At 28, Scott Rushton runs Stormloop Technologies, a boutique consultancy with more than $2.5 million in revenue. He specializes in a narrow niche: Helping clients and their teams manage cloud-based enterprise resource planning applications.
Rushton started out on the corporate track, working as a technical consultant at Mercer after earning his BA in ecology and evolutionary biology in 2015 from Princeton University and a Master of Management Studies at The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. Although he enjoyed his job, he felt the itch to go out on his own.
“I really enjoyed learning about businesses behind the curtain,” says Rushton. “What I learned about how companies operated behind the scenes motivated my interest in assisting with that.”
So Rushton began consulting as a contractor in 2018, winning business from a variety of well-known tech and financial services firms. In April 2018, he formed Stormloop Technologies.
The business, founded in 2018, took off and Rushton built it into a million-dollar, one-person business within the first year and a half, when he added his first team member.
Today, the business has two main revenue streams: (1) consulting with clients who are implementing enterprise management software and (2) a subscription-based product called Loopwatch that the company has designed to help clients identify the source of glitches in cloud-based software and to fix them on their own. “Services are our main source of business, but you’re limited by the hours in the day,” he says.
As work has poured in, Stormloop Technologies has grown to five employees. That puts it squarely into what I consider the Tiny Business, Big Money category: A business with a handful of team members that is racking up seven-figure revenue while still enjoying the nimbleness of a microbusiness.
So how did Rushton achieve so much so quickly? Here are some of the strategies he used to build the business.
Stay focused on a narrow niche. As Rushton built his consulting practice, he received many offers to help clients with a variety of projects. “If you’re good at one thing, everyone says, ‘Hey, you’re good at X. Do you do Y?”
Instead of pursuing all of these opportunities, he stuck with those he knew he could do 100% right on a consistent basis, betting that keeping the company focused on what it could do best would enhance its brand and reputation. “It’s a bit of a long game,” he says. Turning down certain opportunities so we can do quality work will increase our image and brand later.”
Seek references from well-known clients. Prospects for any business are often curious about who else you serve. Devoting some effort to winning clients that are a household name can go a long way. “Having strong brands as a client base and offering them as a reference is more valuable than your resume,” says Rushton.
Do your homework on pricing. Rushton had the advantage of starting a business in a field where he already worked, so he was familiar with the going rate for the types of services he offers. “We were at the sales table quite a bit, listening to what other consultancies were putting out there,” he says.
Although he priced his services competitively, he also avoided underpricing. “The quality work we are delivering is worth something,” he says. “I put it all on the line for my clients. If I say I’m going to get something done, I’ll do what it takes.”
Nonetheless, the company is flexible in meeting clients’ needs and customizes its offerings. “All of our deals are structured very differently,” says Rushton.
Put communication front and center. To keep his team aligned, Rushton holds a daily standup meeting for his team and uses Zoom and Slack to keep in close touch. “Some of our clients incorporate us in their daily or weekly meeting,” says Rushton.
Hire for people skills. One of Rushton’s first hires was his younger brother, who runs the firm’s adaptive planning practice. As he has grown his team, Rushton has sought talent with a combination of strong technical capabilities, versatility and the ability to bond with clients.“Everyone on the team is someone I would feel comfortable leading a team for a client,” he says. “I would feel comfortable all of them would represent the brand well.”