Fast Track: Ann Arbor's fastest-growing companies continually invest in business
For business executives, summoning the will to invest in product development and marketing initiatives in the midst of an economic crisis can be daunting.
But the Ann Arbor region’s fastest-growing companies attribute their revenue growth to a sustained willingness to devote resources to innovation and sales efforts.
Ann Arbor SPARK distributed the “Fast Track” awards to 14 established, expanding companies at AnnArbor.com Business Review’s “Deals of the Year” ceremony Friday. To qualify for the awards - managed by SPARK and Weidmayer, Schneider, Raham & Bennett, CPAs - companies must maintain average annual revenue growth of 20 percent for three consecutive years. They also must report revenue of at least $100,000 in the first year.
Angela Cesere | AnnArbor.com
Yan Ness, CEO of Online Technologies, which received the Fast Track award for the fourth consecutive year, said the awards show that Michigan companies can beat the treacherous economic climate.
“You can grow a very healthy business in Michigan, you just have to make a few more dials,” Ness said. “Our people stepped up to the plate in a difficult economy and worked a little harder.”
Ness said his data center firm is hiring three marketing employees, bringing Online Tech’s personnel count to 20. He said it’s important to invest when you believe in a product.
“We think it’s not a good time to stop marketing,” Ness said. “There’s a lot of growth potential in our industry in Michigan. You just have to keep focused and be willing to manage your expenses.”
Ann Arbor supply chain management software firm LLamasoft, which received the Fast Track award for the second time, expects revenue growth of 20 percent to 25 percent this year.
Toby Brzoznowski, vice president of sales and marketing, said LLamasoft expects sales to accelerate in the fourth quarter as major corporations begin to relax their ultra-conservative spending stance.
LLamasoft has been steadily adding employees to its 25-person team, prompting the firm to move to a bigger office this fall in the First National building on Main Street.
“This is going to be our biggest year ever in terms of revenue and we continue to grow,” Brzoznowski said. “It has definitely been a challenging year in our space, just as it has been in every market. But the reality is it comments on the leadership position we’re starting to take in the supply chain strategic planning space.
“Many of our competitors have been either acquired or have slowed or stopped innovation. We’ve taken the exact opposite approach of continuing to invest.”
The awards come as Michigan’s unemployment rate of 15.3 percent remains the nation’s highest.
“We’re not economists at this office and we don’t pay much attention to that stuff,” Ness said. “We just place 10 percent more calls.”
Elizabeth Parkinson, director of marketing and public relations for SPARK, said the Fast Track awards illustrate that the economic crisis can’t uniformly suppress growth.
“A year ago, as a country we went through a financial collapse, yet we had 14 companies during that time frame that were able to maintain that kind of growth,” Parkinson said. “It’s really imperative for us as a community to acknowledge and to celebrate the companies that are growing.”
The 2009 Fast Track winners were:
Five years: Menlo Innovations.
Two years: LLamasoft and SRT Solutions.