When Darren Anthony, Kristian Firth and Caleb White met up for beers after work one day in the spring of 2015, it was more than just a casual get-together for the former colleagues in the IT consulting industry.
It was the beginning of what’s turned into one of Ottawa’s most dramatic business growth stories of the past three years.
The three friends got to talking about how IT consultancies tended to fit into certain boxes. Some were good at staffing projects quickly and cost-effectively. Others were boutique-style firms focused on specific areas of expertise.
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None, the veteran IT consultants felt, were meeting all the needs of clients as effectively as they could. Today, Anthony, Firth and White are trying to do just that as partners in one of Ottawa’s fastest-growing companies, GCstrategies.
“We listened to what the market was saying and what our clients were saying about what would help them be more successful,” Firth says. “We decided to take a risk and leave our jobs and build this company to help our clients.”
Ottawa’s Fastest Growing Companies:
Year founded: 2015
Product/service: IT consulting, solutions
Three-year revenue growth:676.4%
The three founders have tapped into their wide networks to forge key partnerships with firms such as Ottawa-based Lixar, which builds platforms for mobile devices and has expertise in such emerging tech fields as artificial intelligence and data science.
GCstrategies works with partners including Lixar and others to help clients deliver IT solutions to a range of customers, mostly in the federal government.
Firth says those projects can encompass everything from artificial intelligence to cybersecurity.
“We have the ability to pivot quickly and engage three or four of our partners to deliver a turnkey solution,” Firth explains.
“Ottawa’s leading the market (in tech development) in so many ways, but the companies don’t know how to break into the federal government because there’s contracting and procurement minefields.”
“Ottawa’s leading the market (in tech development) in so many ways, but the companies don’t know how to break into the federal government because there’s contracting and procurement minefields that just put everybody off immediately. We kind of come in to show the way.”
In just three short years, that approach has helped the bootstrapped venture land clients such as Adobe, the Beer Store, the LCBO and TD Bank. The firm is currently in talks with several Middle Eastern airlines to help them deliver contracts at a number of airports in that part of the world.
“We’re not bringing forward a solution and hoping there’s a problem,” says Firth, a native of southern England who graduated with an architecture degree from the University of Plymouth and was coaching rugby in Barbados when visiting players from Canada convinced him to move to the Great White North.
“We listen to the problem and bring forward a solution, which is what people aren’t used to. And it’s resonating very well. We’re now at the stage where companies are coming to us because they’re hearing about how we’ve expanded one of our partners’ sales. We’re getting a lot of great feedback, cold calls coming in from companies saying, ‘We hear what you’re doing for these guys. Would you be interested in bringing us on?’”
GCstrategies has just added a new person to its team and is looking to hire more, but Firth says he and his partners aren’t aiming to create a massive firm with hundreds of workers.
“I’m not going to say that (profit) margin isn’t important, but primarily for us, we want to build a reputation on having 100 per cent delivery,” he says. “To me, success is a successful project and a happy client – not a 500 headcount with a million dollars gross margin a month.”
Three years after their fortuitous meeting, the partners haven’t regretted their decision.
“We’re just having a lot of fun,” Firth says. “We’re making a difference and we’re helping our clients.”