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Say ‘Hello’ to your SBLY 2012

Why Chad Perce was chosen as your 2012 Small Business Leader of the Year (SBLY)

By Wendy Bautista

Chad Perce, CEO and co-founder of iMethods (www.imethodsinc.com) and your Small Business Leader of the Year for 2012, began his business education before he could drive when he launched his first startup—a neighborhood lawn care empire in his hometown of Lake Mary. Even then, at the age of 15, he learned about the importance of delivering for the customer. “It was quickly apparent to me that the best way to earn and keep clients was to work hard and pay attention to the details,” says Perce.

Those early insights have served him well. Since founding iMethods’ original iteration, Medical Methods, in 2004, Perce and his business partner Clint Drawdy have grown the company from a clinical staffing firm with two full-time employees to an award-winning Information Technology (IT) recruiting and consulting corporation with a sizable staff and projected revenues of more than $10 million for 2012.

A push start

“I would love to say that iMethods was born out of a long and highly scientific market study, but it really grew out of a confluence of skills, experience and opportunity, given an extra push by a dare,” says Perce. “Clint and I had strong combined backgrounds in IT and recruiting and we’d dreamed of starting our own company since the late 1990s.”

Perce says iMethods might still be a dream if their wives didn’t challenge them to “put up or shut up” at a family barbecue, which was also about the time an existing client helped him identify a need for clinical staffing in the medical field.

Energized by the opportunity and the challenge, Drawdy and Perce started Medical Methods in January 2004, recruiting physical, occupational and speech therapists for national and local clients.

Based on their existing relationships with Baptist Health and Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital, Medical Methods was ahead of the demand for contract therapy services, which put them on the leading edge of the market and well in front of their larger competition.

“Our good timing, positioning and newfound expertise in the medical therapy market allowed us to launch nationally with clients such as RehabCare, Heartland and Tenet,” says Perce. “We achieved annual revenues of $415,000 our first year with just two employees—myself and Clint—doing all the selling as well as operating and delivering for our clients. Three years later, that business reached its peak at $3.6 million in annual revenues.”

Making changes

As the market matured and competition pushed margin and supply down for contract therapy services, they diversified their footprint and transitioned away from the now-sluggish clinical skill sets business model to a faster, more agile model in technology.

“It was a wonderful chance to reconnect with old friends in the IT world and continue building our business,” says Perce. “We launched our new IT recruiting business, iMethods, in 2007, well aware that the shift in focus would slow our near-term growth, but believing it would be of great benefit down the road.”

Like many businesses, the recession was a big problem. Perce states that the recession may have affected them earlier than some because demand for recruiting services is an early indicator of economic health.

“The cherry on top of our recession sundae was the fact that we’d made a strategic decision to shift away from clinical staffing to IT services in response to competition and a changing marketplace,” says Perce. “We were in new territory, the economy was crashing around our ears, and the going got pretty tough for a while.”

But iMethods’ growth was noteworthy: revenues for the newer company grew from $1.5 million (2008) to $2.1 million (2009) to $2.8 million (2010). In the fall of 2010, they sold Medical Methods in order to focus exclusively on iMethods and develop the structure of the present corporation and map out the road ahead.

The right decision

For Perce and Drawdy, the decision to refocus on technical staffing was the right one. iMethods has been ranked in the “Inc. 500” (399)/”Inc. 5000” (3,790), placed sixth in the Jacksonville Business Journal’s “Fast 50” in 2008, and was designated twice as one of the community’s  “Companies that Care” by Jacksonville Magazine.

Of the various recognitions, the value-driven Perce particularly cherishes the five “Best Places to Work” awards from Florida Trend and the Jacksonville Business Journal. “I am passionate about the culture of our company,” he says. “If our internal relationships are strong and we stick to our values, our external performance is better and our work is more fulfilling.

“We have diligently worked to create a culture that supports individual growth, healthy relationships and the highest good for all concerned, but we’re well aware that sometimes even the best intentions can erode in the face of the daily struggle to succeed.

“The fact that we’ve been able to preserve a sound culture while garnering positive results for our clients, employees and job candidates is a source of daily satisfaction.”

And with that, iMethods is now an award-winning, values-driven IT staffing and consulting company. Its premier healthcare IT consulting division pairs world-class experts with leading healthcare providers to provide customized consulting options. Its local IT recruiting division identifies and employs top technical professionals in specialties ranging from desktop and network engineering to .NET and application development.

Today, iMethods’ two divisions are expected to exceed $6 million for 2011.

Looking forward

iMethods has been blessed with tremendous growth, which Perce believes has stemmed from strategic thinking, visionary planning, innovative management, and unwavering adherence to their core values—with a healthy dose of outside wisdom and serendipitous timing thrown in.

“I have set and implemented strategies for its growth ever since its inception, successfully anticipating and responding to market trends in a way that has made iMethods nimble and profitable—even in the worst economic recession of our lifetime,” says Perce.

“While our path hasn’t always been easy, our constant commitment to lifting up our employees, recruits and the community has resulted in success beyond our fondest dreams. It has also allowed us to make a positive difference in the lives of individuals and our community. We are truly on a mission!” Perce continues.

“This business was founded on faith, and Clint and I have adhered to our mission and values since day one. By matching skilled professionals with the needs of business, we create value for our clients, ourselves and our candidates, and we are proud and honored to have the opportunity of providing meaningful work for individuals and helping to grow the economy of this community we love.

“Although in different roles, Clint and I have worked together from the beginning,” says Perce, “and any recognition of my leadership is also recognition of his contributions. Our business partnership is a primary ingredient to our success.”

Wendy Bautista is the editor of Advantage Small Business Magazine. She can be reached at Wendy@advantagebizmag.com or 904-222-8140.

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Business vitals

Owner: Chad Perce and Clint Drawdy

In business since: 2004

Projected growth: “My role has been to set strategy and direction for both divisions in anticipation of—and response to—market trends; then successfully execute that strategy. I believe our growth has stemmed from strategic thinking and strong adherence to our core values, with a healthy dose of great advice and fortunate timing thrown in.

“By utilizing the expertise of a volunteer advisory board, playing to our strengths and planning at least two steps ahead for the future, iMethods has been on the leading edge of contract medical services and electronic medical records while meeting the ongoing need for high-quality IT recruiting.

“In the process, the company has grown from a clinical staffing firm with two full-time employees and first-year revenues of $415,000 to an award-winning IT recruiting and consulting corporation with a sizable staff and projected revenues of more than $10 million for 2012.

“Our Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) for the next three years is to exceed $20 million in revenues,” says Perce.

How you can do it

“My partner Clint Drawdy and I are quick to admit we don’t know everything about running a business. Fortunately, we know a number of people who collectively know everything we don’t—and five of them have generously agreed to serve on our volunteer advisory board,” says Perce.

The volunteer advisory board, which has met frequently since just before Perce and Drawdy formed the original company, provides wise counsel, holds them accountable for results, and is generally a blessing to them throughout the life of the business. With intellect, experience and expertise, they provide a sounding board for strategy; answer questions about banking, legal matters and operations; and perform a host of other valuable functions.

“They are anxious to help and have greatly shaped and influenced our business for the better,” states Perce. “Creating the board may have been the single best step we took in planning our business development!

“When we first formed Medical Methods, Clint and I were experts at sales and delivery, but encyclopedically ignorant on just about every other aspect of running a business,” says Perce. “The advisory board’s expertise and wise counsel has been critical to iMethods’ ability to transcend challenges.”

A book titled, “Now, Discover your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton ended up being another critical success element. Perce recalls how the message of the book—working to address your weaknesses wastes valuable time and energy and how you should play to your strengths instead—profoundly affected the way they viewed themselves and their workforce.

“When we altered some employees’ roles in accordance with this idea, they blossomed,” says Perce. “They gained greater satisfaction from their work and became more productive as well. We continue to apply the ‘strengths’ principle on many levels with excellent results. In fact, we apply it to our interview process, requiring promising candidates to complete a ‘strengths profile’ to confirm they’re the right match for a specific position.”

Perce and Drawdy also account iMethods’ survival, growth and subsequent success with their commitment to trying at least one or two new ideas each year. “Our wheels are always turning, especially when it comes to creating close or synergistic lines of service that could increase our footprint in the marketplace,” says Perce. “We operate on the theory that baiting multiple hooks increases your chance for a good catch, even in the rough economic waters we’ve all had to navigate over the past several years.”

Giving back

Because of iMethods’ focus on service, it’s not surprising that it has been active not just on behalf of its clients and employees, but to the larger community as well. Upon founding the business, Perce started an internal Mercy Ministry to support the employees and the community in times of need.

To date, that ministry has conducted numerous food and clothing drives and provided monetary support for individuals and families in crisis. The company has also supported numerous local charities, including the Boselli Foundation, The Sulzbacher Center, Make a wish Foundation, Heart for the Heartless and the MS Society.

Its major community focus, however, has been its association with Baptist Health Foundation, primarily through activities to benefit Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

“I am the founding and current chair of the One to Grow On Ultra Marathon, which raised more than $1.1 million to date, I served on the 2011 committee for The King of the Court Tennis Challenge, and we all participate annually in Wolfson’s Red Wagon Parade,” states Perce.

Along with the rest of the committee that conceived and implemented the Ultra Marathon, Perce made a three-year commitment (through 2013) to the race, with a goal of raising $1.5 million toward the purchase of a 3 Tesla MRI, a piece of equipment that will reduce the need for invasive exploratory procedures on children. This equipment will be installed in the new tower currently under construction at the hospital’s downtown campus.

“Learning the stories of children who have received care at Wolfson’s has been incredibly touching, and I am honored and proud to be associated with this incredible organization,” says Perce.

Another event connected with One to Grow On is Run 5 to Keep Kids Alive, a five-mile race that takes place during the overall event. iMethods is the title sponsor for the 2012 run and was the Internet Sponsor for the overall Ultra Marathon in 2011.

In the local business community, iMethods is a member of the Chamber’s Jacksonville IT Council (JITC) and is also active in multiple technology groups such as the Jacksonville Developers User Group (JAXDUG). Many of the JITC members are active in JAXDUG, which provides opportunities for developers to learn from each other through speakers, forums and mentoring, culminating in an annual educational intensive called “Code Camp.”

“We have supported this event in numerous ways over the years and enjoy the opportunity to share knowledge with our colleagues in the region,” says Perce.

Business planning

“For many years, we have followed Verne Harnish’s process for developing an annual One Page Plan for our business. As part of the Gazelles organization, Verne mentored us through a three-year entrepreneurial Master’s program hosted by MIT in Boston.

“While the plan is only one page, creating it is a complex exercise that helps solidify the company’s core values, purpose, and actions. The plan defines a one-year goal, a three-year target, key performance indicators (KPIs), and other valuable guideposts that keep us on track.

“Complementing the One Page Plan is our standard meeting rhythm, which follows the metrics outlined in the plan. Our teams have daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual meetings that focus on communication and progress toward our stated goals,” says Perce.

“While this may sound like over communication, quick and effective meetings with well-defined agendas have been critical to iMethods’ success and momentum.”


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