Happy 1st Birthday to Spaulding Ridge!
This has been a tremendous year. More ups than downs, but constant fun and excitement in start-up world. We started the business last February 1st with the acquisition of Plan Rocket and their team of 17. At our one-year mark, our band has expanded to over 100 rockers! We recently opened in Europe, so we are now taking the show on the road.
I continue to get asked – how did we do it? Well, here you go…..
1. Pick a Winner
Getting the first major strategic decision correct makes everything that comes later much easier. We owe a major debt to our friends at Anaplan. They had a tremendous 2018 culminating in their IPO in October. In my year working with the Anaplan team, the product has proven rock-solid, Connected Planning messaging is resonating, their sales team has been upgraded and most importantly, their users are driving value at their companies. SR’s timing lined up very well with Anaplan’s timing making it the logical first big bet for the firm.
I have been around a lot of start-ups and entrepreneurs, and I firmly believe that the best idea is nothing without a clear path to revenue. Some great ideas have never made it to market as not nearly enough time was spent on figuring out how to take something to market. We acquired Plan Rocket on Day One, and with it, we had a revenue stream, a solid delivery team, and clients that would all become foundational to our story.
My experience is everyone likes to talk about building a great culture that often includes putting up fancy slogans on their website or in the break room, but in their actual interactions with one another, a different kind of culture comes out.
We have been obsessive about building the right culture at SR. In building our team, we have been transparent and direct about the attributes we are looking for to identify the kind of person that will have success here. Instead of focusing on retention, we focus on creating the best possible environment for our bandmates. We offer multiple career paths and learning opportunities, an ability to get involved in the community, a self-paced, upward career trajectory and extremely open and direct communication.
If we are not a good fit, we want the person to leave as life is too short. We don’t mind if you want to do something else, because if you are unhappy here, chances are you are not performing at a level that you are happy with. Life is short – why be miserable? Smart people make smart decisions.
Building a great culture is also about building a community – both inside SR and outside. Great people love to build from the bottom up taking all their previous experience to construct the most efficient and effective go to market, methodology, people model, etc. I believe most of the people at SR would say it has been dramatically more fun to build the non-consulting part of the community focusing on giving back, empowering each other, having fun and being global citizens. We do not subscribe to being a sterile voice in the world around us. It is OK to stand for things, having a voice and discussing our differences.
3. Integration’s Role in IT Strategy is Wildly Underestimated
From Day One, we started multiple delivery practices with several software vendors. This is a very difficult strategy for a new firm to follow as it requires greater investment and a more complex marketing strategy. That said, we are confident that it is the right strategy.
“Focus” is often the advice given to new firms, but we view that as a limiting strategy. Clients want to know how every bit of technology fits with what they currently own and plan to own. They also likely know that efficiently integrating all these technologies is not a trivial exercise either. To be a strategic partner to your client, you must have a broader worldview than a single technology. You can make money being the best at implementing a single technology, but your influence will be limited.
I will spare you the details, but I can assure you that the vast majority of the innovation is not coming from the major mega software vendors. We have partnered with Anaplan, Salesforce, DocuSign, OneStream, Incorta and others that continue to aggressively innovate. ML, AI, RPA, (insert buzzword), are dramatically changing the game, and although the big guys have all the resources, thus far, it is not showing up in their stack. The innovation cycle continues as before….
4. One Day at a Time
Given this is not my first company, I have the benefit of having led a rapidly expanding consulting firm before. I know that I can only control today, and I need to stay in the moment and make the best decisions I can today. We made plenty of mistakes in Year One, but we have tried our best to not let those mistakes bog us down. Instead, we are focusing on addressing our challenges and providing solutions that add value to our clients as well as to each other. If we were afraid of taking risks, we would all work at the big firms. If the entire team – from the new analyst, to the back office, to the sales lead – is making sound decisions each and every day, I like our odds long term.
Thank you to everyone that has had a hand in our Year One. We are very grateful to our clients for trusting us. We are thankful to be aligned with some of the top software companies in the world. Thank you to such a great group at Spaulding Ridge – it is humbling to see such amazing people trust their livelihood with us. I can’t wait for Year Two! Rock and roll!