Closeup: 15 Of The Fast Growth 100

Fast growth in a down economy? Yes, it's possible -- with good leadership, a strong staff and killer solutions. And growth knows no boundaries: Companies come in all shapes and sizes, from those specializing in SLED to others in managed services and still more (including the integrator with the highest revenue growth) in unified communications. Here's a glimpse at some of the fastest-growing solution providers.

The top company on our list, BlueWater Communications, under the direction of CEO Bob Cagnazzi (pictured), saw revenue rise an astronomical 3,605 percent, from $1.9 million to more than $70 million, in two years. In an effort to continue providing innovative customer solutions, BlueWater this January launched Blue, a managed services offering. With a fully staffed network operations center, BlueWater will manage and monitor IT events to ensure customers have full knowledge and understanding of their infrastructure.

"We wanted to create a solution that would assist our customers in preventing unplanned outages, and give them peace of mind when there is a threat to their infrastructure and data," said Cagnazzi of the Blue launch.

MicroTech was founded and is still being led by President and CEO Tony Jimenez (pictured), a highly decorated U.S. Army veteran. The solution provider experienced growth of 693 percent between 2006 and 2008.

Jimenez has won several business awards in recognition of his innovation, leadership and success in the IT field. For example, this summer, the U.S. Small Business Administration selected Jimenez as the 2009 Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year for the Washington, D.C., metro area and the states of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia. He recently launched MicroTech's "Wounded Warrior Redeployment Program," which trains disabled veterans to run IT service desks. Jimenez also is a sponsor of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which has raised more than $4 million for wounded veterans.

RightStar Systems, a leading IT consultancy and BMC Elite Solution Partner, grew revenue nearly 700 percent. To continue that growth, RightStar is growing through acquisitions. In January, it bought Progressive Service Management. The move increased RightStar's geographic presence from the East and South to include the Midwest, Southwest and West Coast. The deal would also particularly benefit RightStar's vendor partner BMC, President Dick Stark (pictured) said at the time. That's because the newly merged company offers complete solutions that span from the service desk to the desktop through the data center, offering, implementing and supporting BMC's Service Support, Service Automation and Service Assurance product lines with a business service management and ITSM focus.

Trace3 has grown revenue 134 percent around providing customized solutions that let customers leverage their existing investments. The $100.5 million VAR has engaged several high-profile companies under the leadership of CEO Hayes Drumwright (pictured). For example, Trace3 designed a complete infrastructure solution to cost-effectively address Mazda Motor's long-term IT requirements. Together with vendor partner NetApp, data availability and protection was improved -- with a 10-month payback.

Axispoint has worn many different hats in order to achieve growth of 125 percent. The solution provider is a one-stop tech shop, with expertise in software, networking and convergence, which it uses to provide customers comprehensive solutions, said CEO Dan DiSano (pictured).

For Axispoint, a key to growth has been relationship selling. As DiSano writes in his blog: "Relationships are paramount to building a successful business, whether it be client generation, raising capital, hiring resources, etc., because the people that know you and like you know what you're capable of and most importantly trust you. I can't say it enough -- your relationships trust you because you have built some form of personal capital with them."

Under the guidance of CEO Sonia St. Charles (pictured) and President Paul Clifford, St. Paul, Minn.-based Davenport Group reached 119.5 percent growth by providing value to its customers through the creation of flexible strategies for storage management and data recovery. The company prides itself on building cost-effective storage solutions that use clients' existing infrastructure to help organizations get control of their data. Davenport's clients include Fortune 1000 companies as well as local and state governments. St. Charles and Clifford co-founded the company in 2001.

CSI outfits school systems, governments and businesses with fully integrated hardware and software systems and provides support for that technology. The company made the Fast Growth 100 with two-year growth of 106 percent, but has been impacted recently by cutbacks in school budgets. In the second quarter of 2009, revenue was down 22 percent and gross profit sank 30 percent in comparison with the second quarter of 2008. Still, the company was profitable and CEO Nancy Hedrick (pictured) said that while public sector clients continue to face budget constraints, "we have seen sales activity improve in Q2 and early Q3. And, we continue to closely monitor our fixed costs to mirror our revenue."

The outsourcing powerhouse saw revenue jump almost 100 percent between 2006 and 2008. And, despite the current economic doldrums, Cognizant posted impressive growth for its most recent quarter. "Large corporations are seeking us out to streamline global delivery, rationalize costs and create new business capabilities that significantly advance their business objectives over the short-, medium- and long-term," said Francisco D'Souza (pictured), president and CEO of Cognizant, on a conference call. "We are convinced that technology will play an integral role in the global economic recovery, and Cognizant is well positioned to capitalize on the unfolding cyclical and secular opportunities."

Netgain specializes in IT outsourcing solutions for businesses with as few as five and as many as 500 users. Its revenue grew 89 percent, which let the company add IT specialist staff in the first half of the year. Earlier in the year, Netgain received the Small Business Transformations Award from Microsoft for helping small businesses meet their unique challenges by leveraging technology.

"Small businesses need trusted advisers and affordable technology solutions that help them operate more efficiently, save money and focus on their core business," said Scott Warzecha (pictured), Netgain CEO and founder. "We founded Netgain on a desire to offer customized technology solutions to those small businesses."

Since founding the company in 2001, President and CEO Doug Ford (pictured) has led the transformation of The I.T. Pros from a one-man consulting company to a corporation that grew 88 percent between 2006 and 2008. I.T. Pros focuses on the SMB marketplace, packaging managed services from a marketing standpoint. Ford is passionate in his belief that that the small business market deserves the same quality IT support enjoyed by Fortune 500 companies, noting SMBs often suffer from inadequate IT support, making them less efficient and less productive.

Although the $868 million solution provider grew revenue 84 percent, the slower economy has impacted the company's recent earnings. In August, the company reported first quarter 2010 revenue declined 27.6 percent from the year-ago period to $130.2 million. The lower revenues reflect continued softness in demand, in addition to customers delaying purchase commitments.

"We were disappointed with the weaker-than-anticipated sales for the quarter. The lingering malaise in IT spending negatively impacted product and service revenue across the board," said Martin Ellis (pictured), president and CEO, in a statement.

LiquidSpoke is a managed service provider and systems integrator led by CEO Richard Tarity (pictured) that delivers high-end IT solutions via data and voice architectures. Its clients are drawn from a variety of areas, including financial services, pharmaceuticals, retail and the media. The firm, which grew 79 percent between 2006 and 2008, got its name from considering solutions and processes to customers' problems "spokes" and the realization that a complex set of solutions and processes must be adaptable and always changing.

Blue Wolf credits its 71 percent growth between 2006 and 2008 to the increased demand for agile services. "Businesses are rethinking age-old strategies and processes and looking to Web 2.0 technologies to get them into the 21st century," said Eric Berridge (pictured), co-founder and principal of Blue Wolf. The company experienced further growth in the first quarter of 2009, adding up to 34 consecutive quarters of profitability for Blue Wolf.

Unified communications, security and wireless form the foundation of, a solution provider that saw two-year revenue growth of 64 percent. consultants help identify, plan, design, implement and support the technology solutions it sells. "Technology should be viewed as a business enabler," said Bill Hall (pictured), CEO and president. The company has achieved Cisco Channel Customer Satisfaction Excellence, the highest distinction a partner can achieve within that vendor's channel partner program.

Sapient's revenue grew 63 percent, with President and CEO Alan Herrick (pictured) leading the company's overall strategic direction and fostering its culture of innovation. The company completed the acquisition of ad agency Nitro Group in early July and, according to Herrick, client reaction has been favorable: "Our combined value proposition includes integrated advertising, digital commerce, marketing technology and social media to help clients create superior brand experiences that drive business results."