2017 Rocket Award: AgileThought's Three-Pronged Recipe for Growth
A well-oiled hiring process, a commitment to new-client acquisitions and a more industry-focused strategy are the keys to success for the 2017 RCP Rocket award winner.
- By Gladys Rama
- October 11, 2017
Tampa, Fla.-based AgileThought LLC has never been a particularly slow-growing company. Founded in 2004 with just three employees, the custom application development and software consulting firm now has a headcount north of 300 spread across its four campuses. In August, the company was named to the Inc.com list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private U.S. companies for the 10th straight year.
"We've grown pretty steadily -- by some measures, rapidly," says CEO Dave Romine, who co-founded AgileThought with Chief Solutions Officer Ryan Dorrell and Chief Product Officer John Wagner. (All three co-founders are also co-owners, along with Chief Operations Officer Jeff Alagood.) Romine states AgileThought's average year-over-year growth over the past 13 years was 44 percent, though that includes periods of more "explosive" -- essentially 100 percent -- year-over-year leaps. More recently, the company grew by 38 percent in 2015 and by 23 percent in 2016, with a 53 percent increase projected for 2017.
That kind of hyperspeed expansion could easily turn unwieldy for a less well-run company, one unprepared to scale up its hiring to meet the demands of a growing customer base. However, AgileThought, a Microsoft managed partner with gold competencies in application development, DevOps and cloud platform, has managed to strike a balance between expanding its business opportunities while keeping its growth sustainable. "The discipline of execution is where they have shined," says Mike Harvath, president and CEO of Revenue Rocket, which co-sponsors the RCP Rocket award.
For that reason, AgileThought is the winner of this year's RCP Rocket award, which recognizes channel firms that have implemented unique business strategies resulting in sustained growth. One of those strategies for AgileThought is related to hiring, particularly during the more "explosive" periods. On one hand, as Romine notes, "We're a services company. We don't grow without having more people to produce billable hours and deliver for our clients." On the other, how can a company recruit, screen and onboard enough staff to answer that growth without sacrificing its standards for service quality and talent? To meet this challenge, AgileThought developed a more rapid screening and onboarding process that has allowed it to scale efficiently to meet client demands.
Central to this strategy has been AgileThought's focus on what Romine describes as "attitude, aptitude and cultural fit" over technical proficiency (which can be learned). Cultivating an employee base primarily around these criteria has allowed AgileThought to speed up the hiring process. The focus on culture and teamwork also encourages employees to evangelize on behalf of AgileThought to other potential hires, creating a natural pipeline of future employees that shaves more time off the recruitment and screening process. These new-hire referrals are "in some ways prequalified because they're being referred to you by a trusted employee," Romine explains.
Another challenge that AgileThought encountered was the tension between pursuing new clients and nurturing existing customer relationships. Building lasting customer relationships is central to AgileThought's philosophy, Romine says, but when it's combined with the kind of rapid growth that the company has undergone, sales and marketing initiatives tend to take a back seat. While AgileThought gets a healthy number of referrals from current clients, it's also taking steps to energize its sales and marketing efforts, developing what Romine describes as a "new-client acquisition engine" to broaden its customer portfolio.
In another bid to bolster its customer base, AgileThought recently began focusing on developing its expertise in specific industries, particularly financial services. This is a familiar industry to all three of its co-founders, each having worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Arthur Andersen LLP before starting AgileThought. In the past three years, AgileThought has significantly ramped up its work with accounting's Big 4 (PwC, Deloitte Touche, Ernst & Young and KPMG). "A major factor in that is we have so much domain expertise in their business," Romine says. "Domain expertise meaning we understand audit assurance, we understand tax, we understand advisory services, but we also understand how those businesses operate."
This expertise has become a key differentiator for AgileThought in the financial services space. Now, it's hoping to replicate that success in other markets, like the energy industry. Romine says AgileThought is exploring ways to penetrate that market, including collaborating with other partners that are already entrenched in energy, but perhaps lack AgileThought's technology capabilities.
It's an approach that Microsoft has been tacitly steering its partners toward for years, and more explicitly at this summer's Inspire conference, when it announced that it was realigning its internal channel organization around six specific industries: financial, retail, health care, education, manufacturing and government. According to Harvath, AgileThought's success has hinged partly around its decision to mirror Microsoft's industry-oriented approach, especially as the cloud increasingly prompts customers to become more business-oriented in their buying decisions.
"The intersection of a vertical market focus and a specialization focus around the technology set -- I think if you do both of those things well, that's where the money is," Harvath says. "It's a way to eliminate or reduce the level of competition in a market that's overly saturated. It's a way to accelerate growth and profit."
Romine says Microsoft's focus on industry at Inspire was a "validation" of AgileThought's approach, but added that AgileThought is also avoiding putting all of its eggs in a single industry's basket -- and for good reason. He explains that in tightly regulated industries like financial services, "the confidentiality requirements of the major players start to be a little preventative for you."
Looking to the future, Romine says AgileThought plans to maintain its steady growth pace while adding IP development into its strategy.
"We don't expect to be building software products. We are a services company and we know it. We're not going to try to pivot to become a software company," he says. "However, there are lots of frameworks and accelerators, including productized offerings and productized services, that we can bring to bear and that we know are of value to the marketplace."
Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.