall at [email protected]

Local internet service provider relocates to Camarillo, creates job openings

Original Article

A local internet service provider is expanding throughout the region and aims to become one of Ventura County’s leading technology businesses.

GeoLinks, which was created by Ventura resident Skyler Ditchfield in 2011, began as a two-person team interested in providing internet service to rural residents overlooked by the nation’s larger internet service providers. Since then, GeoLinks has hired over 50 employees and shifted its focus to providing internet packages to large businesses, including Amgen Inc. and several regional McDonald’s restaurants.

Although the privately-owned company’s internet services are largely restricted to businesses, GeoLinks’ continued growth has resulted in a steady stream of job openings for people with technology and customer service skills, according to Ditchfield.

“We started with two people, have over 50 now and are still hiring nonstop,” Ditchfield said in an interview. “We’ve got everything from sales opportunities to customer service, to field tech opportunities, installation and infrastructure technicians, help desk and eventually those jobs can open up to middle and upper-level positions in the company.”

The Camarillo-based business relocated from Ventura to 251 Camarillo Ranch Road last week to house its rapidly growing staff. The building, which was previously owned by mobile video game developer Zindagi Games Inc., includes amenities such as an exercise facility, basketball court, game room and kitchen. GeoLinks’ expanded office matches its growing coverage. The business services companies from northern Ventura County to San Diego and is beginning to spread to other states, such as Arizona.

Beyond job opportunities, Ditchfield considers GeoLinks’ expansion to be an important example of how local businesses can provide compelling alternatives to national companies. Ditchfield stressed that customer service played a major role in his company’s success, and said that GeoLinks’ local focus allowed the business to thrive despite competition from larger internet service providers such as AT&T and Verizon.

“People are fed up with the poor customer service and tech support from the big guys,” Ditchfield said in an interview. “The whole methodology is to get off the phone and move you away, while we’re actually trying to solve the problem. Customer service is why we win (business) accounts, so it’s incredibly important to us that we maintain that level of service.”

Going forward, GeoLinks aims to begin providing internet options to California residents, as opposed to just businesses, in early 2018, with a particular focus on rural communities. For more information about the business, visit GeoLinks’ website.

Skyler Ditchfield GeoLinks

GeoLinks CEO Skyler Ditchfield is shown at the basketball court in the new building the company recently moved into in Camarillo. The local internet company is expanding and hopes to provide internet services to individuals as well as businesses. CHUCK KIRMAN/THE STAR

GeoLinks CEO Skyler Ditchfield talks about the expansion of the internet service business. The company was launched in 2011 as a two-person enterprise and now has over 50 people working at its Camarillo facility. It is continuing to expand and hire. CHUCK KIRMAN/THE STAR

The sales and marketing department of GeoLinks in Camarillo is a busy place. The local internet service provider is expanding and hiring more staff. After starting a a provider of internet services to rural areas not served by the bigger companies it it now focused on serving business like Amgen Inc. CHUCK KIRMAN/THE STAR

The GeoLinks recreation room has pool tables at the new building the internet service provider recently relocated to in Camarillo. The internet company is expanding after moving from Ventura. CHUCK KIRMAN/THE STAR

GeoLinks CEO Skyler Ditchfield is shown near the main conference room of the company’s new building in Camarillo. The internet company is expanding and hiring as it focuses on providing internet services to area businesses. CHUCK KIRMAN/THE STAR

GeoLinks CEO Skyler Ditchfield talks about the company’s expansion and the new headquarters it recently moved into in Camarillo. After starting in 2011 with two people, the internet service provider now has more than 50 employees and anticipates more hiring. CHUCK KIRMAN/THE STAR