In 2007, Bryan Barber and Jeff Taylor were working in the same office in Marin County, Calif., but for different companies. Barber-;a telecom sales veteran with more than 20 years' experience-;was working for OnFiber, while Taylor, who had worked in IT for just as long, was running his consulting and staffing firm, Ascend Quality Partners, out of the same co-working space.
“We both had similar values and interests,” Barber remembers. “We immediately had a good solid bond and became friends.”
It wasn’t long before the two decided to form an IT firm of their own. Each contributed $20,000 to get Advantis Global Services up and running. This year, Barber projects the company will take in more than $50 million in revenue.
Barber and Taylor saw the recession as a business opportunity. Companies were downsizing IT staffs as a way to keep costly employees off the books, but IT work still needed to be done. The Advantis founders thought they could capitalize on this trend by offering low-risk, cost-effective IT solutions. “Both of us were very confident we could get the right clients and pull market share away from competitors,” Barber says.
Plenty of other entrepreneurs have had the same idea. More than 25,000 IT consulting firms opened up shop between 2007 and 2012, hoping to capitalize on the IT dilemmas of other firms. Another 20,000 are expected to do so in the next five years. Barriers to entry are low, and the potential for return on investment is high.
Advantis, however, appears to have been singularly successful. From the company’s launch, in 2007, to 2010, Advantis increased its revenue to $24.1 million from $265,935. That's a 8,972% increase, landing Advantis on the Inc. 500. Advantis now has offices in Minneapolis and Charlotte, North Carolina in addition to San Francisco, and plans to open branches in Austin and Chicago this year. The company has 55 full-time employees, and, at any given time, up to 300 part-time contractors. “Our goal is to get this company to $500 million in the next five to seven years,” says Barber.
From its beginning, Advantis has focused on diversifying its client base as much as possible. Its clientele includes mid-major and Fortune 500 companies in finance, health care, education, and, most recently, retail, which now constitutes a quarter of the company’s business.
Although Advantis’s initial growth was a product of the recession, Barber believes an economic recovery will help the company as well. He says IT staffing and consulting thrives in an upturn as much as it does in a downturn. After all, who can resist a boom?
JOHN MCDERMOTT is a business and culture reporter whose work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune and Playboy and on AOL.com. He recently moved from Chicago to Brooklyn, New York, to work for Inc.com. @J_M_McDermott