Where are they now: recording with past RVA 25 winners

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The deadline for this year’s RVA 25, Richmond BizSense’s annual list of the region’s fastest growing companies, is August 13. In the spirit of the season, we have decided to reconnect with some of the best companies from the list of years gone by.

Below are excerpts from our recent conversations with a few. As you’ll see, while some have leveled off against the kind of exponential growth that put them in the top 25, growth is still very much on their minds – just like navigating the pandemic.

And if your business has experienced a growth spurt in the past three years, it’s not too late to make this year’s RVA 25 ranking. Click here to begin the submission process.

Achieve One topped the list in 2014. Revenue stabilized at $ 60 million per year. (BizSense File)

2014 : Reach a

The local IT company topped the list in 2014 with an impressive growth rate of 14,455%. In 2017, the company achieved annual sales of $ 72 million and took another important step forward by entering into a deal with Canadian private equity firm Ardenton Capital.

Mike thomas

CEO Mike Thomas said since then the company has stabilized at around $ 60 million in annual revenue. But he expects significant growth again as he finalizes a deal to acquire three undisclosed companies in the near future.

“We grew to astronomical levels for three or four years,” Thomas said. “To continue doing this, I took capital and sold a controlling stake in my business to get outside capital to help us grow. Overall, the business is growing.

Thomas had his concerns about COVID, but said the company was able to weather the storm.

“2020 hasn’t really been a bad year. It wasn’t our best year, but we had a good year. 2020 has been a good year in IT if you do the right thing, ”he said. “The IT space has slowed down, but the virtual office business has really taken off.

“We moved on to that coupled with our cloud strategy with Microsoft and Dell products, and it really took off for us as we started to go through COVID. We started this year strong in the first quarter. Now we are coming out with a little bit of capital behind us.

The three pending acquisitions will help the company grow in the Southeast and even Texas, Thomas said, and he expects significant growth once the companies combine.

“They will complement our cloud product and service offerings, and our side of the business will be added to theirs. I expect that we will have exponential growth within our customer base, as long as they bring products and services to our market and we bring products and services to theirs, ”he said. declared.

Thomas said if the capital injection continues, they have a growth target of around $ 500 million, which he says translates to net sales of between $ 24 million and $ 25 million.

More acquisitions would also mean more employees. Thomas said the company plans to have more than 70 employees over the next year.

“We still think growth is always in the market,” he said, “and we see a lot of opportunity in the market through acquisition and organic expansion.”

The founders of Workshop Digital, Andrew Miller and Brian Forrester. (BizSense File)

2015 : Digital Workshop

Richmond-based digital marketing company Workshop Digital experienced groundbreaking growth in the early 2010s, leading them to top the list in 2015 with a three-year growth rate of 398%.

Founder Andrew Miller said the focus on growth has continued.

“This is a continuation of our initial success, but we obviously dropped the RVA 25 because we are focusing on other internal measures of success and not just ranking sales. So far it’s all been organic growth, ”Miller said. “Our business has grown, our workforce has grown, we see all the signs and signals of a successful business. It also comes from the fact that we have matured as a business and stepped out of that revolving door of a small business where you just run to put out fires.

In January 2020, Workshop Digital moved its headquarters from Shockoe Slip to a location near Scott’s Addition. Miller said that at the time, they needed more space because they were quickly outgrowing their old desk.

“We have taken a logical step and extended our footprint. It was in January 2020. We all know what happened a few months later, ”he said. “Now, like everyone else, we’re trying to figure out what the hybrid workspace looks like. “

Miller said that due to their work-from-home situation over the past year and a half, Workshop Digital has been able to hire employees across the country and that a third of their workforce now resides outside of Richmond.

He said they were able to hire more senior industry executives and fill positions within the company.

Miller said being at the top of the list in 2015 and experiencing that level of growth was a challenge because they didn’t have a strong leadership team.

“Brian and I, as co-founders, focused on leading all of our teams, managing people, working with clients – and we quickly realized that in order to manage growth, we had to step back and let our teams manage growth and develop themselves as leaders so they can help move the business forward, ”he said.

“This has been the biggest lesson we’ve learned and the biggest change we’ve made is empowering our teams to become a strong leadership team rather than having two people do it all. “

Miller said they always expect aggressive growth as their teams grow and the clients they work with – around 100 companies, some of which are Fortune 500s – to continue to grow with them.

In the first few months of the pandemic, Miller said, they gave many of their customers more flexibility in fees and labor because they were more affected than Workshop Digital. He said that while it caused a drop in business, it was the right thing to do because those relationships were strengthened. But overall, Workshop Digital has grown even further in 2020.

In January 2020, co-founder Brian Forrester told BizSense that Workshop Digital was looking to reach 100 employees by 2025. Miller said they were still on track to reach that mark.

“Much of this growth over the next three years will be different from what we anticipated. We thought we would have 75-90% of our staff in the Richmond office, and now it looks like it’ll be a similar size and scale, and we’ll still have our headquarters in Richmond, but we’ve activated a workforce. remote work. “

He added, “Our hires will come from wherever we can find the best talent. In just a few short months, we have become a remote business while having the benefit of a full office with the technology, collaboration space and social aspect that people love to be together.

The RVA Restauration team, which was at the top of the list in 2017. (BizSense File)

2017: RVA catering

RVA Restoration was at the top of our list in 2017. The company started in 2014 and has experienced a growth rate of 4,737% over a three-year period. CEO Jeremy Ford said the hardest part of growing is keeping up with it.

Jeremy Ford

“If you constantly change your business model to keep pace with business, it becomes a very difficult task. It takes a lot more money than what we generate. We have never had the slightest chance of catching up financially with growth. As soon as the money came in, we spent it on more equipment, more vehicles, and more people. In 2019 we got to the point where we were so strapped for cash that we really had to stop the growth so that we could give ourselves a few years to become our own shoes, ”said Ford.

“We’ve done pretty much the same in terms of gross sales over the past three years. Including this year, we are on the verge of being a little above the same numbers. I think the most important thing for us was to improve efficiency, improve processes and make sure we had the right people in the right seats. “

He added, “As a young company, it’s a very difficult thing to say to a customer, ‘Hey, we’re just too full right now. I would love to manage your job, but we just don’t have the capacity to do it right now.

Ford said building relationships with other leaders in its industry has helped it tackle growing pains. He referred clients to similar businesses and shared the business.

“It seemed like it happened in a flash – our payroll doubled in size. It’s a weekly bill that you have to pay, along with payroll taxes. We got to the point where we were growing up and doing good things, but we were not allowing ourselves to make up our debts, ”he said.

For the past two and a half years, Ford has said its main goal is to stabilize the business and put its money in the right places. While many companies have slowed down during the pandemic, Ford said RVA Restoration has stable business. Despite this, he said 2020 is not the time to focus on growth.

“I’m not going to say it was easy or that we didn’t suffer financially at all. The hardest part of the pandemic for us was that the price of all materials and labor skyrocketed. In some cases the material has grown 200% from what it was, ”he said.


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