Blue Horseshoe Solutions grows by taking care of its employees and customers
By Jayne Gest
Since it was founded in 2001, Blue Horseshoe Solutions has stuck to its ideals while remaining flexible to address changing conditions.
From a small office in Carmel, Indiana, Blue Horseshoe has grown steadily—typically between 10 and 25 percent each year—to become an international consulting firm with about 250 employees and satellite offices in Denver, Columbus, Ohio, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Amsterdam, the Netherlands. And beyond the 2010 acquisition of the Columbus TransTech strategy group, growth has been entirely organic.
President and CEO Chris Cason says that through the growth, the company and its employees have stayed true to who they are, working to satisfy their customers, employees and partners.
“The customers are the most obvious—anybody who isn’t doing what they can to make their customers happy is not long for this business. But for our employees, we try to do everything we can to be a different company,” he says.
While most technology consultants operate in the enterprise or supply chain fields, Blue Horseshoe provides software solutions in both. It typically works in the food and beverage, retail, transportation and logistics, and oil and gas distribution industries. It has also developed its own supply chain software products, including warehousing and transportation management systems that it sold or licensed to a national provider.
As Blue Horseshoe continues to mature, it has added processes around the management of its personnel, including making sure employees have growth opportunities.
“We want to make sure we’re always working to give them the career growth within Blue Horseshoe, and not have to look outside of Blue Horseshoe,” Cason says.
A destination employer
To ensure it stays on track, Blue Horseshoe not only provides training but also surveys its employees annually.
“Every year we’ve done it, company culture is the No. 1 thing that our employees say they like most about the company,” Cason says.
Each office has a culture committee, which interfaces with the other offices and plans activities, he says. The company wants its culture to be focused on three things—having fun, being a good community partner and health.
For example, the Indianapolis-area office recently held a ping-pong tournament, while the Denver office hosted a painting class and the paintings now hang on the walls there. In the fourth quarter, each office also picks a project to give back to their community, whether it’s purchasing turkeys for Thanksgiving or sponsoring families over the holiday season.
As for health, Cason says the company funds 100 percent of benefits, has given people $1,000 to get an annual physical and will provide fitness allowances. A mobile doctor’s office also visits each month, so employees can get flu shots or check on a chronic medical condition such as high blood pressure.
A trusted name
As it has grown, Blue Horseshoe has also implemented new structures, separating the management team from the shareholders, while adding processes.
“When you’re small, you know that this is going to get delivered because Joe is doing it and you know Joe, and Joe knows all this, and he’s fantastic at it. But we need to create the next Joe,” Cason says.
Cason has learned to take more a strategic role, having faith in and empowering employees. He also understands that people will fail, but adds that if your organization doesn’t fail, it’s probably not stretching enough.
One failure led to the creation a solution architect team, similar to a pre-sales team.
“We felt like we lost a couple of projects because we didn’t have the appropriate cooperation between our sales and consulting team,” he says.
For example, if a customer might want to improve process efficiencies in its warehouse, Blue Horseshoe has to determine the best way to do that, whether it’s through software, automation or process changes. The person who figures that out is from the solution architect team. Then, the project goes to the consulting side of the business to execute the plan. And to help ensure delivery excellence, Blue Horseshoe also created a project management office.
Cason says another key to Blue Horseshoe’s growth is the modification of its sales strategy. The company builds knowledge first, with actual proof cases, people who know the industry and the products that can solve problems particular to that industry.
“We pick industries that we go after specifically now, instead of trying to sell to anybody who is in the huge horizontal of distribution,” he says.
A growing relationship
Blue Horseshoe has been with Huntington since day one. President and CEO Chris Cason says that as a young eight-person company, the relationship began out of convenience. It was easy to deposit checks and meet with bankers at the nearby branch.
But over time, the relationship has become much more, especially when Blue Horseshoe opened its European office.
“The nice thing—that wasn’t in our selection at the time but should have been—is they’ve been able to grow with us and really helped us stay efficient in our banking side,” Cason says. “As we’ve grown, they’ve been there for us. They’ve been open. They’ve talked to us about what we’ve needed.”
The bank’s line of credit was also helpful when Blue Horseshoe recently expanded its main office.
“As a company that’s grown so much, our needs have changed dramatically, but Huntington has been very flexible, which has been fantastic” he says.