Diversity for survival

In 1998 and 1999, during the heyday of the dot.com boom, Technology Consulting Corporation (TCC) had more than 300 employees. The Pewaukee-based information technology staff augmentation company was riding high.

But by 2005, well after the dot.com bubble had burst, the company had less than 40 employees. Many of its former competitors were out of business.

John Markworth, owner and founder of TCC, needed something to differentiate his company. In 2005, he sold it to Adonica Randall, a longtime business acquaintance.

Today, TCC is known as Connection Strategies Enterprises Inc. (CSEI), with Randall as its president and Markworth as chief operating officer. The company is one of the few local IT firms owned by an African-American woman.

“When I bought TCC in 2005, it was financially failing,” Randall said. “When we did the business plan, we looked at our competitors and 60 percent of them were gone. The IT industry took a hit over a five-year stretch. John was one of a few left standing, but barely.”

The sale of the company to Randall enabled the firm to attract business from companies looking for diverse suppliers.

“Our multi-decade relationship made him comfortable enough to do something unique,” Randall said. “And we’ve come out on the other side with both of us.”

CSEI is based in Pewaukee and has satellite offices in Green Bay and Chicago. CSEI’s number of employees has nearly quadrupled since the sale of the company to Randall, and it now offers project management, network service and managed services – areas that will enable the firm to work with clients on a more sophisticated, valued level and give it better growth prospects for the future, Randall said.

The company has doubled its revenues since it formed in 2005, from $4 million to $8 million.

“We deliver solutions, not just people,” Randall said. “We deliver solutions with people now.”

When TCC was turned into CSEI in 2005, it had 37 employees. Today it has 112, and the company is looking for more new workers.

“We have a $10 million backlog of orders,” Randall said. “We could be at $10 million in the first quarter next year if we could find the resources.”

Earlier this year, CSEI began working with Manpower Inc.’s Diversity Supplier program, which helps woman and minority-owned staffing firms become partners with the Milwaukee-based global staffing firm.

Instead of trying to develop its own competencies in processes such as IT project management and managed services, Manpower partners with firms like CSEI to bring solutions to its clients.

“We already have the process for professional services,” Randall said. “And if we don’t do it, we’ve got the processes in place and we know where all of the dark alleys are in this stuff. Manpower understands and has embraced that. They understand that concept… going outside to get the people who are experts in the things you are not.”

“(Project work) is generally driven because some organization has a business issue that can be resolved by automation,” Randall said. “What they choose to do is to investigate their business need and align it with a technology solution. (We get involved) when it involves a process re-engineering or code. We’re not good at selling a product. We’re good at building one for our clients.”

Instead of finding temporary workers to manage an upgrade or transition to a new software system, the CSEI main business model sends several of its employees into customers’ businesses to help them write new software, develop an automated process solution or solve a long-term technological issue.

“This is low-volume, highly specialized placement,” Randall said. “The customer is our partner in the selection process.”

Connection Strategies Enterprises Inc.
Address: N28 W23050 Roundy Drive, Suite 2A, Pewaukee
Industry: IT managed services, project management, process and custom software engineering.
Revenues: $8 million for 2007
Employees: More than 110
Web Site: www.csei-usa.com

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