It's kind of like the principle that to get to a healthy weight, you should stop focusing on the scale.
Clarity Resource Group, a technology consulting and placement firm headquartered in Austin, Texas, won a spot on this year's Inc. 5000 list, yet has never focused on the revenue scale. The entire second quarter of 2009 stands as one example, when the stakes were high for one of Clarity's clients, a global financial services company preparing to launch a critical new operation. To ensure smooth rollout, Clarity paused expansion of its own recently launched information management practice so that John Papadia, Clarity partner and IM practice lead, could join the client onsite nearly full time.
"What we care about is developing long term relationships with customers, so we don't put our own agenda forward," explained Papadia. "The only agendas we put forward are our customers'. For this project, we wanted to respond to the client before they even had to ask the questions."
In this way, Papadia and his partner, Jim Urhausen, who founded Clarity in 2004, relentlessly put themselves and their company on the line for each of their clients. With 30 years of consulting experience between them, the two partners build executive sponsorship into every engagement they undertake. They show up at client sites personally and often, providing support and keeping the lines of communication open, without inflating rates or disqualifying any project for its size or scope.
"In consulting, a lot of deals are handled exclusively by salespeople. Things get lost that way," said Urhausen, who also leads Clarity's application development practice. "We don't allow anything to get lost."
Indeed, the numbers support remarkable gain: Urhausen and Papadia are outperforming benchmarks they didn't even set. Clarity grew 158.1% in the three-year period from 2005 to 2008, a jump that secured the company the rank of 2,014 on the Inc. 5000 list. Revealed in August, this list catalogues America's fastest growing private companies and serves as a comprehensive view of entrepreneurship.
Clarity, which specializes in information management and application development, surpassed the median growth rate of the companies on the Inc. 5000 by 32 percentage points. Its win was preceded by regional recognition from the Austin Business Journal, which named Clarity to its annual "Fast 50" list in 2006 and 2007.
A string of showings on "high growth" lists suggests commitment to a high growth plan. Commitment to growth is strong at Clarity, but with a twist: it must be targeted at customers.
"We don't say we will recognize x amount of revenue," asserted Urhausen. "We say we will do what our customers need us to do, and that will produce x. We don't know the exact target, and we don't dwell on it.
"What we're doing for any given customer is one of many projects that can follow," Urhausen continued. "If we fail a customer, though, it's the last project. And the revenue is easy to figure out then."
What Clarity does for any given customer varies, not because of a reactionary business model, but by design. "We keep ourselves nimble and we keep an open mind, specifically so we can make our model fit our clients'," said Papadia. "We've eliminated a lot of the limitations of consulting that way."
For example, while Clarity offers full life cycle project delivery services, it doesn't require sole ownership of projects, and it can ramp up on short notice, sometimes in as few as one or two days.
"We come to play," said Urhausen. "Not for huge margins, but for opportunities."
Complete results of the Inc. 5000 are available at www.inc.com.
About Clarity Resource Group
Clarity is a privately held, niche consulting and placement firm with two primary practices: information management, including full life cycle business intelligence, data warehousing, and its supporting architectures; and application development, including e-commerce and e-business. With its "clearly different" pledge, Clarity provides committed, career business and technology practitioners quickly, at accessible rates. Its clients include a variety of Fortune 500 companies as well as small and medium-sized businesses. Founded in 2004, Clarity is an Inc. 5000 company headquartered in Austin, TX, with an office in Chicago, IL.