Wade Wyant says that ITS Partners isn’t a unique business. Rather, it’s their unique focus that has afforded them a competitive advantage.
ITS Partners was started as part of an incubator program inside of another company. “The founder of that company wanted to start a technology consulting business that focused on Windows at the time,” Wade says. “We looked around the marketplace and said: there are a lot of people who do everything, but they don’t have a lot of depth.”
ITS started with only one technology. “We put all our eggs in one basket. It was a little scary at first,” says Wade. “Before you knew it, we had three employees, and then five and then 15. We were able to scale because we weren’t trying to support every technology under the sun.”
In their early days, ITS had no problem telling customers no. But after a while the customers they served well in one area started asking them to expand to other tangential services. “It’s kind of like if you found a really great painter for one room and then make them paint every room in your house.” Today, ITS has expanded, but compared to its competitors still has a relatively limited purview. Their solutions span three distinct areas: IT security, IT systems management, and IT automation.
Today, ITS Partners counts 80 employees and customers in every time zone in the continental U.S. They do about $40 million in revenue. “Because we’re very specific about what we do, we can have a nationwide presence with a small staff,” says Wade.
Blueprint for Success
Wade says that early on he and his partners realized they were great technologists, but had less experience on the business side of things. “Very early on we adopted a process for running the business,” he says. “We followed this system to the letter of the law.”
Wade and his partners based this system on Verne Harnish’s book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits. “We followed this system 10 years ago,” says Wade. Today, Harnish’s second book, Scaling Up, is on the bookshelves of many early-stage companies.
The book outlines four key areas for success: establishing core values; determining the “why”; having a B-HAG (or big, hairy, audacious goal); and setting up a three-to-five year plan, a one year plan, and a quarterly plan that all work in sync.
“You take all of these things and put them into a single printable page,” says Wade.
Wade and his team thought long and hard about how to adopt a set of values that would speak to their employees and guide them through their decision-making. He outlines the five they chose. “We saw our competitors were very sales centric,” he says. So “engineer centric” became their first value.
The second value was simply, “be the best.” Says Wade, “We sort of stole that from GE.”
Third, “know your stuff.” Wade says you can’t be a technology consultant if you don’t.
Fourth, “have fun.” “We really live that one,” Wade says. “Back in the early days, we threw parties almost every day. We did crazy, wacky stuff. It was all part of the rewards system, but we had a lot of fun.”
Wade’s favorite value is a little more personal. His own version of the “no assholes rule” can be found in their fifth and final value, “no prima donnas.” Wade explains that to make a business like his work, everyone has to work together. “It can’t just be one person.”