Why ACI Is Different, and Why It Matters

When I mustered out of the US Army, ACI was my first “real job” in the civilian world. After less than a year, a contracting changeover left me working for a different company—but since then, I’ve measured every workplace against the benchmarks set by ACI. In January 2011, I had the opportunity to work for ACI again; I grabbed it with both hands, because no other company had ever come close.

Don’t just take my word for it. If you ask any other ACI employee, odds are he or she will tell you the same thing—that’s why our company enjoys remarkably low employee turnover: Our annual employee turnover is well under 10%, compared to the industry average of 22%. We’re different, in ways that make us better, and here are some of the reasons why:

ACI is small. And big.
ACI is a “little big company.” We’re big enough to have a broad and diverse pool of talent, with a deep bench of technical resources. But we’re still small enough to give the customer a flexible, personal approach and minimize productivity lost to bureaucracy and overhead.

Like a small town, everybody knows everybody else; we share our successes and help each other with our challenges, both at work and off-site. The result is high morale and a remarkable cohesion you simply don’t see in most workplaces. When I moved to Blacksburg last year, the company president showed up at my door to help me unload my moving truck. Could you imagine your company president doing that for you?

Realistic planning
It’s an open secret in the contracting industry that—even with the best of intentions—companies tend to understate the effort required to complete a project. The result is the familiar “crunch” to meet each deadline, with employees piling on as many hours as necessary to complete the task. This is so common it has become a truism of the IT industry. (Chances are you know people who keep pillows at their desks for those all-nighters.) And let’s face it: No employee is at his or her best in the tail end of a 70-hour work week. Mistakes are made, morale wanes, and quality suffers. Everybody loses.

ACI avoids this situation by planning realistically, accounting for each employee’s capabilities and work load. Management consults employees for their evaluation of the hours and effort required for each milestone and then uses reference class forecasting to check these evaluations against historical performance. The result is a win-win-win situation: ACI management produces a bid that is both achievable and competitive; employee output is consistently better without the killer crunch cycle; and the customer can feel confident ACI will meet every milestone and deliverable date—we say what we do and do what we say.

Leadership is invested in our personal success and growth.
ACI has a proud history of identifying and cultivating talent. Henry and Jim, our president and CEO, are experts at spotting and recruiting expertise—including savvy professionals who may have been overlooked in a previous workplace. But beyond hiring talent, ACI aims to grow talent—promoting internally and incentivizing every employee to continue pushing his own limits, deepening existing skill sets, and adding new ones. This runs against the conventional wisdom of every other company for which I’ve worked: “Why teach an employee new skills? He’ll just take them elsewhere.” But ACI’s leadership recognizes the danger of resting on your laurels: In the modern tech industry, if you aren’t moving forward, you’re being left behind—and that applies to individuals as much as companies.

These are just a few of the ways ACI truly stands above other companies. If you’re looking for a technology solution, consider giving us a call . . . and if you’re looking for a great place to work, consider giving us your resume!

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