How one small business puts culture first and wins

Founded in a basement in 2011, Metronome has grown rapidly over the last two years, and COO Virgil Virga explains how a focus on culture has been a critical factor in the company's success.

To have a successful business, you’ve got to have your finger on the company’s pulse at all times. That’s exactly what Jennifer and Virgil Virga have done with their company, Metronome, and having just grown by 700 percent in the past year, they’re doing something right.

Founded in 2011, Metronome is a women-owned small business that focuses on IT and intelligence services, catering mainly to the intelligence community. Some of the company’s major customers include the DIA, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the Social Security Administration.

For the Virgas, their desire to start a company happened from working at a fun and successful firm called SGIS where the employees loved what they did.

“I was the first employee of this past company, and we grew to 600 employees in eight years,” said Metronome COO Virgil Virga. Being the first employee at this company, Virga was involved in much of the company’s growth as well as the creation of its culture, he said.

It was here that he realized how important culture is to a company’s health. When it was announced that SGIS was going to be acquired, people walked around the halls crying because they loved their jobs so much, Virga said.

This is something that Virga and his wife have worked hard to instill in Metronome. To say that the couple cares about their company is an understatement. Next to their children, their company is everything.

“I couldn’t ask for anything better than to be able to do this hand-in-hand with my wife,” Virga said.

Metronome had humble beginnings in the basement of the Virgas’ Ashburn, Va., home. Times were tough and the two needed to make use of every resource they had available. Their first employee who wasn't working on-site with a customer spent nine months with them in that basement, Virga said.

“Shared spaces were a help to us when we were having meetings with customers and new employees,” Virga said. Once they started making enough money they moved out of the basement and into an office building.

As for their projects, Metronome is currently part of a counterintelligence project that helps identify and investigate threats. Since the work is with an intelligence customer, Virga wasn’t able to say much, but they are helping the warfighter by providing them in intelligence in real time.

Additionally, Metronome is helping the Defense Threat Reduction Agency build an enterprise cloud.

While they’ve been growing, the Virgas have focused intensely on company culture. “For us, culture for us trumps everything,” Virga said. And it’s their culture that is immediately apparent, even in their company’s name.

Being avid music fans, they wanted to incorporate music into their company, and settled on the name Metronome. With so many companies in the government contracting market having names that are acronyms, having a name like Metronome goes a long way, Virga said.

Plus, the name coincides with their philosophy of keeping a finger on the pulse of their company. They created the tagline, “keeping projects pulsing” to support this, as well. Instead of referring to the company’s “pipeline,” Metronome calls it a “playlist,” and conference rooms have music related names. One is the “treble clef” conference room.

If you walk into Metronome’s office in Herndon, Va., you’ll notice that there’s music playing. There is always music playing, Virga said; it complements the many signed and framed music posters that line the walls. If you look at the company’s employees, you might mistake Metronome for a sports advertising or marketing firm, Virga said. At 37, he’s one of the oldest of the 60 plus employees there.

Along with its atmosphere, Metronome focuses deeply on its employees. The company gives “pulse” awards whenever an employee does something positive that’s directly related to one of Metronome’s core values: passion, improving, teammates, mission and celebrating success, Virga said.

If an employee stays at work until 8:00pm helping their customer, the award will say specifically what they did, Virga said.

 “You still have to have a focus and be strategic, but things will fall into place a lot easier if people love what they’re doing,” Virga said.

The signs of success are more than posters and plaques. Metronome will be moving its offices to Fair Lakes area of Northern Virginia around February to have more space—a lot more space. The new office will be about five times the size of their current office, and the company expects to grow into it very quickly.

The fiscal climate isn’t easy right now, and companies across the board are feeling it, but Metronome doesn’t talk about that day to day, Virga said.

He sees that kind of talk as pointless because it is out of their control.

Going forward, “the challenge is just doing all we can to make sure our company and our culture is strong, and that we’re training everybody and keeping them up to speed. We can only control us,” Virga said.