A Trio of Excellence

Deane C. Davis Award Finalists Chroma Technology Corp., Small Dog Electronics and SymQuest Group, Inc. Compete for Top Honor

May 1 2008
Antonia Opitz

Vermont's businesses community is comprised of a myriad of companies, both large and small that provide economic stability to the state. This community offers the quality jobs, products and services to consumers in Vermont, the United States and world-wide and employee well-being representative of the Vermont quality of life.

In an effort to recognize and honor Vermont's best companies, Vermont Business Magazine and the Vermont Chamber of Commerce created the Deane C. Davis Outstanding Business of the Year Award in 1990. Named for former Governor Deane C. Davis, the Award annually honors a Vermont business that shows an outstanding history of sustained growth while displaying an acute awareness of what makes Vermont unique.

Many Vermont companies exemplify the standards by which the Deane C. Davis Outstanding Vermont Business Award nominees are judged, but only three each year are distinguished as finalists for this 18-year-old award. The three finalists for this year's Deane C. Davis Outstanding Vermont Business Award include: Chroma Technology Corp. of Rockingham, Small Dog Electronics of Waitsfield; and SymQuest Group, Inc. of South Burlington.

Only one of these well-qualified finalists will be named the Deane C. Davis Outstanding Vermont Business of the Year on Wednesday, May 21, at the Vermont Business & Industry EXPO. Until that time one of the most important traditions of the Award will remain intact; the winner's identity is hidden, even from the finalists, until the moment the award is presented.

The Award presentation ceremony will kick off the 24th annual Vermont Business & Industry EXPO 2008, organized by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, on Wednesday, May 21, at the Sheraton Burlington Hotel & Conference Center. Governor James Douglas will present the Award at 10 a.m. in the foyer of the Conference Center. The recipient of the award will receive a Vermont granite plaque, handcrafted by Granite Industries of Barre. The winner's name will join the seventeen previously awarded Vermont businesses carved in stone on an impressive granite plaque created by Montpelier Graniteworks.

This year's finalists all share in common their commitment to their employees, communities and the local and global environment. A dedication to social responsibility is echoed in the mission statement of all three companies, while the trio still maintains a profitable bottom line. However, all three tell a unique story of vision, commitment and growth. From a manufacturing company that generates 40% of their sales internationally from Rockingham, Vermont, to an Apple specific electronics supplier and servicing company in Waitsfield, and to a South Burlington-based technology solutions provider in Burlington. This year's finalists exemplify of the resourcefulness, innovation and success that radiates from all corners of this state and captures the essence of Vermont business.


Equality and Responsibly is Key

Chroma Technology Corp. was founded in 1991. This specialized company works closely with an international community of scientists and researchers to develop precise combinations of filter designs for fluorescence microscopy. Paul Millman, CE and one of the founding fathers of Chroma, helped developed the mission of this company that has such an intricate and international focus, yet is deeply rooted in Vermont and its values. The spirit of Chroma is stewed in social responsibility, trust in and dedication to the employees and a commitment to reducing their own environmental impact.

From the very beginning, Chroma has marked itself as fully employee-owned. Each employee receives 200 shares in the company stock in his or her second year of employment. This ownership means that every employee sits on the board of directors of Chroma, ultimately possessing the power of making company decisions and the responsibility to carry the success of the business forward. The commitment to its professionals is held strong at Chroma, as evident by the salary structure that was enacted from the start. Each person receives the same salary based on the number of years of service. There are no managers or directors, every employee is responsible for applying knowledge and care to their daily work and ensuring consistent quality. By keeping the playing field level and honoring longevity rather than job descriptions, Chroma omits merit increases or "subjective analysis of a person's worth." Chroma's mission statement dictates the motive behind this strategy, "this is how we create the committed, involved and healthy employee body that is key to achieving our mission." Carrying the commitment to its employees even further, Chroma remains one of the highest paying companies in the country.

In 2006, Chroma Technology Corp. was awarded the honor of being one of the Top 10 Places to Work in Vermont. This annual award is presented by Vermont Business Magazine and the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. The award celebrates Vermont companies that strive to create supportive work environments for their employees, while staying committed to the quality and success.

Chroma's commitment to the environment is well represented, as well. In 2006, when Chroma outgrew their original space they called upon a partnership with Efficiency Vermont to construct an energy efficient building. This move not only positively impacted their bottom line, but was a step towards reducing the overall impact on the environment.

Chroma has been recognized not only for the stellar support it offers for it's employees, praised for their commitment to social responsibility and respect for the environment. Chroma has also been acknowledged for it's basic business success. This locally-rooted company that is strongly dedicated to its workers and community has been presented with the 5x5x5 award by Vermont Business Magazine for four years. This award serves to recognize businesses that prove to be the fastest growing companies in Vermont over the last five years in their category. In the last five years, Chroma has seen a 25 percent increase in gross sales. The same time frame produced a rise in the number of employees of 37 percent.

Chroma's business success extends far beyond the borders of Vermont. Vermont has become one of the leading states in international trade and Chroma has joined that force. Chroma has expanded its support all over the world and currently exports to more than 52 countries, comprising 40% of their total sales. In 2006, the Vermont Chamber of Commerce honored Chroma with the "Exporter of the Year" award.

Chroma Technology Corp. radiates strong business sense, environmental responsibility and commitment to the value of life in Vermont. These principals are the roots of Vermont business and are emulated in Chroma's mission statement and company practices. This dedication makes Chroma a fierce competitor for first place in the Deane C. Davis award race.


Building Relationships for life

Small Dog Electronics has been a name rapidly growing notoriety as they build a foundation of customer trust and longevity here in Vermont. This business made its debut in 1995, after being founded by a father and son team, Don and Hapy Mayer. Recognized by Apple as the most knowledgeable Apple retailer in the U.S., Small Dog is the only Apple Specialist and Authorised Apple reseller in Vermont. Since establishing their niche in this state, the Small Dog office has grown from the entrepreneurial duo, to a crew of 55 people...and almost just as many office dogs.

This bustling Apple specialist business has proven that exponential financial growth and quality of life can go hand-in-hand in Vermont. Within the first five years of initiation, Small Dog was highlighted in Inc. Magazine's list of the 500 fastest growing companies in America. Four years later, Vermont Business Magazine presented Small Dog with the 5x5x5 award, noting them as one of the fastest growing companies in Vermont. The last five years show an increase in gross sales of nearly 18 percent. Perhaps one of the secrets to their success is their dedication to the customer. The mission at Small Dog clearly expresses their intent to make each client a customer for life by creating long-lasting relationships based superior customer service.

While rapid growth is ideal, Small Dog is careful not to jeopardize the core values of their mission: sustainability, profitability and responsibility. Small Dog maintains an ongoing commitment to its employees by creating a work environment that promotes well-being and health. Competitive wages and outstanding benefits (including veterinary insurance for dogs) form a solid base for all employees. This pledge to supporting well-being and social responsibility is extended beyond the employees to the community. Each employee is encouraged to volunteer their time to community organizations that range from local schools to the Special Olympics. Small Dog has also facilitated the donation of over $10,000 to charitable organizations.

The environment is an issue forefront in the minds of Small Dog and its employees. In 2007, the company hosted the first e-waste event, appropriately on Earth Day. This event generated 50 tons (100,000 pounds) of e-waste, old computers and other obsolete electronics, from the community. Some of this waste can rebuild electronics, while the majority of it is broken down into elements such as tin, copper and aluminum that can be reused. Similar events are planned for the future, but in the meantime, the Waitsfield store accepts daily e-waste donations.

Small Dog Electronics has a keen awareness of the Vermont quality of life that balances a savvy business sense with well-being, environmental and social responsibility. Clearly, Small Dog meets the criteria of the Deane C. Davis Outstanding Business of the Year award and strongly stands among the top contenders.


Building a Legendary Company

From its mission and slogan to its corporate culture, SymQuest Group exudes two words: positive attitude. The 12-year-young SymQuest of South Burlington has lofty goals of becoming the best technology service company in America. SymQuest CEO and Co-Founder Larry Sudbay knows that a positive, go-to attitude will lead the company on its path to the top, and along with Co-Founder Pat Robins, he has engrained that spirit in its company culture and customer service. That spirit is identified throughout the company as "The SymQuest Way," a blueprint for success designed by SymQuest co-founders that embodies the spirit and philosophy of SymQuest's company culture.

SymQuest is well on its way to a "legendary" stature, in Sudbay's own words. In the past 12 years, SymQuest has grown to have five locations in Vermont and New Hampshire and to employ 152 technology professionals. The Vermont-based company has doubled in gross sales while increasing employee wages by 35 percent. SymQuest's services range from computer network design, installation and support to copier and printer sales service and supplies, all of which are designed to maximize the potential of technology in its clients' businesses.

Armed with superior customer service skills, SymQuest employees take to the field to find technological solutions to allow clients to operate their business more efficiently and effectively. The customer service provided by SymQuest employees has created a loyal following of "Raving Fans" that continually provide feedback about their positive experience with SymQuest.

SymQuest also takes to the community as a steward by financially supporting charities and supporting employee volunteerism at more than 50 non-profit organizations, boards, schools and churches.

Employee successes are celebrated often at SymQuest. The company's quarterly internal newsletter, SymPulse, highlights sales goals that have been met and exceeded, testimonials from loyal customers and makes note of employment anniversaries and birthdays. This encourages SymQuest employees to celebrate their colleagues continued growth and development and promotes a collaborative working environment. SymQuest also maintains a solid retention rate of its employees by paying high wages and providing competitive, non-traditional benefits, such as an annual fund for employee events, which is controlled solely by the employees. SymQuest also offers an open line of communication between Sudbay and the employees through monthly brown-bag lunches.

Sudbay describes SymQuest's journey as one without a final destination with many milestones of discovery, accomplishment, learning and experience yet to come. That type of positive attitude, combined with insightful leadership and committed employees, sets SymQuest well on its way to building a legend for itself.


All three businesses have shown great merit as finalists for the Deane C. Davis Award. Like Davis himself-former governor, president of National Life of Vermont, environmentalist, founder of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce-each finalist reflects Vermont's diverse nature and, at the same time, radiates a savvy business sense.

The criteria for this Award include:

  • Growth in sales or employment.
  • Commitment of company resources for participation in community projects.
  • Encouragement to employees to be involved in community events.
  • Recognition of the importance of the environment to the state as a natural and economic resource.
  • Addressing employee concerns/needs to create a positive work environment for all employees.
  • Major accomplishment(s) in the past year in any or all of the criteria.
  • Nominated businesses must have been based in Vermont for at least 10 years.

Former Deane C. Davis Award winners include: Wallace Enterprises, Williston - 1990; C&S Wholesale Grocers, Brattleboro - 1991; John McKenzie Packing Company, Burlington - 1992; Perry Restaurant Group, Shelburne - 1993; Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Waterbury - 1994; Vermont Heating & Ventilating, Colchester - 1995; Mack Molding Inc., Arlington - 1996; Smugglers' Notch Resort, Jeffersonville - 1997; Vermont Country Store, Manchester Center - 1998; Cabot Creamery, Montpelier - 1999; Waitsfield & Champlain Valley Telecom, Waitsfield - 2000; Wild Apple Graphics, Woodstock - 2001; NRG Systems, Inc., Hinesburg - 2002; Hubbardton Forge, Castleton - 2003; IDX Systems Corp - 2004; King Arthur Flour, Norwich - 2005; Resource Systems Group, White River Junction - 2006.


The Vermont Chamber of Commerce and Vermont Business Magazine sincerely thank the members of this year's Selection Committee. The Committee meets behind closed doors to review the Award nominations. This year, the Committee engaged in a candid and spirited discussion that lasted through the afternoon. These dedicated volunteers are held in high regard for their enthusiasm and strong commitment to the spirit of the Deane C. Davis Award.

Duane Marsh, Vermont Chamber of Commerce

John Boutin, Vermont Business Magazine

Suzanne Grenier, Northfield Savings Bank

Jill Michaels, Community Investments

Marie Houghton, IBM

Brian Vachon, Vachon & Associates

Clay Adams, Resource Systems Group