NXT: Why did you start Blueprint?
My business partner and I realized that the consulting model was completely broken.
There was a gap separating the two types of firms serving the industry: on the one side you have the high-end strategy firms that offer no implementation (think McKinsey, BCG, etc.), and on the other side you have the implementation companies with 10s of thousands of employees that are essentially low-cost, offshore body-shops.
Hiring one of the two doesn’t always work. Many clients are wary of consultants who come up with a great-sounding strategy but are not accountable for the success or failure of its implementation.
When they bring someone to implement the plan, numerous issues come up and at the end it can be a very painful experience that delivers only a fraction of the promised benefits. Also, many staffing companies bring scale to the table, but this requires companies to be experts in the technology behind the solution, which is tough.
We saw this gap in the market and decided to combine the two.
NXT: So what do you do for clients?
We do the strategy consulting, where we come in and put together a plan that solves one of our client’s challenges or addresses a strategic opportunity. We then hold ourselves accountable for the success of the plan. Typically, our solutions involve cutting edge technology or a new way of addressing a problem. We help our clients transform digitally.
We actually made a conscious decision that, if we did things right by our clients and made sure we delivered amazing ROI for them, they would keep coming back for more projects.
NXT: How do you stay ahead in a tech-driven market?
Even though we’re a young company, we’ve been constantly evolving. We started off building custom software and implementing 3rd-party solutions. Then we were working on strategic planning and change management. And finally we’ve become focused on the digitization of business operations.
You have to maintain a trusted partnership and listen to your clients’ problems, then keep evolving to address them. It’s a balancing act of impeccable execution while keeping an eye on “what’s going to be the next chapter of the company” because competition is everywhere.
We currently work a lot with mid/upper market enterprise companies that want to transform and achieve more growth, take advantage of market conditions, or change because they’re feeling market pressure.
These companies typically don’t want to make another big investment in technology but know that it can make them much more efficient.
NXT: And why do they turn to you instead of competitors?
There are 2 key reasons: 1) we have a deep understanding of their business, and 2) we can provide the digitization strategy AND implement the solutions.
We don’t have any sales people. When we walk into a meeting, the point person usually has about 10 years of experience in the industry. So we can quickly get in our clients’ shoes and understand their problems.
Also, our technology experts live and breathe all the solutions. We adopt the latest technologies out there and become certified experts in them. Our teams test the new tech combinations in house before rolling them out to clients, which makes it so our partners don’t have to take that risk.
When you put industry and tech expertise together, the result is that you recommend the best solution – the solution that is going to work and drive business value.
NXT: But there are some heavyweights in the space like Cognizant, Accenture, etc. How are you different from them?
From a high level view, every industry is saturated. But if you look closer, there are usually big gaps and great niches of opportunity. We actually don’t compete with any of these companies (in fact, we often partner with them).
The behemoths in the space have to come in and pitch technologies that have been around for 5+ years because they have 10s of thousands of people and that’s how long it takes them to build expertise in consulting and implementing a technology. This makes it extremely difficult for them to stay on the cutting edge.
In contrast, we focus on the latest technologies, and we don’t stick with one platform. This allows us to be more nimble and integrate technologies faster into our offerings. We focus on solutions that drive business outcomes, not on just getting the technology to work.
In turn, this means that we can future-proof our clients’ businesses and deliver extraordinary results.
NXT: You went from $1mm in sales in 2013 to $22mm in 2015… what’s the secret sauce here?
Our team has been having an amazing year and we’ve actually been doubling every year since 2013 which as put us on track to do $100mm this year.
We try to keep revenue growth simple and sustainable. We work primarily with companies that want to transform and we deliver cutting-edge tech solutions with demonstrable ROIs. And when you combine strategy with implementation, you can help clients realize much-improved performance.
We identify the areas that will have the most impact for our clients. We do high-growth consulting and implementation for these companies. And we often run their growth strategies. A company may want to accelerate in preparation for an IPO in a couple of years – we can really help them achieve that milestone.
Another great thing about our approach is that we’re platform and technology agnostic. We don’t represent one specific vendor, and we’re not married to one solution or technology. This makes us very flexible and diverse, the opposite of a pure play provider.
Our cross functional capabilities have been a pillar to our growth, because we typically start at one department, digitize its processes, demonstrate results, and then expand into other departments replicating the solution.
As tech growth experts, we use all these strategies and solutions to fuel our own growth too, which shows in our results. In effect, we’re our own case study.
NXT: Just to get a better idea of what you can do for a potential client, can you share a couple of case studies?
We recently worked with a global manufacturing company that wanted to get better visibility into the effects that their inefficient financial systems were having on their bottom line. Their legacy system was relatively antiquated and they had cobbled together different systems over the years. They wanted to upgrade their systems to have better end to end visibility and monitoring.
But upgrading their entire SAP infrastructure would be a traumatic multi-year solution, and there were significant gaps that their current systems couldn’t resolve.
We implanted our data platform over the top of the company’s existing disparate systems allowing business users to define and monitor the efficacy of all of its business processes. Implementation took 6 months, and the result was that we improved dramatically their period-end reconciliation, cash conversion cycle, etc. saving them $10mm a month in terms of decreasing labor hours and realizing missed opportunities.
Oil & gas prices won’t be going up any time soon. Almost every company with exposure in this industry have been getting hammered over the past 3 years and they have to make major improvements in their operations to survive. This often means investing in new software and technology to improve their bottom lines.
A large oil and gas company hired us to lead its digitization plan. We worked with their team to co-develop a strategy that would be right-sized for their company and move at a pace that would be effective for them. We also handled the implementation providing them enterprise product implementation, custom tooling, staff training, and custom software to digitize all of their major business systems. We also built a middleware system that helped connect all of their critical legacy applications in a light-weight real-time manner.
The results in the energy industry are astonishing. This client has been working on their digital strategy for over a year, and, after hiring Blueprint, has improved overall efficiency by 30% and doubled their ROI.
Amazon is putting pressure on every traditional brick and mortar retailer. We bring the tech to help them become more efficient and compete without having to retool their supply chain or opening more stores or investing in equipment. we recently worked with a retailer that has a strong online and brick and mortar presence. This client was struggling with reducing costs and consistency throughout their entire supply chain as well as getting effective inventory delivery to its stores and ultimately its customers.
We developed a set of strategic solutions that interconnected the different critical components of its supply chain to cure inefficient transactions and optimize the flow of product to the right customer at the right time. Our solutions improved revenue and saved costs in the millions of dollars per month.
NXT: Where do you see your next opportunities for growth… what’s in store for your future?
We opened Blueprint Labs this year, which is our product development division. We help clients with their strategy, present them with a menu of options to digitize their processes, and we often propose a semi-custom solution that will work even better.
The client can own the IP to that solution, or we can develop it and sell it to other clients to lower the overall cost. We’ve been doing that with a couple of solutions we developed internally for ourselves and now we’re marketing to potential clients.
NXT: What gave your this idea to become a product company, and why do you think it’s actually a good idea?
There is a shift happening in the world. Fortune 500 and enterprise-level clients don’t want fully-custom software developed for them because it requires a lot of internal development resources and there is a high cost of maintenance.
They’d rather stick to their core business model and have a 3rd party develop software that solves their problems.
We have always developed custom software for our clients so this was a natural transition once we recognized the shift that was occurring in the market.
NXT: Who was your first client and why did they need you?
It was a software company. Even for a tech company, this is actually a pretty common phenomenon.
In many cases, companies have internal talent to develop custom tools, but they are normally experts in one particular tech stack and don’t have a good understanding of how disparate systems integrate. Another problem is that these groups have a tough time communicating company-wide so they end up with redundant tools and different variations.
We consolidated all of these activities and technologies and the client got one product creating a seamless experience across multiple business units.
This allowed our client to focus on the core of what their employees should be working on. We specialize in complex data acquisition and visualization, which isn’t an area that most companies have expertise.
NXT: What is one of your biggest challenges these days?
The race for talent. We are constantly adding to our big-data science division, which is one of the most competitive areas for talent. Bringing in unique thinkers and training them to be consultants and trusted advisors helps us build amazing products for our clients.
But we’re across the street from Amazon and a couple of blocks from Microsoft… it’s tough for us to compete. But we don’t go down the “perks” route of offering table tennis and sleeping pods. We explain that they’re going to build really cool stuff and be fulfilled. Our employees get to work on things they are passionate about. We don’t hire people who are interested in what they get, we hire people interested in what they can do.
We are also constantly trying to define the WHY for Blueprint. As part of that effort, we started a pro bono program. We partner with non-profits in the Seattle area to do tech enablement through in-kind donations by our teams instead of donating dollars.
For example, we recently did a completely revamp of a non-profit’s website to drive more donations and signups, all as an in-kind donation.