The Two Jakes, Part 5: How SD Operates (the Summer Hires’ Perspective)

Fortunately, during our summer experience, we have the opportunity to meet weekly with Jon Klonsky, SD’s Principal and Founder. During these meetings, we discuss our work and pick Jon’s brain about the company. Each week we bring a set of questions about the professional services industry, SD’s history, and how the company is managed. Here’s some of what we found compelling.

What are the easiest and hardest things about working in the professional services industry?

Relationships can be both. They make some clients easier to work with and others more difficult. SD relies on emotional intelligence, regular contact, transparency, and events to develop the bonds that forge long and trusting relationships. The effort comes with some risk. For obvious reasons, relationship-based businesses struggle when clients have internal staff or leadership changes. To manage the risk effectively, SD integrates processes that drive interactions (e.g., frequent check-ins, documented roadmaps, etc.). Solid processes should work with most points of contact, even if they change. In our first week, we learned about Jon’s “Triangle” that balances the 3 key elements to SD’s business: clients, employees, and profitability. If all three are kept in balance, SD is successful. To maintain the client part, staff are constantly engaging clients directly, attending to their tactical needs and advising on longer-term strategy. Additionally, SD hosts events that create opportunities to interact and build relationships with clients outside of a business context. By running a company in this manner, SD creates lasting relationships that propel the business forward.

Why start SEG (the Strategic Engagement Group)?

SD always offered post-launch support for their projects. More recently however, SD established the Strategic Engagement Group (SEG), which not only provides site monitoring, maintenance, and support; but also provides clients with strategies for growth. SEG is more than just the “plumber” who gets called in for an emergency fix. They are the accessible advisors, who always point the client in the right direction. In providing this unique package, SEG helps to form and maintain better company-client relations that are valued deeply at SD. And better yet, SD receives recurring revenue while doing so!

Why add QA to the SD Process?

SD seeks continuous improvement as part of their growth. In the last year, they added an internal Quality Assurance (QA) department to replace what was previously an outsourced service. The results are more efficient project processes, improved timelines and profitability, and higher-quality delivery. If you spend any time in SD’s Bryant Park office, you’ll become instantly aware of their emphasis on organization! Every process is meticulously detailed and well-structured. This adherence to better quality enables more efficient collaboration and better outcomes.

What’s the best way to accelerate your career as an SD employee?

SD expects a lot from its employees. The company benefits when workers are flexible, demonstrate leadership, and succeed in team environments. SD values team members who help train others, participate in business development, and exhibit the skills to deliver high-quality outcomes under the allotted time. As team members gain experience, SD expects them to develop in these areas and become more valuable to the company. Furthermore, we’ve heard time and again that it’s critical to understand the vertical market—how the client businesses operate—to ultimately thrive here. You can’t only code to succeed. You should find your role and understand how it contributes to improving the entire business if you expect to advance.

Working all summer in a real office was a totally new experience for both of us. Along the way, we’ve gained new skills, asked many questions, and learned so much about SD as a company. Whether you are a client, a prospective hire, or even an e-commerce enthusiast reading this post, we hope our perspective provides useful insight about SD’s values and operating techniques.

Be sure to stay tuned for Part 6 (the final post of the series) next week!

Written by: Jake Berkson and Jake Reifer