Sparkhound Bites Into $100 Million Revenue Goal

December 01, 2014

These days, there's no such thing as a short-term business plan for technology solution provider Sparkhound, a Microsoft Gold Partner that cracked CRN's exclusive top solution provider ranking several years ago.

Every investment or process change is scrutinized for long-term implications. If an idea can't scale, it probably isn't happening.

Founded in 1998 and now doing business in three locations (including its Baton Rouge home base and offices in Houston and Dallas),Sparkhound currently generates about $30 million in annual revenue. That achievement makes it No. 474 on the 2014 CRN Solution Provider 500 list.

Its name comes from "spark" (symbolizing its ability to drive innovative ideas) and "bloodhound" (representing an ability to sniff out what clients need during consultations). Its corporate motto: "the 'Sparkhound' is focused squarely on helping our clients realize the technology solutions they seek—whether it’s Web and application design, technology outsourcing or cloud computing." Two marquis accounts include Jones Walker, one of the largest law firms in the Gulf South with about 750 employees; and the back office for the Dallas Stars hockey team.

Like other integrators, Sparkhound's next phase of growth will be tied closely to skills and services that help businesses unload processes related to managing IT infrastructure—so they can concentrate on technology investments that help improve or transform their workflows and operational processes.

Internally, this plan is called the "10 in 10" strategy, according to a senior Sparkhound executive. "Our vision is 10 offices and being more than $100 million in the next 10 years," said Noah Boudreaux, a nine-year company veteran who was recently named to the new position of Chief Administrative Officer.

Infused With External Insight

Boudreaux was previously the chief operating officer, a position now held by Patrick Thompson, who started his career at Accenture. Thompson also served in management positions at healthcare services company Amedisys and construction specialist Turner Industries.

"The COO and CAO roles will enable us to continue building upon our mission to make a meaningful impact in our customers' businesses and employees' professional development, while growing our IT services and support footprint," said Sparkhound President and CEO Shawn Usher, commenting on the appointments at the end of October.

The new management structure, along with another key hire who brings customer-side experience, are meant to accelerate Sparkhound's ability to achieve its ambitious goal—a revenue mark few entrepreneurs (let alone technology solution providers) ever manage to reach, Boudreaux said.

"We were looking for exposure to other companies that have gone through similar periods of aggressive growth," he said.

As CAO, Boudreaux's focus is on introducing process changes and new technologies that will help Sparkhound scale. "We need to make sure that each process is aligned with the company that we want to be 10 years from now," he said.

Among the tools his team has embraced so far: Tenrox, a cloud-hosted application for professional services automation; and Cornerstone OnDemand, a cloud solution for talent management.

Picking Partners

By investing in software as a service to run its own business, Sparkhound will glean valuable insights that it can help impart to clients pondering their own transition to the cloud. "Our lead is to be educational, to help make them feel more secure with this choice," Boudreaux said.

For that reason, the integrator has been very careful about forging strategic vendor relationships. Microsoft has been the go-to partner since the company's inception, and it has joined the software giant in embracing cloud infrastructure and software as a service. Alliances with Amazon Web Services, Citrix and Rackspace Hosting also factor heavily in Sparkhound's services.

There's no specific framework that defines "strategic," rather they are chosen based on a vendor's alignment with Sparkhound's business priorities and the potential for driving future revenue, Boudreaux said.

Culture Of Self-motivation

When it comes to hiring and employee development, Sparkhound offers training that focuses on both technical skills and on helping its 200-plus employees become better consultative advisors to its clients, especially as the company moves upstream into larger midsize accounts.

"We feel it's important that our team get both professional and consultative development," Boudreaux said.

Recruits are picked for their commitment to putting the customer first, a hallmark of the Sparkhound culture. Along the same lines, Sparkhound's non-profit charitable foundation may originally have been created by its top executive, but employees are responsible for choosing selected causes and organizing the response to them. Self-motivation is a big mantra.

Tying into its corporate branding, the company seeks to create "ferocious talent, bred for service." Its rising-star employees are known as "Sparkies," and the company communicates to both its internal and external pack (if you will) of partners, customers and employees through a forum called "Doghouse."

Silly, perhaps, but also memorable and intended to help all of those communities feel a closer connection with the Sparkhound vision. To illustrate his point, Boudreaux quotes one of CEO Usher's favorite sayings: "If the work isn't fun, we're doing something wrong."


As printed online in IT Best of Breed, 

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