Written by Sathya Vijayakumar
The 2014 Inner City 100 was one of the most competitive lists in recent years, so much so that we recognized 55 additional firms as Honorable Mention recipients at the Inner City 100 Symposium & Awards event in October. At the top of the 2014 ranking, with a stunning revenue growth rate of 2700% between 2009 and 2013, was Fruition Partners, LLC, a disruptive, end-to-end cloud service management and technology firm from Chicago, IL. Here are three themes that drove the company’s meteoric growth from a wide-ranging interview with Fruition Partners Co-Founder and CEO Marc Talluto.
Managing New Challenges with Growth
When discussing the challenges he has faced in making Fruition Partners successful over time, Talluto described his approach as follows: “Every step of success leads to a change in the way you run the business. You need to evolve when you scale and you need to change your individual role from managing the day-to-day to higher strategic thinking.” Like many entrepreneurs, Talluto cites his first challenge as simply creating a brand and developing an awareness of the niche he wanted the company to fill for its clients. In Fruition’s case, that was pairing expertise that would rival industry heavyweights like Deloitte and KPMG with implementation at the speed of Silicon Valley technology companies. Today, Talluto says that his firm’s unique size and specialty allow it to deliver many solutions both in a third of the time and at a quarter of the cost of his larger competitors. Many CEOs believe that rethinking their initial plans is a sign of weakness, but Talluto reports that his team rethought their goals and philosophy almost every six months for the first few years. Fruition’s ability to avoid getting stuck in what worked in previous years no doubt contributed to its rapid rise during the worst American Recession in nearly a century.
Finding Opportunity in the Great Recession
When most people think of 2009’s economy, they think of panicked markets and the most wide-ranging government interventions to prop up the economy since the Great Depression. However, judging from Fruition’s growth in 2009, the firm was able to benefit from this difficult time.. Growing from 10 employees to over 300 in the span of a year, Fruition’s business model suddenly became not just a luxury for clients, but a necessity as firms looked to get leaner and maintain high quality from their consultants at a lower cost of time and money. Many commentators have noted that economic downturns, while devastating to workers and industries, often precipitate rebounds that result in innovation and more competitive companies. Fruition, with revenues that have at least doubled each of the last 3 years, benefitted tremendously from this effect and proves that downturns aren’t death knells for aspiring innovators.
Growing through Profitability
Many entrepreneurs, especially those that have spent time in business school, might associate high-tech entrepreneurship closely with finance, venture capital, and angel investment. Given the experience of leading firms like Facebook and Amazon (a firm whose low profitability to this day alarms many investors), business students can be forgiven for thinking technology markets move too fast to rely on profits to spur growth. Avoid outside capital and focus on profit instead of revenue growth, and, the conventional thinking goes, you can watch a competitor take over your industry and send you looking for a new job. However, Fruition shows that a technology firm can fund growth from its operating budget and still be wildly successful in a short time frame. Founded in 2003, the company resisted taking outside capital until 2012 even as cloud technology companies became a hot market for financiers. Without any private equity investment, the company has been able to build relationships with some of the world’s most respected organizations, including Coca-Cola, General Electric, Target, and Yale University.
If you enjoyed learning about Fruition’s unique growth story, make sure to attend Paving a Path to Growth in 2015, a convening presented by Staples, ICIC, and World Business Chicago on Thursday, February 5, 2014, at Fruition Partners HQ in Chicago. Fruition Partners CEO and co-founder Marc Talluto and All Terrain COO and co-founder Sarah Eck-Thompson will be featured speakers in an interactive discussion on business growth. Register today to reserve your spot.