As the drivers sped around the colorful indoor racing circuits in their high performance go karts at the Orlando Grand Prix last Thursday night, one got the feeling that this could be a testing ground for future NASCAR drivers.
Tires squealed constantly as one driver after another passed a slower driver. Speeds increased on straightaways and caution was thrown to the wind in the curves. Several drivers slammed into the padded walls while trying to move to the front of the pack.
It was racing as it was meant to be – pedal to the metal. But, sights are often misleading.
As the drivers finished their highly-competitive laps, parked their carts, and took off their helmets, it became obvious that this was something much larger than just a competition. The drivers – men and women – weren’t throwing punches for being pushed out of the way, or being passed, or being pushed into a wall. They were smiling, laughing, joking and acting as giddy as school kids.
And, why not?
This was work and fun – all rolled into an enjoyable evening thanks to SilverEdge Systems Software, a Schaumburg, Ill.-based professional services firm dedicated to providing consulting services and software solutions to project-based organizations.As part of the Deltek Insight 2014 Convention being held at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center, SilverEdge President Maria Vedral invited a number of her clients to come spend an evening racing go karts and eating some mouth-watering barbecue.
It’s the type of event that Vedral provides each year at the annual Deltek convention to get closer to her clients and let them know they’re appreciated. “When we are working with our clients to help them solve their business problems, there isn’t much time for personal conversation,” Vedral said. “Our events provide a space and time where we can get to know each other personally, which is really what life is all about!”
Vedral’s parties have been so fun and so special that some clients follow them religiously each year. “Maria always throws a fabulous party,” said Diane Magnuson with Baxter & Woodman from Crystal Lake, Ill. Those that didn’t know that in advance, quickly found out.
“That was lots of fun,” said Brad Gookins, with the Chicago-based design firm Gettys Group. “This was the first time I’ve done anything like this. I found that when I was on the track, I really got into a zone. After a while, I sort of was feeling the flow.”
“This was fun, really fun, a new experience for me,” said Lisa Ahearn, with Symbiont, a Milwaukee, Wis.-based engineering and consulting firm.
“I’ve never ridden in a race car before,” said Kristi Burke, with the Burke Group of Chicago. “It was fun, especially the speed. I was kind of anxious until that first turn but it was a lot of fun after that. Absolutely.”
Estelle Meiring, with Paragon Architects in Johannesburg, South Africa, said that her night was full of firsts – first time in Florida, first time at Insight, and first time driving a race car. “No, I never have,” she said about driving the go kart. “But, it was great fun. The people here are really friendly. This was a good experience.”
“My brain’s buzzing. Wow!” added Melissa Clark, of Daar Engineering in Milwaukee, Wis.
Having fun racing the go karts wasn’t the only thing people were talking about. A lot of the buzz was about how much they enjoyed working with SilverEdge employees.
“They are great to work with,” Clark said. “They are always ready to tackle a new challenge. And, what I really like, is that they want to make sure their product is right for your company.”
Debbie Homonai, with InterVistas in Washington, D.C., said SilverEdge’s sincerity has been key for her.
“They’ve been great,” Homonai said. “They are patient and they are knowledgeable. But, it’s their patience … I really appreciate it.”
“They have very hard workers and they have never told me a lie,” said Magnuson. “They don’t sell smoke and mirrors. They’re very honest.”
That employee/client relationship is something very special for Vedral. She has worked hard over the years to create that patient, helpful atmosphere.“We know that when our clients reach out to us, they are under pressure to get their jobs done,” Vedral said. “Our approach is to assist as efficiently as possible to support their success, and the success of their companies. It is a partnership. Their success supports our success.“I firmly believe that the level of the client experience cannot exceed the level of the employee experience. Therefore, it is my goal to provide an employee experience such that our employees love working for SilverEdge. Because if they do, our clients will also love working with SilverEdge.”
Looking back at that evening, Vedral prefers to view it as a gift.“I have a personal mantra: I will not give you a gift that I would not want to receive myself,” Vedral said. “Our events are a gift. “So I take great care to select and plan our activities. I am also a fan of The Experience Economy by Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore. Their premise is that the economy has gone from farming, agricultural, to manufacturing, commodities, to services and now to experiences. “They have defined a framework for experiences. We apply the framework and concepts to our events.“For example, each year we extend the experience by gifting our clients a book with pictures taken by our professional photographers at ThinkLeigh.com of our client’s time at Insight. They can then share with their families, company and friends.” SilverEdge’s parties are truly a gift that keeps giving.
David Persons is a freelance journalist who lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.