Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Folsom’s AgreeYa Solutions isn’t afraid to let go

Folsom’s AgreeYa Solutions has almost doubled its revenue since 2008, concrete confirmation for managing partner Ajay Kaul that spinning off the firm’s mobile practice was the right decision a few years ago.

“We want to continually build these focus areas, or practices as we call them, within our organization, so we think about them as companies within a company,” Kaul said. “We made the right decision in that case. … We have other potential spinoffs that could happen in a year or two.”

AgreeYa Solutions and AgreeYa Mobility help their clients get the most out of their business software by integrating off-the-shelf products or building custom applications. Some examples: AgreeYa has taken well-designed desktop websites and ensured that they are just as easy to read and visually appealing on smartphones or tablets. It has given financial institutions additional software tools to monitor transactions for signs of money-laundering. And it has created virtual workspaces where team members can get quick answers to questions, store crucial documents and collaborate on ideas. New team members have access to the group’s past deliberations and accumulated knowledge.

“In another case, we are working with one of the global banks to help them implement a scheduling system for their tellers, for their mortgage consultants and their loan officers,” Kaul said. “Anybody who wants to schedule an appointment with them, they can go online to schedule that using the software.”

The AgreeYa companies’ top five industries are telecommunications, technology, financial services, health care and government, Kaul said. He founded the company 15 years ago in 1,500 square feet in Citrus Heights. Today, the two companies have a combined 15 offices around the world. AgreeYa Solutions owns its headquarters building on Coolidge Drive in Folsom. Kaul is contemplating opening a 16th office in the Santa Clara area.

Kaul said that his team recognized that, by spinning off AgreeYa Mobility, it would make it more challenging to compete as a team, but company leaders also recognized that keeping the business in-house would saddle it with conflicting priorities. AgreeYa Mobility employs more than 300 of the two companies’ 1,100 workers.

Always low prices. Always?

Wal-Mart announced last week that it would team with Wild Oats to expand the retail behemoth’s organic food line. Yolo County farmer Thaddeus Barsotti greeted the news as affirmation of organic farming practices and as a challenge to maintaining them.

“It was not that long ago that the word ‘organic’ represented a carbon-based molecule,” Barsotti told me, “and now it represents a better way of farming and Wal-Mart takes it seriously.”

Consumers are demanding food and produce that come from fields where pesticides and synthetic fertilizers were not used, but can legitimate organic farming practices be sustained in an environment that demands “Always Low Prices. Always”?

“Organic inputs are more expensive and organic yields are less than conventional yields,” according to Barsotti, a co-owner of Capay Organic in Esparto, “and if they do become economically equal to congenital product, we should take a look at the legitimacy of the organic farming processes used in that system.”

Organic farming isn’t simply about banning certain practices, he explained; it’s a movement toward a truly just and sustainable food system. Consumers can take the first step toward it by getting to know the farmers and discussing the methods they use to grow their food.

PG&E puts teens to work

After a successful debut in 2013, PG&E and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Sacramento again are teaming up to help the region’s teens find summer jobs in a challenging labor market.

“People who are more middle-class, connected to the community, working already, they are more connected to jobs,” said Maureen Price, the nonprofit club’s chief executive , “and they can ask a friend or a friend of a friend, and their son or daughter will get a job. We know that networks really matter in finding employment.”

PG&E has contributed more than $200,000 to fund a career education program for roughly 200 teens and summer jobs for 55 of them. The unemployment rate for job seekers ages 16 to 19 stood at 39 percent in the Sacramento metropolitan statistical area in 2012, the latest year for which there are data. The economic downturn vastly reduced the job options for teens as unemployed adults sought the part-time jobs that had previously gone to youths.

Boys and Girls Club is still signing up companies wishing to employ teens, Price said, noting that a number of businesses decided to hire their teens as longer-term employees last year. Jisifredo Cosaino, for example, now works for City Council member Steve Hansen. His younger brother Juan signed up for the program this year.

“It actually had a big impact on me,” said Cosaino, a senior at Visions in Education Charter School. “Before I enrolled in this program, I was a landscaper and I was thinking of dropping out of school. … After going through the process, I found an interest in local government.”

Editor’s note: Because of incorrect information provided to The Bee, the number of workers at AgreeYa Mobility was incorrectly stated in this column. A change was made April 18 to correct the error.