Poetry and Neiman Marcus were not the topics I expected to dominate a Kim & Jenny’s breakfast with Richard and Tammy Reno. We were meeting to discuss the values driving Omega Airline Software, a technology company in downtown Midlothian. In starting the business, which provides planning tools for scheduling aircraft maintenance, Richard brought a tradition of integrity, hard work, honesty, and credibility learned early in life watching his father run an office supply business on handshakes and verbal commitments.
In order to compete, Richard appreciated that Omega had to be able to produce more functionality with fewer people. Tech companies are generally staff intensive. With a fraction of the number of employees of competitors, the people at Omega had to be productive. In order for Omega’s employees to be more productive, they would all need to take ownership. All of Omega employees are knowledge workers, who Richard contends shouldn’t be managed, but must be empowered to own their responsibilities. Finally, Omega’s technical solutions would need to be elegant. The values of productivity, ownership, and elegance are easy to remember by the acronym POE, but I needed more explanation about the elegance value.
The biggest challenge tech companies face is deployment and, specifically, communication during deployment. Grinning, Richard explains he has to be trilingual with the ability to speak the language of computers, techies, and end users, as all three have very different communication styles. How does a technology company make connections between the designers and those using the systems when conversations take place in three languages? That’s where lessons from Stanley Marcus enter the picture with his emphasis on quality craftsmanship, done with style. I still had to wonder, how does a technology company deliver elegance? According to Richard, the elegance lies in the solutions. In mathematics, he explains, the simpler the formula, the closer you are to the truth, like E=MC2. The elegant answers in technology are easy to maintain; elegant solutions solve the problem without creating new ones. Elegant answers for technology companies are achieved with the same quality, craftsmanship, and style associated with clothes and furnishings.
“Talk” is a sacred word at Omega. Face-to-face or telephone conversations count; email and social media do not. In keeping with that value, Richard and Tammy are excited to announce that their other business, Woodrow’s Coffee Shop (back alley plaza between Campuzano’s and Mo’s), will be reopening soon for community conversations. “Wednesdays at Woodrows” will kick off March 14th with an open invitation to discuss pressing issues, beginning with: “How businesses shape a community.” Doors open at 7 am, with a 15-minute speaker at 7:45 am, followed by small group conversations until 9 am. Come early or late and really talk with your neighbors. Similar discussion groups will pick up every Wednesday, along with a monthly “Speed of Trust” book club led by Jennifer Wilson. It’s a testament to what makes Midlothian special that a tech company, which adopted Poe’s raven as its mascot, is leading the charge to rebuild interpersonal relationships that enhance culture and community. Repeating “nevermore” won’t prevent growth from swallowing what makes Midlothian a special place to live and work. Perhaps real talk with real people will uncover some elegant solutions.