Bill Wade makes a point of spending five minutes each morning with his cats, Ziggy and Marley.
"They have opposite personalities," says Wade, who is the co-founder and CEO of business resource hub, Company.com. "One is friendly, but the other we call 'the one-night stand.' When the lights go, out he's a lover, and when the lights come up, he runs away."
This unique morning routine, during which he commits to loving the less-friendly feline, is about more than just being humane to his pet. The one-on-one time helps ground him and train his focus on the day's many tasks, he insists. For proof of its effectiveness, just take a gander at Company.com's revenue growth. In three years' time, Wade has managed to grow his seven-year-old company more than 23,400 percent, to $33 million in annual sales, up from just $141,481 in 2012. That trajectory also puts the company squarely at the top of the Inc. 5000--landing it at No. 5 on this year's list.
Behind the brand
Naturally, Wade's pets can't take all the credit. Company.com primarily makes money through a subscription model. Businesses pay a monthly fee for access to its social network, where they can communicate with employees, existing customers, and suppliers. (A more basic version of the network can be accessed for free.) They can also pay for additional resources through Company.com, such as payments processing, legal assistance, or accounting.
So far, the company has lured about 21,000 subscribers onto its platform, and boasts an additional 31,000 customers that are paying for the additional tools. It costs between $1 and $16 per month, on average, to use the network. Today, Wade notes, many of his services are sold as packages through third-party companies.
"The way to think about it would be like a Slack meets Facebook meets LinkedIn," Wade explains of the model. "We provide the ability for businesses to interact and collaborate with internal staff, as well as set up public and private groups that let businesses engage with customers and distributors."
In the last year, Company.com has made some notable updates. (Previously, in 2015, it was the No. 10 fastest-growing private company in America.) For starters, it rolled out a "business suite," offering bundled services to businesses in specific categories (i.e., a "retailer bundle" and "restaurant bundle"). Wade says that this is currently his fastest-growing business segment.
Also in the last year, Company.com opened a fifth office location in Chicago to help manage its marketing efforts. There, Wade hired salespeople with experience in "big box retail" (i.e., superstores, such as Walmart and Best Buy) to woo larger clients onto the platform. Company.com is headquartered in Atlanta, with additional offices in Miami, Washington, D.C., and Rockwell, Maryland.
Prior to launching Company.com, Wade helped grow Verus, a financial services firm, to achieve more than $8 billion in transaction volume, before ultimately selling it to Sage Payment Solutions for $325 million in 2006.
Wade stayed on as vice chairman of Sage after the acquisition, where he was asked to build out a team to cross-sell additional services.
"The idea [for Company.com] came out of the difficulty in actually executing that strategy," Wade says. "We had the model on paper, and an embedded customer base, but then when you started dealing with an organization that has more than 15,000 employees, actually implementing a program to broaden that offering was very difficult."
So Wade got in touch with colleagues at major corporations including SAP and Microsoft--which he terms "friendly competitors" to Sage--and quickly discovered that they, too, were finding it hard to sell a broader suite of services without distracting from the core product.
"I realized there might be a way of doing this as a third party, cloud-based service, which would provide a better experience for the customer," Wade says.
Plus, he admits that he prefers the environment of a startup to the executive team of a multinational corporation. "I've either co-founded or invested in 25 companies over the course of my career," Wade adds. "Sage is a great company, but I knew for me that the politics of a big organization wasn't something that was in my DNA."
Inasmuch as working with a small team bonds the executive closer to his employees, Wade is grateful that each day starts with his cats.
"It grounds me in providing affection to others," he says of the morning routine. "Most days get a bit crazy with lots of balls in the air, so every bit of 'grounded' helps."