From the beginning, Agathon Group has focused on “doing good.” In 1999, Alan Ritari and Peter Green, who at the time were co-workers at Gospel Communications, saw a gap between many non-profits’ strategic goals and technical abilities. The men formed Agathon Group as a side business to provide hardware, software and hosting solutions. The pair never intended for the work to be more than part-time. However, by 2003 they realized they had enough demand for Agathon Group to become their full-time jobs.
“Agathon” is a Greek term found in the New Testament meaning “that which is good.” The company seeks to not just be good at what they do, but also to do good things, and enable their clients to do good in their areas of business.
In 2004 Joel Boonstra, who knew Ritari and Green from Gospel Communications, approached the duo about becoming Agathon Group’s first employee. “They took a chance on me,” Boonstra said. It was a step of faith for Agathon Group to stretch and take on the responsibility of an employee. While the first year was rough, it paid off in the end. In 2006, Ritari and Green extended ownership to Boonstra.
Today, Agathon Group has grown to a team of ten. Ritari and Green have since moved out of state. Employees live across multiple time zones, with about half them still in the Grand Rapids area. Working remotely presents a set of challenges. “You have to figure out how to work on your own and be self-motivated” Boonstra explained. Thus far, it’s a system that has worked well for Agathon.
Agathon Group’s two main areas of business are web hosting and development. “Everything we do touches the web. We help clients who have an idea that they need to know how to make happen, and those who have a design and plan and just need us to develop it,” Boonstra explained.
The company has a low turn over, allowing clients to develop long-term relationships with specific employees. “We try to reflect ourselves back to our customers. The best we can do is to be good to them and do good work,” Boonstra said. While they may not specifically talk about their faith with their clients, they hope their faith reflects in how they treat and interact with them.
Agathon Group’s clients still show their non-profit roots, yet include a diverse range of businesses and organizations. Current clients range from those who need a simple web hosting solution, to high-traffic-generating bloggers. Over the years the company has continued to develop expertise in new areas of web technology, including the popular publishing platform of Wordpress.
“We try to hire people who can adapt. We hire people with aptitude, not just a checklist of skills, who can keep up with an ebb and flow in the business,” Boonstra said. This has enabled Agathon to evolve with their clients, maintain long-term relationships, and survive the dot bomb and the economic downturn of the mid 2000’s.
As the company has grown, they’ve taken on increasingly larger projects. “When we were a staff of 2-3 people, we could only have one person working on a project. Now we can have 2-3 people collaborating on a project, where they learn from each other and each employee works on what they’re best at,” Boontsra explained.
The initial concept of “doing good” continues to stay at the forefront of their mission.
“We hold the idea that doing the right thing and doing good is what we should be doing as believers,” Boontra said. “It’s not a guarantee that it’s always going to net success, if you consider success always in the terms of for-profit. But if we can’t be successful doing good then we should be doing something else. We don’t want to sacrifice our integrity to be profitable. At that point then we should pack it up and find something else to do good at.”
The group seeks to extend “doing good” to make a difference in the lives and world around them. The owners encourage employees to mesh their passions and interests in ways that can help their own communities. Agathon has been a corporate sponsor for employees running a race for a good cause, and provided a portion of funding to help begin a school in rural Chile.
No matter how technology changes and advances, Agathon Group will continue to keep the focus on “doing good” in all areas of their business.
Company: Agathon Group
Owners: Alan Ritari, Peter Green, Joel Boonstra