How the Big Dogs Eat

Humble beginnings, pivotal moves, innovative ideas, Ozarks values and even near-disastrous mistakes pepper the backstories of six local companies that just won’t quit. Take an inside look at how they’ve become unstoppable.

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Jack Henry & Associates was founded in Monett in the 1970s and still has a large campus there.

What started 41 years ago by two 417-landers from Monett—one with a banking software program, one with business experience—is worth more than $1 billion today. Jack Henry & Associates Inc., a publicly traded technology company, has three distinct brands, more than 300 products and services, around 11,000 clients and 6,000-plus employees. More than 2,100 associates work at its Monett headquarters and Springfield campus. With industry-competitive salaries, that’s a lot of spending power in 417-land. The company also has a regular influx of visiting clients and associates who patronize area restaurants and hotels. Jack Henry & Associates even played a significant role in building Monett’s YMCA and raises local charity funds through an annual golf tournament.

Laying the Groundwork

Monett seems an unlikely location for such a large company, but that’s where founders Jack Henry and Jerry Hall are from. They simply stayed put, and their company continues to leave a significant economic and philanthropic footprint by staying true to its long-standing culture.

The business started in the ’70s when Henry developed a piece of core information processing software for the Monett bank where he worked. When the bank was bought out, it gave the program back to Henry, who didn’t know how to run a company. Enter Jerry Hall, a data processing manager who quit his job at a shoe company. “From that and through the acquisitions and development efforts and everything else, we have grown into what we are today,” says Kevin Williams, the chief financial officer and treasurer.

The JHA culture, which harkens back to its founders, is key to the company’s growth and success. “What they always said was anybody can build technology,” Williams says. “The only truly consistent competitive advantage we have is our reputation for customer service.” That reputation has spread across the country with the company’s growth in the past 25 years. 

The only truly consistent competitive advantage we have is our reputation for customer service.”—Kevin Williams, chief financial officer and treasurer at Jack Henry & Associates

Gaining Momentum

More than 60 percent of the JHA’s current revenue is a result of acquisitions made during the span of eight years. A 1992 acquisition launched Jack Henry & Associates’ electronic payments processing system. That system is now 37 percent of total revenue. Acquiring Symitar in 2000 got JHA into the credit union industry, now representing about 25 percent of revenue.

Jack Henry hosts many visiting clients each year including Matt Armstrong, an account executive at Microsoft.

Williams cites two other moments that were pivotal for growth. A 1995 acquisition brought outsource processing, allowing clients to connect to data centers where Jack Henry completes all back-office processing, Williams explains. In 2004, Mike Henry, Jack Henry’s son who was CEO at the time, started focusing on diversification. In 2005—through a series of acquisitions—the company established its third brand, ProfitStars, which provides solutions that don’t require JHA’s core processing. Now, instead of just 2,000 customers using the company’s system, Williams says about 11,000 financial institutions have one or more JHA products.

Luke Killinger and Tommy Bradford are two of the thousands of employees who work at JHA in 417-land.

Throughout these acquisitions, the company has been careful to protect its culture. Williams advises business owners to examine the company culture of a potential acquisition along with its financials. If the culture would damage your company, “you can never fix that,” he says. Better to pass. Also, take care of new and current associates. They in turn will take care of customers, who will take care of the company by generating revenue. “We set the standard in our industry for customer service,” Williams says. “We always have, and we always will.”


Onboarding the Jack Henry Way

A well-planned onboarding program is key to smoothing the transition for new hires. New employees are welcomed to Jack Henry & Associates through a comprehensive onboarding program that was developed over a decade. “It is our opportunity to welcome new hires and provide them with the knowledge and resources they need to understand how they fit into the big picture so they can be successful at JHA,” says Tiffany Haynes, managing director of human resources.

The process starts with the assignment of a mentor they call a Pride Ambassador from the department where the new hire will work. Ambassadors give associates tours, take them to lunch the first day and introduce them to other team members. For 90 days, ambassadors act as points of contact for basic questions, training and encouragement while introducing the new employees to company culture, core values, philosophies and expectations, Haynes says. The purpose, she says, is to “develop trust, respect and build a positive relationship.”

President and CEO David Foss also spends time with each new class of employees to answer questions and discuss company history. Lastly, new associates participate in a New Employment Orientation, which takes place over a week. Day one includes working with the manager; days two through five include virtual training, led by a facilitator, to provide a company overview, human resources information, safety training and more.

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