Few small businesses experience the kind of growth and change Bellevue-based RedCloud Consulting has witnessed in recent years.
What started in 1995 as a boutique consulting firm that served the local industrial, manufacturing, and aerospace industries changed gears when Brett Clifton, a former business consultant at Arthur Anderson, acquired the firm in 2011. Four years later, he partnered with Brett Alston, a former Microsoft executive, and rebranded the company to RedCloud Consulting.
“Brett (Clifton) and I had a vision of how to tweak things a little bit,” Alston said. “The cool thing about doing this again the second time around is you get to design it the way you want it to be. That’s kind of fun. We’ve started from a blank slate, and away we’ve gone.”
Along with a new name, the company pivoted away from the aerospace industry and toward business management consulting and technology services. Today, the company’s suite of services includes strategic planning, process improvement, project and IT product management, and marketing expertise.
In addition to several contracts with state and federal governments, RedCloud Consulting’s clients include F5 Networks, Savers (Value Village’s parent company), the clothing and apparel companies Buki and LumberUnion, and Healthcare Management Administrators.
According to Alston, the company’s staff grew from seven employees in 2014 to 85 employees in 2016, and its revenue grew from $1.2 million in 2013 to $10.7 million in 2017. The company employs more than 90 consultants.
Alston recently discussed RedCloud Consulting with 425 Business.
Q: What is one example of a company approaching RedCloud Consulting and needing your services and expertise?
A: We’re doing some work right now with a branch of the military, which, it turns out, has the same problems every other big organization does around supply chain and logistics, getting parts from one place to another, and on time. We’re able to help them by building some really cool analytics around forecasting what needs to be where and at what time, and looking around the corner into the future to say, “History is a predictor of the future. This part will wear out in 800 hours. You better get one on a slow boat to the Asia Pacific before that part goes out.”
It’s a great example of how we’re using some of that data technology and data visualization (to problem-solve for) the U.S. government.
We’re doing some Internet of Things (IoT) security work with a large travel retailer based in the Pacific Northwest. They have the same challenges as anyone else: thousands (of computers) physically connected to a network, and there are vulnerabilities and threat penetrations. We are figuring out some of the policies and procedures to make that nice and tight and secure for them.
Q: How do you account for redcloud consulting’s incredible growth?
A: We’re going out there and doing good work for our clients. We’re getting business from our clients and our clients’ referrals. We’re trying to be long-term greedy, not short-term greedy. Short-term greedy is, “I want to make a dollar today.” Long-term greedy is, “I want to do the right thing by that client today.”
We get more business from what I would call farming activity, than we do hunting activity. We have teams allocated to both. Hunting is your quintessential sales (people) going out and doing that work. Farming is working with existing clients and adding value. If you do one project well, then one leads to two, and two leads to four. We’re getting a lot more growth from the existing work that we’re doing.
We say no to clients, and that’s a nerve-racking thing. I’ve been doing this for 10 years. We never used to walk away from clients.
Q: When has RedCloud Consulting turned down a client?
A: It’s back to that hunting and farming analogy. We came in to do a particular project (for a client). The company said, “You did this well. Would you please take on this next area and keep going?” We ended up getting into some specific marketing-related activities. That’s just not in our wheelhouse. We’re not a branding firm. We’re not a public relations firm. That’s not our expertise.
We ended up having a conversation with the client and saying, “This isn’t the best for us. We’ll figure out a transition. We can make some referrals for you.” We didn’t walk off the job on Friday at 5 p.m. It was a managed transition. But that’s OK. That’s the long-term greedy aspect.
Q: How mindful are you of competitors? How does your company differentiate itself?
A: It’s a crowded market space. There are 200-something professional services firms in this area, including the big nationals and the multinationals. If we can continue to attract the best people, I think our growth will continue. It’s a people-driven product; it really is. We’re only as good as the people we hire. We can do our due diligence, make sure we’re hiring the right people, and give them the tools to be successful. At the end of the day, it’s that person that’s doing the job for us. If we can hire good people, enable them to be successful, and get out of their way, we’ll be just fine.
Q: What does the future look like for RedCloud Consulting?
A: At some point, you have to slow down. Growth for growth’s sake is not a driver. If we wanted to grow quicker, we probably could. We’re only putting the right people on opportunities. We won’t put the wrong person on the wrong project because the body will reject the organ. We are trying to be mindful and long-term greedy.
Where will we be in five years? We’ll continue to grow from depth and breadth perspectives. We’re building out our practice areas. Data visualization, AI, IoT — those are really big areas.
We’ll place bets on those. There’s probably going to be some geographic diversification in our future. We have clients with offices in other locations. As a logical step, if we can create a node and a cluster around one of those locations, we would grow that footprint.