2007 Fast Growth 100: Company Profiles12:00 AM EST Mon. Jul. 09, 2007
While that credo sounds simple and straightforward, Reston, Va.-based Carahsoft, a solution provider that focuses on federal, state and local governments, used that elixir to achieve a jaw-dropping two-year growth rate of 2,548 percent. "We do a ton of proactive sales and marketing into the government space. Last year, we did over 500 different marketing projects, including about 150 Webcasts and over 100 different on-site events," he said. "When you do as much marketing as we do, hopefully you will sell something." And sell Carahsoft does. Founded in January 2004, the company did $3.6 million its first year, $36 million its second and more than $91 million in 2006. Abod said Carahsoft's approximately 80 employees understand the company's business model and all have expertise in selling to the government market.
In addition to having sales teams focused on specific government segments, Abod said he also has sales and marketing teams build around specific vendors and technology.
Another important part of Carahsoft's strategy is that it refrains from going after huge government contracts. Abod said staying hungry is what fuels his company's growth. "We do lots of government orders with lots of government customers. It's not like we have a backlog. We get an order for some stuff, and we ship and deliver it that month. Next month, we better go get some more orders."
Next: Heartland Technology Solutions
HEARTLAND TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS
"I was a farmer and got the computer bug, and I was doing my own accounting on Apple Plus computers in 1982. So I just started helping area farmers buy computers and set up their accounting systems," Sorensen said. "I finally decided if I was going to spend my time doing it, I might as well get paid for it."
And that was what led to Heartland Technology Solutions (HTS), founded in 1985 on Sorensen's farm in Harlan, Iowa, where its headquarters still reside today. The company boasts a staff of 80 employees in five Midwestern states.
Another component of HTS' prosperity lies in its relationships with its vendor partners. Each year, HTS hosts a strategic planning event with its four vendor and one distributor partner—Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, SonicWall, 3Com and Ingram Micro—to lay out a joint marketing and sales strategy for the year. "I'm tired of trying to run campaigns for one vendor, so whenever we run an event, it's multivendor and solution-focused. We get all of them on the same page at the same time."
HTS serves several niche markets, has an aggressive marketing approach toward business and is primarily SMB focused—but it is pushing into the midmarket as it geographically expands, Sorensen said.
"We are definitely not a rollup," said the president and CEO of NWN, the Waltham, Mass.-based solution provider whose net sales for the years 2004 to 2006 soared more than 2,282 percent in large part due to a series of solution provider acquisitions.
"We also align with Cisco, HP, EMC and Microsoft," he said. "We are looking for companies that are strong in one of our areas of focus and have at least some involvement in others."
Once NWN acquires a solution provider, it then sells products and services built around other vendor relationships or technical expertise. He said companies tend to buy the gamut of products and services NWN offers and the company simply goes deeper into the acquired company's existing accounts. Now that Phelps feels he has the recipe for growth perfected, he sees nothing but upside. "We are a solid organization that grew $100 million last year, and I expect to grow $100 million this year. Once you get the recipe right, all you have to do is add water and stir," he said.
Next: Northwest Computer Support
NORTHWEST COMPUTER SUPPORT
To achieve this, Northwest didn't need to replace existing employees, quit any practices or change its name. It just needed to open the purse strings a bit and focus more on the top line.
Under its new direction, the company hired additional talent, put infrastructure in place to support growth, worked with vendors as early adopters of new technology and launched additional practice areas. The company also is looking at growth through acquisition. The changes "allowed our staff to see that we could be a $10 million company and eventually a $20 million to $50 million company. There is that much opportunity," said Northwest President Tom Rash.
Northwest's willingness to "put skin in the game" by doing testing and early deployments of new products, as well as its ability to fill a room with loyal clients for Microsoft or HP marketing events, earns them a lot of great client referrals from vendors as well.
Next: Groupware Technology
In last year's survey, Groupware was cited for growing revenue in 2005 to $31 million from just $767,000 in 2003, thanks to a rebuilding process it went through after outside investors acquired the ailing solution provider and started mining its customer list for prospective customers, said Groupware President Mike Thompson.
That rebuilding process also led revenue to grow to $59 million in 2006, up from $1.8 million in 2004, he said.
However, revenue growth from 2005 to 2006 was a more stately 90 percent as the solution provider matured. Thompson said he never expected that early growth to go on forever. "I don't see that growth rate happening again," he said.
But even more important, at least for future growth, is Groupware's expanded investment in developing new vendor partners, including Cisco Systems, Oracle and Network Appliance, to complement its platform focus on Sun Microsystems, Thompson said.
"We've had them on our line card but hadn't put a lot of resources behind them," he said. "Now we still lead with Sun but get cross-solution sets. Or we can lead with another vendor and bring Sun in."
The solution provider also recently became one of Oracle's three All Partner Territory program partners on the West Coast. "Oracle has a sales force dedicated to bringing opportunities only through the channel," Thompson said. "It's Oracle's way to engage with the channel and leverage channel relationships. So we have built out our Oracle services capability."
Groupware also has built up a storage practice based on its relationship with NetApp and became a Platinum partner of the vendor within only six months, Thompson said. The solution provider has also just taken on Hitachi Data Systems as a partner, but that relationship is too new to have generated any revenue yet, he said.
"All the vendor relationships work together," Thompson said. "Depending on the customer, we can talk [about] different vendors. This is opening the door to a lot of cross-sales opportunities."
"We've definitely focused on partnerships more than we have in the past," he said.
It's certainly working: Net sales jumped 270 percent over the two-year period covered by the Fast Growth survey, to $5.3 million in 2006.
Founded in 2001, e-Brilliance is a 50-person firm whose goal is to be a full-service consultancy to its customers, mostly financial services firms in the Fortune 1000.
The company is focused 100 percent on services, Axelrod said, and has tight relationships with software partners such as SOA Software, Composite Software and IBM Global Services. A typical engagement will see e-Brilliance's partner get the software sales while the solution provider gets the integration and implementation work, he said.
As Axelrod puts it: "It just doesn't work trying to be all things to everybody."
J2EE and .Net application development have always been a strong suit of eBrilliance's, Schweiger said, but the firm has forged tighter bonds with its customers by also developing strong chops in business analysis. When e-Brilliance puts together a team for a client, members are selected specifically for that client, Axelrod said, explaining that financial services firms need IT consultants who are conversant with issues like wealth management, tax policies and procedures and accounting methods.
"It's not about getting hooks into the client," Axelrod said. "We're making sure that the people we're bringing to that client really are a great fit."
Next: Unbounded Solutions
Seven years later, Thadani is president and CEO of a $5 million enterprise content management solution provider and consulting firm, and Unbounded Solutions has earned itself the No. 8 spot on CRN's Fast Growth 2007 list.
In 2006, Unbounded posted revenue nearing $5 million, an increase of almost 400 percent over its 2004 numbers, and Thadani attributes that to finding niche areas rather than trying to become a jack-of-all-trades.
Unbounded specializes in enterprise content management, particularly in deploying EMC's Documentum software, and in Microsoft SharePoint and Seibel CRM software deployments. The Atlanta-based solution provider also does IBM WebSphere and Tibco application integration projects.
Unbounded is looking into expanding its role to provide IT staffers to customers and plans to expand internationally with offices in Europe and Asia. Youth and flexibility are key selling points, according to Thadani. "We're a very young company; we have a very young workforce," he said. "We have a pretty agile consulting workforce. For each project they relocate to the customers' work site.
"Once we get into a customer site and they get to see the quality of the consultants we are providing, they generally keep on buying services from us. We're able to retain the existing customer base and to move into new areas with them as well," he said.
This "Get IT Together" ecosystem of about 16 partners in the U.S. and 50 globally has helped the software integrator extend its reach into verticals including telecommunications, health care, insurance and retail. "We are collaborating and adding value to each other's expertise," Kumar said.
Aside from new verticals, partnering with other solution providers has helped ZSL and its partners build their presence in midmarket companies, Kumar said. This, in turn, has exposed it to new application solutions areas. Thus, the company's ongoing investment in its IDEA (Innovative Development of Enterprise Applications) Lab. This R&D investment has brought ZSL closer to certain key vendors, since it is seen as an evangelist among customers and, to some extent, other solution providers."Until 2005 and even part of 2006, we were very conscious of positioning ourselves as a vendor-neutral applications provider," Kumar said. "But now we position ourselves, aligning ourselves with a specific vendor or vendors so that they can help us speed up the education process and co-selling."
Next: Incentra Solutions
Along with a name change and being led by Chairman and CEO Thomas Sweeney, the Boulder, Colo.-based solution provider boasts a number of reasons for its growth. But primarily, it's the expansion of Incentra's managed services and product offerings, which encompass the sale, monitoring and managing of a solution, Sweeney said.
"We've been broadening our product and service capabilities, [and] we're getting a greater share of [what] our customers spend than we were in the past," he said.
This, Sweeney said, creates a broader service capability that can be replicated on a daily basis in offices all over the world. Case in point: Previously, Incentra offered first-call support for Sun products only. Today, it also offers that same hands-on support for Hewlett-Packard, Symantec and Network Appliance products. Expanding the number of product lines it covers has led to a higher, more advanced level of services, as well as revenue.
In addition to services growth, another big chunk, according to Sweeney, can be attributed to the acquisition spree the MSP has been on over the past few years. "Our product business, organically, has been growing at 33 percent a year—of course [it has] been growing faster than that because of acquisitions. ... That's what really fueled the heavy growth," Sweeney said.
Since its start in 2004, iteration2 has made selling Microsoft Dynamics software a multimillion-dollar business, raking in $22 million in 2006, up more than 500 percent since its inception. And next year should be even better. The company expects to bring it at least $30 million in 2007.
"We started the business to become Microsoft's best partner," said Mike Gillis, CEO of the Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider. With partners Gary Peterson and Greg Carter, Gillis came out of retirement to start the company.
"We really saw a vacant hole in the marketplace. We had come from SAP and Oracle backgrounds, and we believed that Microsoft was the only vendor in the world who could integrate all the stack products—all the products we were familiar with—and in the end make it easier, cheaper, less complicated [to deploy them]," he said.
The company specializes in Microsoft Dynamics AX and Microsoft stack software deployments, and Gillis said he thinks the software will continue to be more relevant to growing businesses as Vista deployments gain momentum in businesses, in turn driving growth for iteration2.
On the flip side, Gillis said the company's biggest obstacle to growth is its ability to recruit enough qualified employees to maintain its upward trajectory. The company courts potential hires, visiting them at home and wooing them over, sometimes even before they're ready to take the plunge and join the iteration2 team, to make a favorable impression. "We look at recruiting in the same way that a top college sports coach would. Recruiting is the No. 1 thing in our company. We have to recruit the top professionals in our industry in order to have a best-in-class program," Gillis said.