It’s quite a feat when a company finds itself on the annual Inc. 500. To qualify in 2014, privately-held U.S. companies must have been generating revenue since at least 2010. The minimum acceptable revenue for that year was $100,000, while the minimum for 2013 was $2 million. The average revenue growth rate in that three-year span among Inc. 500 companies was 1,896 percent.
One of those companies this year can add another feather to its cap: Hall of Fame status.
I.T. Source, the Los Angeles-based technology services firm, became the 69th entrant to Inc.’s Hall of Fame--that is, the pantheon of businesses that have landed on the Inc. 500 at least five times since the magazine began tracking America’s fast-growing, private companies 33 years ago.
What’s more, I.T. Source has made the list five consecutive times. In 2013, the company pulled in $102.8 million in revenue, a 1,075 percent uptick since its $8.7 million figure in 2010. Over that period, I.T. Source also added 32 employees, reaching today’s tally of 40. It clocks in at number 444 this year; in the years prior, I.T. Source landed on the Inc. 500|5000 variously at numbers 179, 26, 46, and 135.
Not bad for a company that was founded 12 years ago by then-21-year-old Andy Kim. While so many of his millennial contemporaries are being written off as members of a “lost generation,” Kim has managed to not only run a successful business but do it consistently, year after year.
Now and Then
I.T. Source wears many hats. The company handles everything from wholesale telecommunications to credit card processing to web programming and graphic design. It may even venture into the fast food industry soon, too.
If you’re thinking this is a wide-ranging list for a small-to-medium enterprise--perhaps unsustainably so--you wouldn’t be alone. But to Kim, it all makes perfect sense. “If you look at what we do today, every one of the technologies and every one of the industries that we’re in leech off each other,” he confidently explains. “I just pay to maintain one infrastructure, and it feeds out to five different businesses.”
Kim was just a kid when the seeds for I.T. Source were sown. He became a computer technician for the Beverly Hills school district while he was still a student, then was hired straight out of high school as a network engineer for the technology company that would eventually become eFax. In his off-time, he fixed and built computers for friends--eventually splitting that off into a computer resale business in 2002. As the recession hit, hardware sales started to lose profit margins, leading Kim to relaunch his venture to its current form in 2008.
Now, his biggest concern is maintaining the type of growth that got him here--in fact, that’s the challenge he most worries about in the coming year. “I’m very skeptical, but at the same time, I’m very hopeful,” he says. “We’ve done tremendous volume over last several years... I think it’s come to the point where we need that one major push.”
A Winning Strategy
After the relaunch, Kim quickly learned what worked and what didn’t. That kind of trial-and-error still rules the roost today--even as the company has grown into a $70 to $100 million business.
Every new product at I.T. Source gets a trial period of three months. If Kim thinks it’s not going to do well after that, he discards it. If it requires little to no overhead to quietly keep running, he’ll throw it on the back burner.
His go-to example is a product called Voice for Korea, which provides unlimited calling to South Korea for $15 per month. It cost a lot more money to infiltrate the Korean-American market than Kim originally anticipated, so he shut down all peripheral costs. But since there was no money involved in maintaining the service itself--I.T. Source already had the server space, engineers and programmers--it kept running unpromoted. “Funny enough, people find out about it in their own way,” Kim laughs. “We even have clients that register today, when we don’t even spend a single dollar on marketing.”
The same approach applies to managing the company; multi-tasking is a must, Kim says. “I’d rather have one employee that will take on 10 jobs and get paid much more than have 10 employees each doing one job.”
Tom Park, the 32-year-old project and office manager, affirms that Kim’s philosophy has indeed permeated the company. “No one here is the type of person that says, ‘Oh, that’s not part of my job duties,’” says Park, who was I.T. Source’s first employee. “We all know that to have a company running on all cylinders, we have to help each other out,” he adds. “We have each other’s back.”
But bending over backwards for customers is what has put I.T. Source on the map. “I can’t think of too many relationships that I’ve ever had in my professional career that would come close to or perhaps even be comparable to the trust that I have in I.T. Source,” says Alex Sudarma, the director of technical services for JTRK Enterprises, one of I.T. Source’s longstanding clients.
Kim says that’s the I.T. Source difference. “A lot of these companies that we go up against are always about, ‘We’ll save you this much money, we’ll do this, we’ll do that, we do it better,’” he notes. “But sometimes they forget that it’s not about money, it’s not about this, it’s not about that. It’s simply about getting to know the person and their business. We lose a lot of that these days.”
But will this strategy carry I.T. Source through for years to come? “Every year, it gets harder,” Kim says. “We’ve got a couple things cooking right now that are coming out for development in the new year, software-wise. And if that does well, it very well may be that we could be a $500 million company.”