Secrets To Success From 5 Fast Growth Execs

When times are tough, the tough get growing. Sure, we're taking liberty with an old adage, but looking at the CRN Fast Growth list bears it out. Despite a recession that was the deepest since the Great Depression, 100 solution providers increased sales at a minimum of 20 percent between 2007 and 2009. Here's a look at five executives who helped drive their companies' growth strategies.

MicroTech's (2010 FG rank: #1) focus on quality assurance has helped the solution provider become even more competitive with larger, more established enterprises. Having that solid foundation, the company is able to confidently hone in on areas it sees as poised for future success.

"Our future business strategy is based on the pursuit of and investment into areas where markets are likely to grow, specifically Unified Communications and Collaboration," President and CEO Tony Jimenez said. "We recently launched a 14,500 sq. ft. UCC integration and testing center. The new facility considerably expands MicroTech’s footprint in the market. Integrating disparate communications technology is the wave of the future in business."

Cognizant continued to deliver strong financial performance despite the global recession. It increased its geographic reach and strengthened its offerings. Its "Shining Through the Fog," program focuses on investing in Cognizant's own business, and in understanding how to help customers invest in their own enterprises. "It's really tough for a client to make changes when revenues are flat. We had to work with them to free up costs, to determine what gets outsourced, what goes elsewhere," Malcolm Frank, Senior Vice President and Chief Strategist, said. "Then they have to take those savings and invest them into core competencies to win in new markets."

To sustain sales growth, solution providers must have feet on the street. At some point, there aren't enough salespeople, customer service reps or technicians, to do the job well -- so head count must be increased.

"You can't be afraid to hire," said Don James, CEO of Bear Data (2010 FG rank: 49).

"Yes, some projects have been pushed out. But you look at new geography or new markets. There is still IT spending."

Don't underestimate the importance of having an office building: "Some of our competitors feel they can have a person working out of a house. We pay for an office location, because we feel it gives us a better presence."

Netarx (2010 FG rank: 19) achieved significant growth during the recession by taking advantage of this time to gain market share both organically and inorganically.

"Organically, we went 'back to the basics,' and focused on customer experience and satisfaction. This not only helped with customer retention, but also helped us grow our customer base -- we listened to our customers’ needs and priorities, which helped guide us in our decision to widen our capabilities in adjacent lines of business," said president and COO, Michael Souders. "Inorganically, we acquired the Value-Added Reseller business unit of Analysts International Corp., which was a great way to add talented people to our staff as well as add to the depth and breadth of our service offerings."

Public sector business remains strong in all sectors for Carahsoft (2010 FG rank: 14) -- even in the hard-hit state and local markets. "In fact, by redoubling our marketing efforts and tuning our message to focus on technologies such as VMware, Adobe Connect and Adobe LiveCycle that help customers do more with less, we were able to grow our state and local business by almost 100 percent over last year," said president Craig Abod. "We’ve also implemented programs to make it easier for our customers to purchase our vendors’ offerings, and save them money in the process, through creative financing plans and by consolidating purchases and software renewals through enterprise agreements."

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