2019 SC 25 Fastest Growing Companies: No. 1 Orange Bees
LEADERSHIP Robert Sincavage | Founder & CEO, Corey Crowley | Founder & CTO
INDUSTRY Software Engineering
If someone were to make a movie about your company, what would be the story you'd want to tell?
(Robert Sincavage) It would be a story about two guys developing their careers and livelihoods independently but always loosely connected over the years. Both men at different times getting to the same crossroads in their respective lives. A place where each had the support of his family and the experience and the desire to start his own business, of wanting to test himself against the question "Could I make it work?" and being willing to try and fail but not being willing to leave that question unanswered. Eventually, they both thought it was the right time and right place to start a business together, and after a few years of hard choices, hard work, and many successes, Orange Bees thrives today.
What is the one thing that you would want others to know about your company?
First, that local matters. We buy local, hire local and do everything else we can to contribute to the local economy. Second, that our results are equal or better—usually better—than anything you will get from a big national firm. We hire top-level talent that compete with the best in their fields globally.
People think that they can buy a scapegoat by using the big consulting firms, but it is a very limiting and sometimes inherently destructive way to work. Our customers thank us routinely for taking ownership and being willing to come and meet with them personally.
How do you manage fast growth? What advice would you give to a company in growth mode?Â
Fast growth in a professional services business is very difficult to predict and almost impossible to "manage" proactively. It always feels like the growth is managing you, and you are being pulled along. The art is in the way we react and how we deal with always playing defense. It takes a good deal of patience and mental flexibility to be able to always be reacting while maintaining a sense of calm, confidence and grace. We regularly meet to discuss "what if this happens" in regards to our pipeline so that we have a few plays ready that allow us to be as prepared as possible.
What lessons did you learn the hard way? If you could go back five or 10 years, what advice would you tell yourself?
Don't allow yourself to get distracted. We have been inundated with great ideas and business opportunities that are all genuinely good ideas and probably great investments. But 10 years ago, I would have told myself: don't ever take equity over cash when you are a startup. There might be some tempting ventures, but laser focus and cash are needed for growth—period.
There are a lot of people out there who will sign contracts with you having no intention of living up to them. They know you won't have the resources to take them to court so it's just a ploy for them to get what they can from you. I know it's a bleak warning, but we learned this one more than once.
When starting a business, most people think about the direct impact to their lives. If you have a family, starting a business will affect them, and you need to understand what you are willing to sacrifice as a family. If you are kidding yourself by thinking your startup will not affect your family life, you could not be more wrong.
Don't discount yourself. Not every successful business leader is smarter or more connected than you are—most are not. Your talent, timing and market conditions come into play, but the ability to take tremendous risks and maintain sanity through the ups and downs are traits that sometimes edge out intelligence.
Don't give up after the first, second, third or even fourth major hurdle when starting a business. You may have chosen an industry with a high barrier to entry, and those initial hurdles are there to weed out the competition.
What is the secret to your success?
Well, everybody says "hard work" and that of course is true. All entrepreneurs put in incredibly long hours and invest their lives and families and all their resources into their business—taking on financial uncertainties and living on the edge for months and years.
For us specifically though, we take pride in maintaining technical currency. Being experts in our fields allows us to have real conversations with our customers about solving their problems.
We also respect and understand the strength of relationships. Corey and I have been able to make things work because each of us individually has made and fostered healthy business relationships over the previous 20 years of our corporate careers—relationships that allow customers to trust us, to take risks with us and to feel good about partnering with us in projects that are very important to their own businesses or careers.
Finally, our relationship with each other as friends and business partners—lending each other strength and wisdom when needed and always answering when the other calls. It certainly helps when you take on such a lonely endeavor to not have to do it totally alone.