Kathy Murphy and Scott Gray are believers in work/life balance. They launched Philadelphia-based Gray Consulting International Meetings & Events in August 1994, and today, with 55 full-time associates, they pride themselves on their ability to retain top talent in a demanding industry.

Their success, in part, comes from giving employees the freedom to manage their own schedules by working remotely or making use of GCI's flex-time policy “We recognize that our associates work very hard when they are on-site running a program, and often that means giving up weekends,” Gray says. “Our flex-time policy allows them to manage their own time and achieve the same tasks, but in a less traditional time frame.”

That philosophy extends to associates who prefer a nontraditional workday. The company has a “flexible workforce,” consisting of part-time associates who work for GCI on a project-by-project basis. “We have several employees who were with us before they started their families and now work from home — sometimes even at odd hours,” says Gray.

He is also quick to acknowledge that a flexible work environment is only as good as its employees. “It becomes evident pretty quickly if someone comes to work here and they don't possess the work ethic or level of professionalism and dedication required for the job,” adds Murphy. “They weed themselves out … because it is very difficult to function in an environment like ours when you are surrounded by overachievers and dedicated people who treat this business as if it were their own.”

From a business that started with the partners working on a few programs a year out of their homes, they have grown the company into a multimillion-dollar enterprise and now produce nearly 400 programs a year. Last February, GCI received national certification as a women-owned business by the Women's Business Enterprise National Council, enabling it to compete as a diversity supplier. GCI is gearing up for continued growth. “We see an extremely strong portfolio of business for 2008,” says Gray. Much of GCI's business is in the pharmaceutical industry, which is notorious for short lead times. “To see a strong 2008 is pretty significant for us because normally we see only 120 days out in pharma.

“We're in a growth pattern,” says Murphy. “We want to be No. 1.”