Progressive technology with an added bit of soul: Fluency Inc.

Fluency co-founders, from left, Eric Mayhew, Brian McVey, Scott Gale and Mike Lane. Fluency photo.

by Joyce Marcel, Vermont Business Magazine

“We have a super-complex, nuanced and nerdy business,“ says Fluency CEO Mike Lane. “But we’re building a great business. That is really the goal here.“

Fluency Inc. is a privately held, self-funded, successful and still-growing company founded in Burlington in 2017 by former executives from Dealer.com. The company automates digital advertising for large clients, who then place their ads with large global companies like Google and Meta (parent of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp).

To understand Fluency, one must first know a few things about Dealer.com.

Dealer.com was founded in Burlington in 1998 by Mark Bonfigli and a few technologically gifted friends, including Lane. It created a software platform that helped auto dealers manage and sell their inventories. In 2007, the company began selling its services not to car dealers but to car companies.

In 2014, Dealer.com was sold for $1.1 billion, a staggering figure for a homegrown Burlington business. (It was sold again two years later.)

As a co-founder of Dealer.com, Lane probably became a very wealthy man. But instead of sailing around the world on a private yacht, drinking cocktails and draping diamonds on supermodels, he, along with his close friend Eric Mayhew, Dealer.com’s senior director of advertising products; Brian McVey, Dealer.com’s former account executive; and Scott Gale, the company’s former software engineer, started Fluency.

“We missed the startup days,“ Mayhew said. “We missed the growth of a new organization. We missed what it felt like to build something new from scratch. So together with Brian and Scott, Mike and I decided it was time to go do it again. We wanted to give another alternative to Vermonters for high-tech jobs. You know, it’s always a little bit uncomfortable when you realize that your employment pool is small. We decided we were going to make an amazing place for other people that work here in Vermont.“

It’s something in the blood, I guess, this passion for entrepreneurship.

Rick Gibbs, one of the five co-founders of Dealer.com  and now CEO of Polly, a Williston company that works with car dealers to facilitate insurance purchases, has had a front row seat to watch Fluency develop.

“Once you have that entrepreneurial bug, you just do it again and again and again,“ Gibbs said. “We can’t help ourselves. It’s amazing to watch Fluency. It’s a very technical company using very progressive technologies. But at the same time it’s building a culture of people that just want to win at the end of the day. It’s an amazing amount of energy you’re seeing out of that group of people — and you’ve seen the results of how fast they’re growing.“

The technology world has certainly noticed. Fluency ranks No. 58 on Inc Magazine’s list of the Northeast region’s fastest-growing companies and No. 200 on its list of 5,000 fastest-growing companies in the country. It also landed at No. 76 on the Deloitte Technology Fast 500.

Gibbs knows the four Fluency co-founders very well.

“They are absolutely amazing guys,“ he said. “They all complement each other really, really well. And I think that is part of the reason for Fluency’s success.“

Lane and Mayhew, both bearded and casually dressed, talked to me in a Zoom interview, each telecommuting from their home. I found them to be funny, earnest, highly intelligent and a bit more philosophical than I expected.

Lane has taken the CEO role at Fluency, but says that any of the four founders could do his job. Mayhew is president and chief product officer. McVey is chief revenue officer and Gale is chief technology officer.

“We are equals in this,“ Mayhew said. “We really care about each other. We are all friends. And so it matters to us that there’s a good balance in this.“

In general, Fluency is a remote company. According to Michelle Arnold, the company’s head of talent, Fluency has 78 total employees in 21 different states, 39 of whom live in Vermont.

Every morning at 11:30, the entire company gets together via teleconference to build camaraderie, discuss their work, support each other, joke around and generally connect. They also have one company-wide meeting in Burlington every year.

“In those meetings, we’re extremely transparent. We talk about our wins, we talk about our losses,“ Mayhew said.“ “We do talk about our financials, so we’re aware of where we’re at and what our goals are, and what we’re going to do next. We really do have this culture of inclusivity. We have a shared common mission. For me, that is how I would define our culture: this common mission and empathetically caring about each other.“

The company also keeps a small office at Hula on the waterfront in Burlington.

Photo: Fluency teams works at HULA. Fluency photo.

“That’s so people who do want to go into the office can go into the coolest place in Burlington,“ Lane said. “It could be four people one day, seven people the next. It varies. It’s for some people who need to get away from their families with young kids. Or for people who just need to be around other people. We have that flexibility. Even some remote employees go into co-working spaces when they want to be around people.“

Company culture is very important to Fluency’s co-founders. They want employees to feel they have a common mission and a mutual interest in each other’s well-being.

One way the company demonstrates its commitment to this mission is by paying salaries according to national rather than Vermont benchmarks.

“We’re very data-driven in terms of making sure we pay people really well,“ Lane said. “We also have incredible benefits. We pay everyone’s medical, dental and vision insurance. We have employee assistance programs. That goes along with being empathetic and taking care of each other. It’s like putting the money where the mouth is. You’ve got to do the walk. We have paid time off for people to volunteer every year. And everyone gets four weeks of paid time off to start.“

Each employee can also be a shareholder in the company.

“Everyone who comes to work for us gets options,“ Lane said. “Obviously, earlier employees got more, But about 80% of the company is in that option pool. So, a big chunk has been allocated to employees.“

The key to the company — unusual when you’re talking about technology companies — lies in the word “compassionate.“ It comes up often in Lane and Mayhew’s conversation.

“We’re compassionate, and we care about each other,“ Mayhew said. “We are a very diverse group. So we have a lot of different ethnic backgrounds and locations and belief systems across the board. We have a wide spectrum there. So the culture isn’t defined by those things. It’s defined by this core value that we have. We genuinely look out for each other. We work hard, but we don’t lose enjoyment. We laugh together. We are open with both our successes and losses.“

Because Fluency is a private company, it does not publish its yearly revenue numbers. But according to Lane, Fluency’s revenue is already in the tens of millions — and growing.

“Do the math,“ he said. “We’re a very strong employer and pay well. And we remain profitable. So you could probably do some back-of-the-napkin math and figure out about where we’re at.“

Gibbs has high praise for the company culture.

Photo: Fluency team volunteers. Fluency photo.

Photo: Fluency team volunteers. Fluency photo.

“The technology is a critical part of what they do at Fluency,“ he said. “But more importantly, it’s the people and the culture that they’ve been able to build, especially since they’ve been on the remote workforce side of things for the last several years. To build a culture that’s as strong as theirs in a remote environment is truly a testament to their skill and ability to build companies. That’s a very hard thing to do in this day and age, in my opinion.“

It comes as no surprise, then, that in the statewide contest run by this magazine and the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, Fluency was voted a Best Place to Work in Vermont for the last three years running.

Fluency’s clients are typically large digital marketing agencies or large corporate entities that place ads with global digital customers like Google, Facebook and Instagram.

To explain it further, we’re going to have to get wonky.

Essentially, Fluency is “a digital advertising operating system“ built on a software called RPA, for Robotic Process Automation.

RPA is a technology that enables software “robots“ to replicate repeatable, pattern-based processes like data entry and moving assets across systems. It can also help in collecting and interpreting large data sets when programmed to do so.

This type of technology has existed for many years, and is commonly used in financial services, health care and other industries that require a high volume of data processing. However, Fluency was the first organization to develop specific RPA technology for digital advertising.

Think of the ads you see on Facebook. Each one, paid for by the advertiser, is composed of specific, uniform components — a photograph, an offer or maybe a call to action. Each is served to the user based on specific criteria like geographic location. And each must be tied to a specific web page.

It becomes challenging and resource-intensive to manage these data points with human effort when extrapolated across hundreds or thousands of campaigns that the large agencies run every month on behalf of their clients.

Fluency streamlines the process robotically.

According to the company’s origin story, laid out in a kicky little cartoon called “The History of Marketing,“ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pz-4rZjpVEI), once the internet was in full marketing bloom, digital marketers were overwhelmed trying to keep up with mostly repetitive work while advertising with these large web companies. The sales professional had to keep up with ever-evolving new platforms, collecting and correlating new data, adding new specials, launching new campaigns, and dealing with new devices.

“Much of what the digital marketer was trying to keep up with was repeatable, it was mechanical and it was perfect … for robots,“ the cartoon explains.

Fluency’s version of RPA makes life easier.

“The marketers would teach the robots what made their agencies unique, and in turn these robots would tie together many different systems and data,“ the cartoon says. “With Fluency in place, the new possibilities became endless. It didn’t matter if you needed to market to one unique location or 10,000.“

At this point, if you’re like me, you might be thinking that many of us who use social media dislike its incessant pop-up ads. Is Fluency facilitating spam?

“I hope it’s radically different,“ Mayhew said. “I came from working on helicopters and flight safety systems with helicopters. So my sense of self, my sense of accomplishment, was that I was helping to save lives. Then I came to Dealer.com. My first thought was that I changed saving lives for making auto dealers a little bit more profitable. It wasn’t the rewarding feeling I was looking for. But what I did find was that if we can build a service that is honest and true, so the advertising is compelling and really connects with the consumer at the right time, when they’re looking for information — if I can provide accurate, timely and real responses that are safe for the consumer — then my value is that I’ve helped build bridges to the consumer.“

Fluency only represents reputable brands, Mayhew said. It makes sure the ads it facilitates are not “nefarious“ or misleading.

“I think they are pieces we can take pride in,“ Mayhew said. “Hopefully, not spam. Hopefully, bridges between a consumer when they’re looking for content. We think of this as permission-based marketing. When you’re on a search engine looking for a new Honda Accord, we tell you where they are.“

While Fluency uses other technologies, including artificial intelligence, RPA is the foundation.

“Assume that ads have to run somewhere, right?“ Mayhew said. “If VermontBiz was for people interested in Vermont’s entrepreneurial spirit, we would run ads that make sense to those readers.“

Added Lane: “And if you owned 100,000 magazines, just think how many people it would take to do all that work. That’s what we do.“

“And if you had a food magazine, we’d know that would be great for recipes,“ Mayhew said. “We would quickly determine where the appropriate places are to serve the right ads based on the advertisers’ intention, and we’d automate all of that for you.“

It took years of research and experience for the men to get to this point.

“We had to live it and do it for at least 15 years,“ Mayhew said. “Mike ran Dealer.com representing all of those businesses. And we saw the overhead, the work we had to put in, to maintain those businesses. We started to look for solutions, ways that we might make the job easier. And this is it: The next version of how to make that job easier.“

The identity of many of Fluency’s customers is something of a mystery.

“Our customers don’t like to tell anyone they’re using Fluency,“ Lane said. “But there are several that have done case studies that are public. We don’t sell to small businesses. We sell to Forbes Global 2000 companies and to very large agencies out there who use our software. That’s the enterprise side. And then there’s the advertising side. It’s all about digital advertising. We don’t do any other form of advertising.“

The clients market to companies like Google.

“That’s the primary place where a lot of our clients spend money,“ Lane said. “There’s a handful of others that are smaller, but Google still takes the lion’s share of all digital advertising. That’s why they’re such a monster and have antitrust and monopoly issues. We make it easy for these larger companies and agencies, who are spending a lot of money. Our tool set is specifically designed for them to do that in the most efficient way possible.“

The Cast Of Characters

All four of Fluency’s co-founders have strong roots in Vermont and love living in the state. Lane, 48, was born in Burlington and grew up in the town of Georgia.

“My mom is a registered nurse,“ he said. “She spent a lot of her career as a school nurse. My dad is a refrigeration engineer. He basically keeps things cold. He worked at Mackenzie’s and Ben & Jerry’s up in St. Albans for as long as I can remember. My parents have always been using technology. They gave us space to play with computers and adopt technology. It was something that no one else was doing. It wasn’t just about playing video games, but figuring out what computers do and how they work. That curiosity wasn’t shunned upon.“

Lane went to Essex High School, where he first learned about computers, and then to Clarkson University in New York, where a computer was included in tuition. That is where he and Mayhew became good friends.

After college, Lane moved to the Boston area, where he met the other co-founders of Dealer.com. They made the unusual choice to build their fledgling company in Vermont.

“If you were starting a tech company back in the late ’90s, you were expected to either be in Boston or in the San Francisco Bay area,“ Lane said. “That was it. And then later on it was like, ’Oh, Austin is a hotbed now. Seattle’s a hotbed.’ But we never subscribed to that line of thinking. We decided there was no reason that we can’t do it in Vermont. And we were right. It didn’t matter where we were.“

The decision was made because the founders appreciated the quality of life they could have in Burlington.

“We’re all outdoors people who go to the mountains to ski and snowboard,“ Lane said. “We enjoy the lake. We enjoy the outdoors. Everyone wanted to be here.“

After Dealer.com was sold, Lane took a few years off.

“I went skiing for a winter,“ Lane said. “I got 80 days of skiing in, and the next winter I built a barn on property I own. Like a hammer and nails and a tool belt for like two years running.“

Mayhew regards Lane as a role model.

“He ran his own little local sawmill to plane boards off the wood he cut off his own property to build a barn,“ Mayhew said. “It’s a beautiful story. It’s what we all aspire to. He’s a very practical man. It’s another example of him loving the state of Vermont, that he can find his happy spot here. Mike has a pure love of Vermont. He loves to ski, loves to snowboard, loves to build things.“

Mayhew, 49, was born in Proctor but grew up in Hoosick Falls, New York. His father was a glazer, doing windows and doors for homes, and glass for automobiles.

His mother’s job was opening Price Chopper supermarkets around the area.

“She traveled around the states,“ Mayhew said. “She did the opening of the Price Chopper in Shelburne. The South Burlington Price Chopper, that was also hers. She was more technologically savvy than my father.“

Mayhew got his first computer from Clarkson University.

“It was an IBM computer, and it was terrible,“ he said. “But I was so excited to try it that I almost didn’t notice my parents leaving. I just set it up and wanted to start playing with it. Within the first day, something wouldn’t start up. I got so nervous that it was going to cost my parents a ton of money to get it fixed that I read the DOS and the Windows manuals back-to-back and cover-to-cover to fix it myself. And from that point forward, I felt really comfortable with computers.“

After graduating from college, Mayhew worked in Albany, before returning to Vermont to work at Goodrich Aerospace in Vergennes.

“I got to work on helicopters,“ he said. “I really enjoyed it. I could stay close to good friends like Mike as soon as I moved back. I was watching him grow Dealer.com, and we talked about doing something together. So I joined Dealer.com in 2007.“

Brian McVey, 41, chief revenue officer of the company, grew up in Pierrefonds, Quebec, and moved with his family to Vermont at age 13. Like Lane, he went to Essex High School.

HIs parents were originally from Long Island, but chose to live abroad for most of their lives. His mother stayed at home to raise him and his two sisters, while his father traveled the world as president of a shipping company. In 1996, when the family relocated to Vermont, his father became an entrepreneur running a consulting business. He eventually became president of a flooring company.

After high school, McVey played hockey at a junior college in Saranac Lake, New York, and completed his undergraduate work at the University of Rhode Island, graduating magna cum laude with a degree in communications and a minor in French.

McVey’s first job out of college was in sales at Clear Channel Communications. In 2008 he joined Dealer.com as part of the major account team, where he worked with some of the largest accounts in the automotive world. He eventually became Dealer.com’s area vice president of strategic accounts.

In 2014, McVey traded in life on the road and expanded into operations. As Dealer.com’s senior director of advertising, he oversaw client experience and operations for a $250 million advertising business.

Fifth-generation Vermonter Scott Gale, 42, Dealer.com’s chief technology officer, is from Underhill. His mother and father are both geologists; his mother, Marjorie, was a state geologist and eventually served as head geologist for the state of Vermont.

In high school, Gale had his own company building websites for area businesses. Loving Vermont, he wanted to stay after high school.

So he, too, joined Dealer.com. He was one of the earliest employees and, at 19, one of the youngest. He managed various engineering teams with a focus on the company’s website division. During that time, he also pursued a mathematics degree at the University of Vermont and later earned a master’s in engineering management from Clarkson.

Photo: Fluency Co-Founders (from left) Brian McVey,  Eric Mayhew, Mike Lane and Scott Gale. Fluency photo.

Photo: Fluency Co-Founders (from left) Brian McVey,  Eric Mayhew, Mike Lane and Scott Gale. Fluency photo.

Starting the Company

Breaking down the skills of the four co-founders, Gibbs said Lane has the business understanding of what it takes as a CEO to scale a company.

“He was able to grow Dealer.com from an idea all the way to a billion-dollar exit,“ Gibbs said. “He’s seen and gone through that learning. Running the company and mentoring people, he’s got all the skills.“

Mayhew, Gibbs said, is a technologist and a product visionary.

“He’s invented a number of products at Dealer.com and, obviously, at Fluency,“ Gibbs said. “He has a problem-solving mind. The way that he designed products is incredible.“

Scott is another technologist; he was one of the engineers at Dealer.com.

“He went into management stuff,“ Gibbs said. “He knows how to run engineering teams. And then you have Brian, who’s more on the business development and customer-support side. So they all complement each other.“

Finding a name for the new company took time, conversation and, possibly, a shower.

“We actually spent a long time on it,“ Mayhew said. “We went to Mike’s house in Stowe and sat there for days, debating what the name would be. And I came in one morning and said, ’I was in the shower this morning and I thought of the word “fluid.“ We’re fluent in advertising. We’re fluent in software development. We’re fluent in the space that we’re trying to try to enter.’ Then Brian started to practice what it would sound like to introduce yourself as ’I’m Brian from Fluent.’ It just didn’t flow quite right. And he threw out: ’What about Fluency? I’m Brian from Fluency. It flows.’

“We thought that Fluency still encapsulated that whole idea that we are fluent in the domain that we focus on — advertising and technology. And we speak the language our customers need us to speak. So that’s where the name came from.“

Helping with the founding was David Bradbury, the president of the nonprofit Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies, or VCET.

“I knew Mike Lane from Dealer.com,“ Bradbury said. “The Fluency team was working out of the VCET co-working space in downtown Burlington. Over time, they grew their team to about 11 folks there, which is almost too big for our space. Then they moved into another office downtown and later went remote during COVID. Now they have employees in Burlington and across the country. It’s been a pretty exciting path, and they deserve so much credit for the business.“

Bradbury said that when the Fluency team came to VCET, he didn’t quite understand what they were planning to do.

“But here’s the deal,“ Bradbury said. “With a young company, you look at the team. As an investor or as an advocate for startups, I don’t have to understand everything. I don’t have to make a judgment. It’s more about how we can support these individuals who come with very different skills around this idea they have? And these guys from Fluency were awesome. They started with such an all-star core team. From my vantage, it seemed like an exciting opportunity to reinvent how digital advertising was working.“

Fluency Co-Founders Eric Mayhew. left, and Mike Lane at POSSIBLE2024 Expo in April in Miami Beach. Fluency photo.

In 2017 there were important structural changes going on in the large portals like Google and Facebook. These companies were trying to work with fewer, higher-quality, more dependable intermediaries.

“The Fluency guys had the foresight to see that trend and nailed it,“ he added. “They took what were formerly a lot of manual or human tasks associated with digital marketing, and they automated them. They’ve made it much more cost-efficient and of a higher quality for advertisers or brands. They’re a form of intermediary that is hyper-fast, hyper-successful and gives great value for their customers. I think they’re a really great example of a mostly remote company today in Vermont.“

Fluency was able to be successful because its founders “had seen the movie before,“ Bradbury said.

“They had been through a rapid growth startup before, with Dealer.com,“ Bradbury said. “So they had experienced the growing pains of culture and organization and technical platform and customer challenges. With more insight and experience, they rewrote the script for themselves but also to attract the employees that would help them build this business. They had that advantage where a lot of first-time founders don’t. There’s usually a lot more trial and error.“

In addition to help from the Center for Emergency Technologies, the Fluency team found strong support in Vermont from many other entities.

“We have been really appreciative of the support systems that we’ve had as we’ve grown,“ Mayhew said. “VCET was incredible. In the beginning, it was just an affordable place for us to be. But it was a great culture for us to work within. We got exposure to other companies. They had resources for early entrepreneurs. And I think the resources we’ve had at Hula have also been amazing. As proud as we are, I don’t think that we’re so arrogant to think we did it alone.“

The center invested a lot of time and effort into Fluency, but it did not invest any money.

“They actually donated stock to our VCET nonprofit,“ Bradbury said. “They had such an amazing experience with us, and saw the value for other startups that we were helping. That tells you about the character of the people there. They wanted to pay it forward, knowing that their success someday would allow us to go help the next 200 teams in Vermont.“

The Early Days

Company success has to be built slowly. Mayhew remembers one year when the company was so cash poor that Christmas bonuses were problematic.

“We were very, very close to our operating expenses,“ he said. “We didn’t make much money. But Mike came to me and said, ’We still need to give everybody a bonus for the holiday week.’ And we found a way to do it. The team knew it meant that we took any profit margin that we had that year and gave it to (the employees). As an owner of the company, and as a human that cares about other people in the organization, there was nothing more rewarding. It was the right thing to do. I’m very proud to be part of a journey like that.“

The co-founders were not really thinking about starting a remote company, but when COVID hit they quickly transitioned into one.

“When you’re a rapidly growing organization, you need to figure it out fast,“ Lane said.

“We all were in the office when we found the “Go Home“ order,“ Mayhew said. “And we looked at each other. We’ve never wanted to rely on good luck, but I will say that we’ve been blessed to try to avoid bad luck. We all picked up our monitors and were back on line in about 15 minutes. We were back up at home and able to work. But we leaned into it quite heavily to think about what the experience was for our employees as a remote-friendly company. How do we do this?“

It helped that they were a high-tech company with serious internet skills. They figured out the best way to do videoconferencing, internal communications and information documentation, and realized that a remote workplace actually worked pretty well for them.

For one thing, it made it easier to find employees, if you could go outside the borders of Vermont. Finding employees and then finding housing for them is a huge problem in the state right now. Fluency mitigated that need by making itself a telecommuting company.

Lane says that Fluency has no trouble maintaining a high-performing staff.

“If you build a great company where people want to get up and go to work every day, they will turn to their friends and say, ’Hey, we’re hiring,’“ Lane said. “This is one secret I try to tell everyone. If you don’t build a great work environment and a great culture, no one’s going to recommend that you go work for them. So one of our key things is employee referrals.“

The company also advertises for help when it becomes necessary.

“Because we are a remote company, the ads go out to the ether,“ Lane said. “For some positions we’ll get 200 resumes, and sometimes it’s a thousand. Our jobs are very specialized. We’re known in our space as we’ve built up our reputation. So we’re able to find great people who still want to come work for us.“

Competition

Other advertising companies exist in the same digital space as Fluency, and some of them have been around longer. But Lane and Mayhew believe they are ahead of their competition.

“Other companies like us that build advertising specialty tools sell to the same group of target clients,“ Lane said. “Even Google has a division that competes directly against us.“

However, Mayhew said that no one has a product like Fluency.

“We take a novel approach here,“ he said. “There’s something different about us; it’s why we win. And it’s very practical. It comes from the experience we had at Dealer.com. We understand what it is like to run a scaled agency. It’s a very different experience than a general purpose analyst tool that you’ll see in the space. We’re oftentimes up against generalists’ tools that are not about a specific business. We can make our platform feel like it is tailor-made to those business units. It’s pretty unique.“

It is all about the ability to automate, Lane said.

“Our competitors don’t do it like we do it,“ he said. “When they think about automation, it’s probably like 10%. We think like 80% to 90% automation. It’s just a different level. Our competitors don’t do that. They can’t do it. That’s why we’re just different. No one’s doing it like we’re doing it.“

The Future

The intention of the Fluency co-founders is growth — and then more growth.

“There’s not tens of thousands of companies that buy our stuff,“ Lane said. “There’s hundreds that we target. It’s a very small audience. But we have a whole sales team out there. We go to conferences. We do lots of advertising in the space, including lots of digital advertising. More customers is the growth driver.“

There is a lot of opportunity in front of Fluency, but the path forward will undoubtedly have its share of challenges.

“We care a lot about continuing to grow,“ Mayhew said. “But it’s going to be difficult. If you double, it’s hard to double again. And then to double again, and then it’s even harder to double that. But we can always strive to win “Best Place to Work in Vermont.“ That’s one of those things that we will stay really focused on, just continuing to provide a great culture.“

Lane agrees.

“The mindset that drives our culture is one that started with Dealer.com for me,“ Lane said. “When you wake up in the morning, do you want to go to work? OK, you’re not going to say it every single day. But if 90% or 95% of the time you look forward to being at work in an environment that makes you happy, pays you well and treats you well? If you can get to that stage?“

Mayhew quoted Lane (and paraphrased Ben & Jerry’s, whether he knew it or not) as saying, “If we don’t love what we’re doing, why are we doing it?“

“I think that’s super powerful,“ Mayhew said. “We’re in a space now where employees can go chase what they love. There’s enough opportunity out there. If we don’t love what we’re doing, why do it? And we passionately chase that and make sure that we don’t lose focus on it.“

Photo: Fluency team accepts the #1 company in the small category for the 2024 Best Place to Work in Vermont with (left) Peter Burke, president of Workforce Research Group and (right) Lindsay Kurrle, secretary, Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Baldwin Photography.

Photo: Fluency team accepts the #1 company in the small category for the 2024 Best Place to Work in Vermont with (left) Peter Burke, president of Workforce Research Group and (right) Lindsay Kurrle, secretary, Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Baldwin Photography. 

Joyce Marcel is a journalist in southern Vermont. In 2017, she was named the best business magazine profile writer in the country by the Alliance of Area Business Publishers. She is married to Randy Holhut, the news editor/acting operations manager of The Commons, a weekly newspaper in Brattleboro.

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