Wil Reynolds, 36, of Northern Liberties, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Person of the Year, founded SEER Interactive in 2002 in his home. Today, the Internet-search firm has more than 60 employees and operates from a refurbished church on 3rd Street near George, in Northern Liberties.
Q: What does SEER do?
A: When you use Google, say, to search, they have to order websites. Our job is to understand how they order those things and help our clients understand what causes search engines to rank one website at No. 1 and another with those same words at No. 100.
Q: SEER has been among the fastest-growing small firms in the region since 2008. How have you been able to do it?
A: It's very simple, really. Doing what you say you're going to do and loving your work has led to runaway success for our clients. We have no one out there trying to sell for us other than our current clients, who have basically become our sales force.
Q: How did you come up with the name?
A: A guy with a local PR firm actually came up with the name, and it has a dual meaning. One, it means visionary, and we were optimizing websites before most people even had them. At some point, everybody is going to have a website, and then the question is where do you show up. Well, traffic to your site is going to come from search engines, people searching for things.
Q: What's the culture you're trying to create here?
A: I want people who kick ass. Nobody wants to work with the B team. People want to work with people they can learn from. It's important for us to attract people who see themselves as both students and teachers. Volunteering is also key for us. Every month we give one employee $700 in their name to the charity they spent the most time on. We're really big on our people going out in the community and making it better.
Q: Tell me how you hire and the qualities you look for in new hires.
A: I try to hire based on what you can't teach people. Some people come to us and say, "Oh, I don't know a lot about search." I can teach you search, but I can't teach you to be ethical, to have pride in your work, to care about your co-workers and be a good team member.
Q: What's next for SEER?
A: We hired an employee in Madrid [Spain] to better service our clients in Europe. In May, we are opening an office in San Diego primarily because not everybody we want to hire is willing to relocate. We analyzed all our Twitter followers and plotted them out on a map. Where are the people who believe what we believe and where do we not have major competitors? That's how we partially settled on picking San Diego.
Q: Given your expertise in search-engine optimization, what headline would you put on this interview?
A: The $5 million company that is just getting started.