Small business: PowerObjects is fueled by its focus and values

  • Article by: TODD NELSON , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 10, 2014 - 3:38 PM

Betting the company on a single product and sticking to core values helped tech consulting firm PowerObjects break out of a rut.

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PowerObjects CEO Dean Jones, left, and COO Jim Sheehan showed off an open working area in the business technology consultants’ North Loop headquarters.

Photo: Richard Sennott • richard.sennott@startribune.com,

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Doing everything meant going nowhere for PowerObjects, a business technology consulting company in Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood.

Aiming to be the best in the world at just one thing, however, has helped transform PowerObjects in just five years, driving exponential sales growth, international recognition and a continuing hiring challenge.

PowerObjects, which previously did a wide range of customer business application development, now offers nothing but service, support, education and add-ons for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, which organizes and automates customer relationship management, sales, marketing and other business processes.

Since that change, revenue has shot from $2 million or $3 million a year to more than $15 million last year and is projected to top $25 million this year. Clients range from start-ups to large enterprises and include HealthPartners, Enventis and Kelly Roofing.

Betting the company

“We bet the company on it, overnight,” Jim Sheehan, chief operating officer and principal, said of what he terms the company’s “fanatical focus” on a single product.

Employment has risen rapidly and continues growing, with the total recently reaching 210, up from 142 at year end. The staff includes people from 14 countries and speakers of 27 languages. The company has opened offices in Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, New York, Omaha, Philadelphia and Seattle.

PowerObjects took home the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Worldwide Partner of the Year award in 2012 and 2013 and was a finalist this year. It ranked sixth among small companies in the Star Tribune’s recent Top Workplaces 2014 project.

The company’s greatest challenge is finding skilled people to hire, Sheehan said. To develop its own candidates, PowerObjects launched programs to train both newcomers with no technology background and experienced consultants in the ways of Microsoft CRM.

PowerObjects sought to break out of a decadelong run in the mid-2000s, when Sheehan and CEO and founder Dean Jones developed the company’s core values: always add value, think team, love what you do, live the technology and do the right thing.

“It’s the way we hire, the way we fire, the way we attract the right kind of people,” Sheehan said.

‘Fanatical focus’

Next came the “fanatical focus” on one solution. That took shape as PowerObjects’ leadership team worked with local consultant Mike Paton of Achieve Traction to adopt the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), a holistic management model. Paton last year wrote a book, “Get A Grip,” with EOS developer Gino Wickman, who presented the EOS model in his book, “Traction.”

PowerObjects has enjoyed greater success with EOS than some companies because Jones and Sheehan have taken it seriously, Paton said.

“All EOS did was help them shine a light on the tough decisions and the hard work that was necessary,” Paton said. “They used it effectively to make those decisions and execute, and they get the credit for that.”

Celia Gust, project manager and business analyst for Carver County information services, said the county saved more than $100,000 by having PowerObjects customize Microsoft Dynamics CRM to automate its permitting system, compared with off-the-shelf software. While that’s outside Dynamics CRM’s usual sales and marketing application, PowerObjects didn’t hesitate to work with the county.

“We get a system that works for us instead of us working for the system,” Gust said of the Microsoft product. “PowerObjects is a great partner because they’re not afraid of what we’re doing. It just keeps saving us money and making things work better.

PowerObjects has exceeded expectations in its work with AbeTech, a bar code and radio-frequency identification (RFID) developer in Rogers, said Nicky Schmidt, director of operations and information systems. “Their culture is a great match for AbeTech and our partner expectations,” Schmidt said.

  • PowerObjects

    Business: Business technology consulting company offers service, support, education and add-ons for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, a customer relationship management solution for organizing and automating sales, marketing, customer service and other business processes.

    Founded: 1993

    Headquarters: Minneapolis

    Website: www.powerobjects.com

    Employees: 210

    Executives: Dean Jones, CEO, founder; Jim Sheehan, chief operating officer, principal; Alex Fagundes, chief information officer, chief technology officer; Steve Thompson, vice president of sales; Gretchen Opferkew, director of education; Biplab Mandal, director of solution delivery; Jo Ann Buckholz, chief financial officer; Jeff Wedren, director of marketing

    2013 revenue: More than $15 million; more than $25 million projected for 2014

    Strategy: Maintain “fanatical focus” on Microsoft Dynamics CRM, reinforce core values, support internal program to train new and experienced consultants to continue hiring to keep pace with growth.

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