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Building a bridge to success Featured

5:36am EDT January 27, 2006
After years of working for Accenture and PeopleSoft, Satish Shah fulfilled his dream by founding SkyBridge Global, a consulting firm specializing in Oracle, PeopleSoft and government solutions.

Shah, president of SkyBridge Global, started the company in 1999 with no partners, no clients and no venture capitalists, and has grown it to more than $10 million in revenue and 200 employees. Shah says he has built his business by developing relationships with clients and employees, and he acquired Meridian Systems Consulting, a huge contributor to SkyBridge Global’s growth, after he developed a relationship with one of the company’s founders.

Developing and maintaining those strong relationships has worked — SkyBridge Global has experienced a 40 percent growth rate over the past two years and is on track to continue that growth.

Smart Business spoke with Shah about overcoming the challenges that come with a fast-growth company.

How did you grow SkyBridge Global to $10 million in revenue in five years?
We started as a very small consulting company where it was completely based on relationships. I had relationships with several customers and because of relationships, we started with one customer, we did an excellent job and got great references. And we got a second customer based on references and word of mouth.

We were putting small teams, like one or two people, on projects. Gradually, probably with in two to three years, our name started getting around because of our quality and excellent customer satisfaction. Then we started taking on full-blown projects where we used full teams. We started with just one focus area initially, and then gradually started diversifying into several products.

We started consulting in PeopleSoft. I had several years of PeopleSoft experience. I started as a consultant myself on a project, billing full time and generating revenue. That’s how I grew my relationships with the customers.

What challenges have you faced as the company has grown?
The biggest challenges were how to support the growth. As we were expanding, we were getting new opportunities and had to find people to support the growth. The way I grew my company is I tried to hire people that I had already worked with in the past or through networking.

I wanted to find the right people, people who were quality and I knew that they had done some excellent work.

We hire experienced employees — people who have been in the field for three to five years at least, so they are up and running from Day One. We cannot hire people right out of college or people without any experience because our company is a second-tier consulting company, and when we get customers, they are not willing to have employees train on the job.

The next biggest challenge was cash flow. Trying to support that kind of growth is very difficult. I have grown this company without venture capitalists, without any debt, and I have no partners. I financed the whole business.

How did you overcome the cash flow problem?
My first year, we kept the overhead to a minimum. We hired one person to manage everything. We were able to generate a lot of cash and put that cash back in the business.

I was able to hire more people. Revenue started to go up, and I tried to keep my costs minimal. We didn’t have an office. Everybody was working remotely. Finally, last year we purchased an office building in Marietta. We moved there because it was becoming too difficult with so many people.

How was the acquisition of Meridian Systems Consulting Inc. important to your growth?
That was a very strategic acquisition for us, and it has worked out very well. We were looking for some company to help us grow. They have been a tremendous asset for us. It has been a year since we acquired that company, and it has generated a lot of new revenue and new customers for us.

One of the principles of Meridian Systems Consulting, Todd Murphy, is now managing our whole sales team. Most of the employees from Meridian are still working for us. We are very happy with them.

How did you decide that Meridian would make a good acquisition?
When I spoke with Todd, I realized he was exactly the type of person who matched the core values we believe in, which is integrity, honesty and fairness. He came off as a person with very high integrity, a straight-shooter.

When he came on board, it was very easy because that is what our company is based on. Obviously, he was running his organization with the same values.

It was a perfect match. We never had any cultural issues.

HOW TO REACH: SkyBridge Global, (770) 373-2300 or www.skybridgeglobal.com