How To Be A Fast Growth CEO

The Three Ps of Fast Growth: Planning, People, Partnering

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When Bob Cagnazzi started his IT solution provider firm BlueWater, he figured the best way to grow big was to plan big -- so he hired people with abilities and titles rarely found at a fledgling firm. His idea was that the company would grow into the staff. It was a gamble, but it paid off: 'This year, his company is ranked No. 29 on the Fast Growth 100, with $165 million in revenue and two-year growth of 133.76 percent.


Fast Growth 2011: The Top 25


“In our case, when we started the business, we built a platform to support fast growth. We were hoping and driving for fast growth,” said Cagnazzi. “We put in the systems, and had positions that you don’t normally find in a small company. Then, we established anchor clients, and began marketing the brand, building the sales team and adding the right people.”

A solid foundation for building and maintaining a Fast Growth company is dependent on mastering the three “Ps”: Planning, People and Partnering. Those three principles guide the top executives running today’s fastest growing solution providers.

Step 1: A Pie-In-The-Sky Plan

First off, Fast Growth leaders plan for success. For example, they might hire a Chief Technologist before they’ve launched their first product or service offering. They hire first, and try to figure out what position they’ll create later. (More on that in Step 2.) They also provide an environment where employees can flourish and grow.

“You want people to feel they work in a place where their voices are heard,” said Adrian Liddiard, COO at BlueWater. “When you have that, then people want to stay. We don’t tolerate bureaucracy or have a political org chart. If you have a great idea, go to the CEO and tell him.”

Fast growth companies tend to keep alive their entrepreneurial spirit, which means many have a flat org chart and an environment that is slightly less structured than at some of their competitors. That, too, is part of the plan; thinking outside the box is encouraged and conventions are questioned.

“Our culture is a little different. We’re not siloed at all. We look at sharp people, then give them broad training. We look for those with interest and aptitude, for example, folks that might be a network administrator, but may have an interest in storage. We get well-rounded individuals,” said Joe Shields, IP Pathways president. IP Pathways saw 314 percent growth between 2008 and 2010. “The other thing is that we incent and promote entrepreneurial behavior. By promoting revenue growth among everyone, we all feel like part of the family. There’s not a lot of hierarchy here.”

Fast Growth execs have a vision -- they know where they want the company to be and then they formulate the path. “Are you building? Are you planning? Praying?” asked Tony Jimenez, founder and president at MicroTech. “Be aware, when you have money, put it where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. And when you don’t have money, convince your vendor partners to invest in R&D and to leverage your niche.”

The best part of having a big plan? Seeing your success, said Shields. “It’s great when you can look and see the company has turned into something more than we imagined. [In life,] you’re not always in control of the end product. Got to count on the work you’ve done and hope for the best.” Those that reside in the executive suite (or cubicle) control what they can, and what they can’t control, they rely on their people to manage.

NEXT: Step 2: It’s All About The People

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