The Atilus office, located in an industrial complex off Old 41 in Bonita Springs, holds a pool table and scattered television sets throughout. Zach Katkin, the full-service digital ad agency’s president and CEO, is toying with the idea of converting some excess space into a lounge area.
Katkin and Harry Casimir, the company’s director of operations, bought the space in June, after several years of rotating home and rental offices. The future to him feels brighter than ever.
The company had experienced lots of fluctuations over its 11 years. It grew to its largest at 12 employees in 2008, but downsized shortly thereafter under the weight of the recession. Along the way, Katkin dealt with leadership learning curves, but that’s to be expected of a budding entrepreneur fresh out of college, he says. Katkin, 31, was just a 20-year-old Florida Gulf Coast University student when Casimir approached him about going into business together.
Looking back, Katkin says, Atilus initially grew its staff too quickly, but today the company is strong. It has eight full-time employees, with another added about every nine months, and an expected revenue growth of 50 percent year-over-year.
The increased need for companies to have a strong online presence has helped, but it has also led to more competition in the web-development industry.
“There are literally hundreds of us” in Southwest Florida and beyond, he adds.
But Katkin believes Atilus stands out in a sea of other agencies, not only for what it offers, but how it offers it. Recently the company has shifted to a manage service model to provide ongoing services for businesses in different industries, with a personable touch from start to finish.
“The truth is every- body wants that,” Katkin says. “Even though you can get a website for $10 per month, or even though you can go to any developer or designer and they’ll work for you for $1,000 or so, what is still lacking, no matter if their product is any good, is that consistency and reliability of service.”
Atilus staffers recently received IDX Brokers & Diverse Solutions certification, a tool used
by real estate brokers to publicize MLS listings, in order to help clients in that field more quickly. The company also specializes in construction, nonprofit and retail web-development. The average Atilus client sees nine times of an increase in sales after working with the firm, Katkin says.
Nearly three years ago, Atilus developed the first-of-its-kind soft- ware-based portal for boards of directors to manage themselves. The product lets clients collaborate, share files and organize meetings with ease. Nearly 1,000 boards and associations use it, including Chicago-based Sinai Health System, according to Katkin.
“Right now it’s being used [by Atilus] as an experimental tool when we want to investigate new marketing tactics,” Katkin says. “If they work, we apply them to clients.”
One of Katkin’s favorite things about the learning process is watching his employees, who have an average age of 28, become more confident in their abilities. One such staffer, who joined five years ago as an intern, now handles one of the company’s major clients.
As Atilus found its niche as a personalized service provider, Katkin found his as an affiliative leader.
“I always thought when I was younger, leadership was about having a lot of confidence, getting up on stage and [making demands],” Katkin says. “But I’ve learned it’s just about being there and helping.”
That’s especially true when managing millennials, he adds. “They’re not going to respect you just because you have a title or make more money or have had a business for 11 years. You have to listen and know your stuff.”
Sometimes, the way things have come together for Katkin and the company forces him to pause and reflect. “There are certain times, like when we closed on the building and I’m sitting by myself, I get really emotional and think ‘wow this is crazy.’ I’m really proud."