2014 Winner: Concurrency Wins by Losing the Big Customer
- By Scott Bekker
- October 01, 2014
Sometimes for a small business, losing your most important customer is the best thing that can happen to you.
James Savage believes that was critical for the explosive recent growth of Milwaukee-based Concurrency Inc., where he's president. In company meetings throughout 2006, a decent-sized bank client that made up a large portion of the Concurrency revenue was a main agenda item. The title of any discussion about the client on slide decks? "Let's not kill the golden goose," says Savage.
"When we lost that big account in December 2006/January 2007, it was the worst thing that ever happened to us, and it was the best thing that ever happened to us," he says. "From January to June of 2007, I found out what the word insomnia means. We became a company in that six-month period," he says. Savage often likens the process to metallurgy and hardening steel. Or, he says, "We got lean and mean, and we've stayed that way ever since."
Concurrency wasn't a new company at the time. Founded in 1989, Concurrency had made a huge transition once before -- going from a Novell Netware focus to a Microsoft Windows NT focus in 1994.
Concurrency responded to losing the customer by reevaluating what it was doing. The hard look covered all the basics -- technological focus, sales, marketing and recruiting.
"From January to June of 2007, I found out what the word insomnia means. We became a company in that six-month period. ... We got lean and mean, and we've stayed that way ever since."
James Savage, President, Concurrency Inc.
Already focused on Microsoft technology, with a complementary enterprise content management practice, Concurrency went "all in" on Microsoft infrastructure technologies. At the time, Microsoft was pushing the "Core IO Model," and that infrastructure optimization business looked good to Concurrency. "We first embraced infrastructure optimization back in 2007. We've been using it ever since, so, way to go Microsoft," he says.
Concurrency now architects and integrates across five Microsoft enterprise platforms -- SharePoint, System Center, Lync, Exchange and Dynamics CRM. System Center is the largest practice area, as evidenced by the company being named a finalist for the 2014 Microsoft Management and Virtualization Partner of the Year. But the company is doing a lot of what Savage terms "grey-haired consulting" that leverages expertise across the stack to provide business value.
Concurrency brings the sales team into that grey-haired process now, as well. Sales offers clients an opportunity to conduct business and technology roadmaps that provide a holistic view of where an organization is from a technology perspective and where it should go based on its strategic goals.
"The key to garner a strategic account is by roadmapping," Savage says.
The company also invested in its pipeline with an aggressive event-marketing effort. Holding events at the local Microsoft office, Concurrency at first drew five or 10 people. After a few months, Concurrency was regularly filling Microsoft's multipurpose room. In addition to educating potential clients, Microsoft field reps walking by the room noticed the crowds and the partner bringing them in.
Concurrency also spun up its own Concurrency University to train all the new hires to support the new business. Over the last three years, the company has been on a revenue and hiring tear. With 20 employees in 2011, Concurrency is now up to 68. Revenues have also nearly tripled in that span, with growth in 2012 at 46 percent and in 2013 at 35 percent
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Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.