Douglas R. Brown Featured

7:00pm EDT November 24, 2006

Peer pressure doesn’t bother Douglas R. Brown. When every other business was jumping into the dot-com world, Brown, CEO and co-founder of Fusion Alliance, didn’t stray from the meat and potatoes of his technology consulting company. Brown says he saw no ongoing viable business model behind many of the dot-coms, and that taking managed risks was a big reason his company was successful when the IT market took a hit. He advises others to take risks to respond to the marketplace, but not going so far out that the company is at risk. The 240-employee company continues to succeed, with 2005 revenue of about $26 million. Smart Business spoke with Brown about how to empower and listen to others and how to adjust after making a wrong decision.

Adjust rewards accordingly. The rewards tend to be promotion, stronger influence in the organization, more opportunity to grow and expand. If a project manager successfully delivers something and maybe had a set of challenges that were difficult and they delivered anyhow, the reward for them is more of those kind of opportunities that they find challenging.

It depends on the individual. That’s one of the things we stress to our management team. Don’t manage according to a book. Each individual has a set of things they value.

For some, it can be the availability to coach their kids in soccer or basketball is important. Others, it’s career-enhancing opportunities, or training, or it’s money. Know your staff, understand what is important to them on an individual basis, and manage them accordingly.

Hire strong leaders. Fundamentally, my style is setting the vision and the strategies for the organization, then grow that based on market research and trends. Then, hiring a very talented leadership team.

That team really needs to be good leaders themselves and share our culture. You need leaders who are not so concerned about who gets the credit, but they’re concerned about getting the job done.

Focus on your strengths. We don’t try to be everything to everybody, like some firms do. What we try to do is be the best at what we do. A big opportunity in our industry was Y2K work.

Even though we could have made a lot of money doing that work, we chose not to because we wanted to remain focused on where the market was heading.

As an a organization, I believe you have to have focus and decide what services you are going to bring to the marketplaces and focus on building the talent and the people to be the best at delivering whatever those focus services are. A lot of the firms tried to be the everything to everybody, a lot of those firms are the ones that went out of business.

Listen when faced with challenges. I do a lot of listening during those periods of time to my mentor network, and then listen to our senior leadership. The worst thing an organization can do, and I as a CEO can do, is assemble the talent we have assembled and not leverage that talent.

Once you get them in the organization, you have to leverage what they bring to the table and then, at some level, you have to turn them loose to let them execute and be successful as a team. Then formulate a strategy, and then the most important thing during those periods of time is focus. You have to focus on the execution once you have decided how you are going to face this and turn this around. You have to stay focused on doing what you said you were going to do.

Admit when you miss the mark, and adjust. We started a business line called Creative Services that we anticipated the market would buy more aggressively than they did. But what we did is, we shrunk that down to the size where we could sustain the work, and now that group is taking off in a substantial way.

The market caught up to where we thought it would be, but we had to slow it down for a period of time to respond to what the market was doing. We are very willing to say we misread the market.

A lot of our successes have come out of responding to those kinds of scenarios. Another example would be we have a products company as well, and we took the product to market exactly at the time when everybody’s IT budget shrank and they weren’t buying software. Again, we shrunk it down and responded to that proactively, and now that, as well, is ramping back up again.

When those failures or challenges do occur, that is what strengthens your organization because nothing gets an organization focused like having a downturn, and you have to respond to that. It leads to a strong organization.

In some cases, you hire the talent you need to ensure success in a particular area. You might have to readjust the skill set within the organization, and out of those challenges comes, from our experiences, a stronger organization.

Create confidence in the strategy of the organization. A challenge that we have had is through the down years, meaning 2000 to 2002, probably 70 percent of our competition went out of business. During that period of time, a lot of very talented people got laid off and sat out for a period of time.

That created a desire for them to join an organization they trusted that would not happen to again. Our reputation in the marketplace helped us a lot because we are the only firm in town, that I’m aware of at least, that did not lay anyone off.

We were able to grow when everyone else’s revenues were shrinking by 60 percent. We went from No. 8 in the city in terms of market share to No. 1, and that downturn in the market actually worked to our favor.

We targeted that high talent that shared our culture and values and brought them into the organization.

HOW TO REACH: Fusion Alliance, (317) 955-1300 or www.fusionalliance.com