Here is an article I wrote for The Peninsula Gateway in Gig Harbor, Washington:
By RHIANNON BERG
The owner of a successful area creative talent and user experience design firm has mastered how to ensure prosperous careers and happy personal lives for her employees by placing their happiness above all else.
Hayley Nichols, owner and founder of Allovus (pronounced “all-of-us,”) recognized the need for a new style of business management when she started her company.
Allovus is a $9 million creative resource company based in Gig Harbor and Bellevue with more than 20 employees. Nichols has grown the organization by emphasizing teamwork and personal time. As a result, she has engaged notable clients including Microsoft and HBO.
Nichols, a Gig Harbor resident, was also recently named as one of five finalists for the 2015 Nellie Cashman Woman Business Owner of the Year Award, which is handed out annually by the Women Business Owners, one of Puget Sound’s leading organizations for women entrepreneurs.
“There’s not a lot of ‘I’ here. It’s a lot of ‘we’,” Nichols said. “I always hold true to my values, which is put the employees first, my clients second, and the company third. In the long run it pays off.”
As a wife and mother of two children, Nichols said she understands the values of family time, which she also wants for her workers.
“I want to be available for the quality moments of my kid’s lives,” Nichols said. “I want my employees to be available for the same.”
Nichols, who previously worked for Microsoft, said she wanted Allovus to be different from other companies that might require long commutes and unforgiving work hours. As a result, Allovus employees enjoy flex schedules and are encouraged to telecommute whenever possible, allowing for more personal time.
“I just wanted to do it my way, and it seems to be working. And it makes people really happy to be part of this company,” said Nichols, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and biology at Central Washington University. “It’s all about relationships and making those connections and being genuine in those relationships.”
Among the advanced nations surveyed for work-life balance by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the U.S. ranked 29 out of 36 countries. The OECD’s Better Life Index finds that on average, full-time workers in the U.S. spend 14 hours each day on personal care and leisure, which includes time spent sleeping and eating.
In 2014, Seattle Business Magazine named Allovus a top 10 company to work for in the mid-size business category. The success of Allovus — and Nichol’s employees’ attitudes toward their work — suggest her approach to prioritizing employees can be beneficial.
Nicole Castilliano, an employee at Allovus for more than a year, said the change has been a welcome and pleasant surprise.
“It’s a refreshing perspective to be able to be a part of something like this,” said Castilliano. “I’m able to go to all of my kid’s school functions. I love this job. I wake up every day excited to come to work.”
Karen Walker, an operations coordinator at Allovus, said she also appreciates Nichol’s work-life balance philosophy.
“Hayley puts a lot of value on family and working and then integrating the two,” said Walker. “It makes it really easy to balance work and your home life. We can come in late if we have a doctor’s appointment, or we can leave a little early to go watch a soccer game.”
Good corporate citizenship and community engagement is another philosophy to which Nichols is committed. Allovus contributes to several local charities, including the Peninsula High School Scholarship fund.
“One person getting even a small scholarship can be enough to motivate them to go to school and say, ‘Wow, somebody believed in me and thought I was different than everyone else applying,’” Nichols said. “Sometimes a little bit goes a long way in making an impact in somebody’s life.”
Nichols speaks from personal experience. A Peninsula High alum herself, Nichols was once a scholarship recipient.
“I always remembered that there was somebody who thought I was worthy of that,” Nichols said.
When not working or helping her community, Nichols enjoys reading and doing projects on her farm.
Nichols believes Allovus is raising the bar for other companies in the Puget Sound area by emphasizing the importance of a healthy work-life balance and treating employees with care and respect.
“I surround myself with great, amazing, talented people who take ownership of their job and are invested in the company,” Nichols said. “I feel like my job in this company is to create the vision and lead them in that effort, but without them I would not be able to be successful.”