Business

Geonetric's Linda Barnes set company's flat structure in place

The Gazette

“I learned there are always leaders even if there are no managers,” says Linda Barnes, CEO of Geonetric.
The Gazette “I learned there are always leaders even if there are no managers,” says Linda Barnes, CEO of Geonetric.

Linda Barnes has been instrumental in creating and sustaining her company’s high-performance work culture. She’s done it so well, in fact, that she now fields calls from companies around the world seeking to transform their own workforce.

After serving in different management capacities across multiple industries, Barnes joined Cedar Rapids-based Geonetric in 2006.

Since day one, she has been a part of the company’s growth, overseeing various company functions such as marketing, business development, human resources and client services.

About six years ago, while serving as Geonetric’s chief operating officer, Barnes was asked by then-CEO Eric Engelmann to implement a flat structure of self-organizing teams without traditional management, supervisors or performance evaluations.

“I thought it was pretty crazy at the time,” she admitted. “Basically he was asking someone who made her career as a manager to do away with management. How hard can that be?”

Yet Barnes embraced the vision and forged ahead. She developed initiatives to teach employees financial literacy, created a peer-accountable culture and new core company values and reinvented human resources operations to fit within a flat structure.

“I learned there are always leaders even if there are no managers,” she said. “It was a fun time figuring it out and watching people step into their paths.”

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As a result of the groundbreaking work culture initiatives that Barnes designed and implemented, Geonetric began making frequent appearances on best places to work lists and Barnes was invited to speak at conferences around the country.

“I’m proud of where we are,” she said. “The people closest to the work understand the work. We managed to figure it out and now we’re thriving.”

In 2016, Linda was appointed as Geonetric’s chief executive officer after Engelmann stepped away from his day-to-day role with the company.

“There was really only one choice to take his place,” said Ben Dillon, Geonetric’s chief strategy officer, in a letter nominating Barnes for HER Women of Achievement award.

As CEO, Barnes has led Geonetric’s transformation from its roots as a software development company to a digital marketing agency serving the health care industry. This transition culminated with the company being named Ragan Communications’ Health Care Agency of the Year in 2018.

Beyond winning awards for itself and scoring highly on employee satisfaction surveys, Geonetric is seeing the benefits of Barnes’ workplace culture efforts vis-à-vis the company’s health care clients.

The company consistently receives high scores on customer satisfaction surveys and has won multiple awards for its client work.

“If you take good care of your employees, they will take good care of your clients,” Barnes said. “Because our employees like their jobs, they do good work for our clients.”

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Barnes views mentoring as an important aspect of her leadership role. In addition to serving as a mentor to Geonetric’s emerging leaders and to other business leaders seeking to transform their own work cultures, Barnes contributes her time and skills to many local organizations, including Catherine McAuley Center, Orchestra Iowa and Mercy Medical Center.

“I enjoy bringing business concepts to nonprofits that don’t always have the same resources as for-profit companies,” she said.

“I help them think of new and different ways of expanding their outreach and bringing their missions to the community.”

• Business 380 is spotlighting HER magazine’s Women of Achievement, published by The Gazette. The awards were sponsored by Farmers State Bank.

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