Investing in the Future
In good times and bad, SCG banks on employees and relationships.
- By Alison Diana
- July 01, 2005
In an industry that frequently undergoes turmoil and turnover,
Solutions Consulting Group (SCG) deliberately offers employees and
clients an oasis of calm and level-headedness designed to help the
integrator and its customers ride out any financial or technological
The 12-year-old, family owned and operated software integration
and consulting firm provides clients "Risk-Free IT" solutions and
services in areas such as business intelligence (BI), customer relationship
management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and e-business.
SCG gives clients the option of a fixed-fee payment plan that ensures
it will resolve their IT challenges on time and on budget.
In order to achieve this, company management continually invests
in itself and its employees, says William Edmett Sr., who co-founded
the company with sons Jonathan and William Edmett Jr. Even during
the late 1990s, when the IT market followed the stock market's descent,
SCG continued to put money into its business, he says.
"In 2000, we grew it to 65 employees. The market was on fire.
We were on track to do about $6 [million] to $7 million in services—this
was after only five years in business," says Jonathan. "After
the downturn in the market and 9/11, we realized if we were to stay
in business and to keep our legacy intact, we would have to begin
to invest even though the market was going down. We thought the
best [thing to do] was to invest in sales and marketing and in keeping
our long-term employees on the payroll so we'd have continuity when
the customers did come back."
The company, which today has about 30 employees, continues to invest
in itself. Recently, SCG hired more sales and marketing personnel
and retained a marketing and public relations firm to increase its
visibility. SCG has about 20 consultants—some engineers, some business
consultants—and about 10 personnel involved in sales and marketing,
says William Jr.
The strategy appears to be working, as the company achieved more
than 50 percent revenue growth in 2004.
Invest for Success
SCG prides itself on hiring full-time employees rather than subcontracting
individuals on an as-needed basis. "If we don't have the talent,
rather than find a contractor to do the work, we will engage another
partner," William Jr. says.
"We're careful not to hire a new person unless we know we really
need him and we can make a substantial commitment to him, so he
knows he has a home," adds William Sr.
Having full-time consultants allows SCG to comfortably promise
that it will complete projects within a client's specifications,
says William Jr. "If I don't know who's going to be on that project,
I'm not going to know whether I can deliver."
Clients, too, benefit from working with not only the same company,
but often, with the same consultants, he notes. Because SCG offers
solutions based on a range of Microsoft technologies, this relationship
approach often results in multiple projects for the same customer.
Investments in its people have paid off for William Edmett Sr. and Solutions Consulting Group.
"Because we use the entire stock of Microsoft technology, we have
literally gone back to the same customers three or four times and
delivered on different projects," explains William Jr. "We may start
out doing a .NET development project, which then leads to an ERP
implementation, which then may lead to a CRM implementation. Ultimately,
they always lead to some type of business intelligence solution
that ties that data up for their executive management team. It's
because of the continuity of [our] team. The team understands their
different lines of businesses, we're able to articulate that value
to the customer and, quite frankly, it's relationship-driven with
Forging a Tighter Bond
The investment in staff also bolsters SCG's crucial relationship
with Microsoft. Last year, the company became a Microsoft Gold Certified
Partner, in part because many of its staffers have earned Microsoft
certifications while employed at SCG. That, in turn, makes them
more loyal, William Jr. says.
And of course, the Gold certification creates a better bond between
SCG and Microsoft, both at the corporate level and with local offices,
says Jonathan. "There are individuals inside Microsoft, locally
and regionally, that we've developed relationships with that continue
to look after our best interests, because they see we are using
their technologies the correct way, we're using the Partner Program
the correct way," he notes.
|Solutions Consulting Group
Headquarters: San Diego
Web Site: www.scg.net
William Edmett Sr., President and CEO
Microsoft Competencies: Business Intelligence; Microsoft Business Solutions
Annual Revenue: 2004 - $3 million; 2003 - $2 million
Number of Employees: 30-plus
Top Verticals: Food services, construction, real estate, health care, insurance
Achievements: Microsoft Gold Certified Partner; member of Microsoft's Business Intelligence Advisory Council
Clients Include: Rhino Linings USA; Harcourt Brace; Providence Systems; MyPoints.com; Team Health; Kenwood; Chicago Pizzeria
In fact, it was SCG's Microsoft Partner Account Managers (PAMs)
who encouraged SCG to become Gold Certified, William Jr. says. The
company works with one PAM for the Microsoft Business Solutions
(MBS) portion of its business and another for non-MBS sales, explains
Dave Brown, SCG sales director. It also partners with locale-specific
PAMs for clients in Orange County, Los Angeles and other areas of
California, as well as Microsoft Account Executives for large accounts,
"One of the things we were told by our Partner Account Manager
was, 'Tell me what differentiates you from other partners because
I can use that to promote you within Microsoft.' We realized if
we couldn't answer that question very quickly, neither could they,"
says William Jr.
Toward that end, SCG earned two Microsoft Competencies: Business
Intelligence and MBS, and is only one project away from earning
its competency in e-business, he says. In addition, William Jr.
heads to Redmond at least four times a year to participate as one
of 30 companies globally on Microsoft's Business Intelligence Partner
"SCG is having a significant impact on the growth of its customers'
businesses by delivering innovative solutions to increase their
operational efficiency and productivity," says Joel Mountain, one
of SCG's Microsoft PAMs. "We're proud to be in a relationship with
a company that is so centralized on the success of its customers."
It goes without saying that successful solution providers strive
to meet their clients' requirements. But integrators also must make
it easy for their vendor partners to work with them, says William
Solution providers should not expect a laundry list of qualified
leads, money and other perks, he notes. By working within the parameters
of Microsoft's program, SCG has been able to leverage Microsoft's
reputation and technologies to garner sales and customer loyalty.
Providing Payment Options
In an industry that has seen its share of broken promises and failed
technologies, SCG often finds itself fixing problems created by
other solution providers, William Jr. says.
In order to provide another level of comfort to wary clients, SCG
offers a choice of hourly or flat-fee pricing to its customers,
many of which are in food services, construction and real estate.
For example, SCG won a project with an insurance company worth
between $800,000 and $900,000 in services, William Jr. says. "The
client had already wasted close to that on another project. When
they brought us in they were very clear, to say the least, and said,
'We will not do this project with you unless you agree to do it
on a fixed-bid basis and you can give us references where you've
done fixed-bid, complex projects'—SQL Server projects, .NET development
projects," he says. "We had a reference that met those criteria.
We won the engagement and, in the process, we developed our Fixed
About 50 percent of SCG's clients now use this fixed-fee approach.
"It's caused us to tighten up our service delivery because you can't
make money doing a fixed-fee project if you don't have great project
management," Jonathan explains. "It's made us better across the
board for all our projects."
While some clients initially are attracted to the fixed-fee approach,
customers must do a lot of preparatory legwork in order for it to
succeed, says William Sr.
"It requires tight control from their end," he says. "A lot of
them opt out of fixed-fee, and go by the hour. The only reason they
decide to go by the hour with us is because, by that time, they've
known some of our other clients, they've learned more about our
history and they know we'll do the job for them."