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Meet Derek Odegard of CentricsIT and The Centrics Group in Norcross

Today we’d like to introduce you to Derek Odegard.

Derek, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I earned a dual degree from UGA in Marketing and Finance—those were strong areas of interest for me—though if I am being truthful, I only double-majored so I could stay for an extra football season.

I always had an interest in sales (my father was in sales his entire career), and I have always been a numbers guy. I also briefly considered banking early in my career—I interned at a bank and hated it.

Upon graduation, I took interviews for sales jobs at a few companies. I ended up as a finalist for two of them—one in medical sales and one in technology sales. I didn’t get the medical sales job, so that made my choice to start a career in technology a pretty straightforward one!

I liked the pace of the industry, and I was good at my job. I think when you’re good at something, it’s easy to enjoy it. The role provided ample opportunity for success if you really knew the market, and there was limitless earning potential. It was a position that enabled me to define success for myself, and I enjoyed that job over the span of a decade—throughout which I moved into management and executive leadership.

I always had an interest in pursuing entrepreneurship. So, when the technology company I was working for was purchased in 2006, it created an opportunity for my partners and I to go out on our own and create CentricsIT, an IT solutions provider, and The Centrics Group, a staff augmentation firm.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
From a personal standpoint, the timing of our decision to start a business brought its own set of challenges. My son was only two and my daughter had just been born. My wife, Meredith, was incredibly resilient and supportive, despite the stress and uncertainty that newfound entrepreneurship entails. Through every high and low, support from my family has remained steady and constant.

We also started the business right before the financial crisis and recession. As all that was happening, there was a looming fear that the economy wasn’t going to be strong enough to support our endeavors. Fear is a great motivator.

From a business standpoint, there are some obvious challenges that come with starting a business from scratch and going out on your own. Even just building out the infrastructure of a business, securing facilities, hiring personnel—you’re not going to nail it the first time. You must be open to learning lessons along the way and building resilience.

What compounded those typical challenges was the pace of our growth. Pretty early in our tenure, we became one of the fastest growing private companies in North America—even despite the recession. It was a wild ride at times, and anyone who experiences that level of rapid growth and says it’s been a smooth road is lying!

Our main struggles over the years have centered around adapting quickly as we grew and as our industry changed year to year. Doing business in the technology industry is a challenge on its own. Technology is changing and evolving faster than most companies can keep up, so staying in front of that evolution is a challenge that we must embrace.

We also grew into a global company. We started in Atlanta, but now have offices in Toronto, Dubai, Prague, and London. We’ve had to hire specialists in global importing and exporting practices, pay close attention to foreign exchange rates, overcome language barriers, take meetings at odd hours to accommodate time zones, and put a strong focus on becoming experts in the various business practices around the world. But we have thrived in this regard and been honored by Governor Nathan Deal and the Georgia Department of Economic Development for our contributions to the state’s global trade.

We’ve had success despite any challenges, and we never forgot about culture—which can be a challenge itself. The nature of our pace and of our growth means our entire team is giving 100% every day, so I constantly challenge our leadership to find creative ways to keep things light and keep the work environment positive. We want our people to love what they do and where they work, but cultivating a special culture takes an intentional focus on a meaningful employee experience. It cannot be an afterthought.

Please tell us about CentricsIT and The Centrics Group.
CentricsIT helps companies around the world make smarter decisions about their IT spending. CentricsIT is known for its expertise in the global IT market, a common-sense approach to IT lifecycle management and technical services, and an exceptional level of client support. CRN, a leading publication in our industry, has named CentricsIT to its “Solution Provider 500” list for nine consecutive years.

The Centrics Group is an all-inclusive staff augmentation firm that focuses on placing extraordinary candidates in technology, human resources, accounting, finance, and customer service positions around the country. The Centrics Group is known for its modern approach to recruiting—utilizing best-in-class resources to source both active and passive job candidates for our clients. We have been named one of LinkedIn’s “Top 25 Most Socially Engaged Staffing Agencies” for two consecutive years.

Both companies share an office, collectively we are the “Centrics Family”, and we are known for our vibrant workplace culture. We regularly plan parties and internal events that build camaraderie and make coming to work fun. We have a very relaxed office environment and generous policies that encourage employees to define work/life balance for themselves. That culture is what I am personally most proud of. Hands down—it’s what sets us apart from our competitors in both spaces. Our employees are happy, which leads to better output on behalf of our clients, stronger and more fruitful relationships, and a higher level of satisfaction all around.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I am an Atlanta native and had a traditional suburban upbringing—very family-oriented. I was always competitive in any endeavor, always finding ways to turn even the most ordinary task into a competition. Even to this day, if you want to pique my interest in something—make it into a contest!

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