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Learn the secret sauce for Tampa Bay Area tech leader

Tommy Richardson, SVP and Chief Technology Officer of Nextech

Healthcare is a vibrant sector in Florida’s economy. Tampa Bay is a growing tech hub. Strategically located in Tampa, is Nextech, which marries healthcare and technology, providing specialty software for ophthalmologists, plastic surgeons and dermatologists.
  
Nextech, which has been in the area for more than a decade, has been enjoying significant growth and, as result, added 80 staff members this year alone. 

It was chosen as a finalist in three categories -- Company of the Year, Technology Project of the Year, and Technology Executive of the Year -- for the 14th Annual Tampa Bay Tech Awards by the Tampa Bay Technology Forum.

The awards show, slated at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 10, will be held at Mahaffey Theater, 400 1st Street S.E., St. Petersburg. 

We interviewed Nextech’s Tommy Richardson, SVP and Chief Technology Officer, about what's new and what's next for the Westshore Area company.

83 Degrees: Tell us about Nextech – why was it created and what innovation does it bring to the marketplace? 
 
Tommy RichardsonTommy Richardson: Nextech is a healthcare IT company that provides expertise and tech solutions for specialty physicians. These solutions include electronic medical records (EMRs), practice management (PM), revenue cycle management (RCM) and patient engagement cloud technology products. They serve more than 7,000 physicians and 50,000 office staff members in ophthalmology, dermatology and plastic surgery practices.
 
We’ve been operating in the industry for 20 years, and our deep history and longevity are key things that set our company apart. There are hundreds of tech companies in the space that do a great job, but are lacking in experience. And while we have been at it for a long time, we have continued to innovate and advance our technology with the growing demands of the market and specialties we serve. We’ve seen it all, both in the healthcare industry and IT space. That perspective allows us to provide a stable platform for clients and staff. When you’re not sweating the small stuff, you can focus on delivering truly excellent products and services.

83D: Why did it choose Tampa for its headquarters?

TR: We have been in Tampa for over a decade. During that tenure, Tampa has been very good to Nextech. It is a vibrant city with a very solid technology talent base to recruit from, and we’ve found it’s got a great reputation with young professionals and families. That also helps us attract great talent. 

83D: What is causing Nextech’s significant growth, and the addition of 80 new employees since January? 

TR: There are a lot of factors that contribute to Nextech’s growth right now. With the 20 years we have spent in the industry, we have established a great reputation in our markets, and we’re finding that we can also continue to innovate and stay agile as we scale up. In the last year we’ve implemented some big changes to products and processes that our customers, and our internal teams, have had a very positive response to.
 
Internally, we completely built out our development teams and processes last year. Previously, our teams were fairly siloed in different teams, which we found was slowing down development and production. We took a new look at how we can operate, and moved various team members into fully functional and collaborative workgroups. We even re-designed our office space to facilitate the workgroups sitting together. This new, agile structure allows for much faster development, and has created a lot of energy at our company.
 
We can accredit that new energy and drive in part to our most recent product launch, a cloud-based EMR/PM solution called NexCloud. The development was an exciting opportunity for our teams, as we essentially took our existing server-based solution and re-configured it to be completely cloud-based. That product has generated a lot of excitement with our clients as well. It was a huge undertaking, a multi-million-dollar project, but in just a year since launch, it has thousands of users and has accounted for 300 percent client growth.

83D: Are more new positions planned and when?
 
TR: As we look forward into next year, we foresee a lot more growth as our existing employees continue to build beautiful and innovative solutions. This is an incremental growth cycle we are in – great people build great software, which allows us to hire more great people.  

83D: What is distinctive about Nextech as an employer? Tell us about your wage scale and employee perks. 

TR: I may be biased but I think that Nextech is a completely unique employer. We are very passionate about developing our talent and culture, and it creates a distinct work environment. We were actually just nominated as a finalist for a local HR award, People First, [Tampa Bay Business Journal] and that honor is very well-deserved. Nextech goes out of its way to facilitate learning, growth and health across all segments of our staff. From our sales and marketing teams to the development side, we have a true culture of excellence across the company.
 
For instance, we have been very aggressive adopting best practices for agile software development. We have employee exchange programs that allow team members from a variety of backgrounds to try on a new position and see what they like or don’t like, allocating a few hours a week to learning new skills where they think they might be a good fit on a different team. We provide leadership training to promising staff members to deepen experience levels throughout the company. We give our teams a lot of ownership to take initiative and grow and we value and reward empowerment at an individual level. Typically, the very best people are the ones who enjoy this type of culture and thrive in it. Since we are looking for the very best, we always ensure that our pay meets the market rates for the very best employees.

We also have a completely holistic wellness program, which focuses not just on physical health, but also mental and financial health, and other perks. Aside from time off for regular PTO [paid time off] and volunteering time (VTO), we have an above-average bonus program, which is completely transparent, that focuses on an employee’s personal growth, as well as overall company success. 

83D: Let’s talk about the tech workforce in Tampa Bay. What are its strengths and weaknesses? 

TR: Nextech is one of a few companies in Tampa whose product is the cloud solutions it builds. That puts us in a great position to recruit the best technology professionals in Tampa. Thus far this has been a great strength for us. This paired with the Florida sun and the fact that the city itself is such a draw for professionals and families has made it very easy for us to maintain a top-notch recruiting pipeline. To date we haven’t found any weaknesses hiring in the Tampa Bay market. 
 
83D: What role does Nextech play in the Tampa Bay tech community, as evidenced by its achievements in the Tampa Bay Tech Awards?

TR: I truly believe that we are offering some of the most cutting-edge solutions in Tampa and our industry right now. Since we’ve been headquartered here for so long, our teams call this place home, but we also work specifically to bring in top talent from all over. Of those 80 new hires this year, several have been high-level, or C-level professionals that we’ve brought in from other states. We not only want to foster the amazing talent we have in the area, we also want to bring the best of the best here to further increase the tech market in Tampa.
 
I also mentioned volunteer hours earlier. Nextech encourages staff to contribute to causes all around the Tampa Bay area, and maintains relationships with a slew of local charities like Metropolitan Ministries, The Spring, Ronald McDonald House, American Cancer Society, Foundation Fighting Blindness and Operation Smile. 

83D: What do you envision for the future at Nextech? Will you be expanding into other specialties or geographic areas?
 

TR: The great thing about working in healthcare IT is that we help people. This is a wonderful calling for a company. It drives us each day to do more to help improve healthcare outcomes for patients and lower the cost of providing healthcare. As we all know, we spend over 24 percent of our GDP on healthcare, so it’s a ripe industry for growth and we’re passionate about improving it. As we move forward, we will remain committed to our existing specialties, delivering more and more functionality.
   
We will also continue to look for other opportunities that fit our culture, goals and corporate DNA. There is a lot of opportunity out there, both in the health industry and in the Tampa Bay area, and I expect Nextech to continue to grow and innovate within both spaces in the future. 

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Read more articles by Cheryl Rogers.

Cheryl Rogers is a freelance writer and editor who enjoys writing about careers. An ebook author, she also writes Bible Camp Mystery series that shares her faith. She is publisher of New Christian Books Online Magazine and founder of the Mentor Me Career Network, a free online community, offering career consulting, coaching and career information. As a wife and mother, Cheryl is around town at open houses and job fairs toting her laptop and camera. She discovered her love of writing as a child when she became enthralled with Nancy Drew mysteries. She earned her bachelor's degree in Journalism and Sociology from Loyola University in New Orleans. While working at Loyola's Personnel Office, she discovered her passion for helping others find jobs. A Miami native, Cheryl moved to the Temple Terrace area in 1985 to work for the former Tampa Tribune.
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