Seven Small Jewels, 2011: Gnarus Advisors

Gnarus Advisors

Stephen Sellick HQ: Arlington, Va.
Additional Offices: Waltham, Mass., Los Angeles, Palo Alto, Calif.
Billable Consultants: 30
2009 Revenue: $2.5M
2010 Revenue: $10.1M
Revenue Growth: 304%
2011 Revenue: $20M (projected)
Client Industries: Manufacturing, Energy, Pharmaceutical
Service Line: Financial Consulting

There’s solid growth, there’s steady growth, there’s strong growth, and then someone needs to find an adjective to describe the growth Gnarus Advisors has experienced over the last two years. Outrageous? Epic? Cosmic? All seem to fit, but none really seem able to put the 304 percent the firm grew in proper perspective.

Not to be outdone, Stephen Sellick, managing director of the firm, which specializes in expert analysis, testimony and business advisory, is projecting what must seem like a modest 100 percent revenue increase for 2011. Oh, and the firm will also be increasing its headcount from 30 consultants to 50 at the same time.

Assuming those projections hold, Gnarus will have grown more than 700 percent in two years and increased its staff from 5 to 50 billable consultants. “I don’t think of the growth by percentages, but rather look at it as where do we have opportunities that present themselves to hire extraordinary talented people who fit well into our culture?” Sellick says.

And does he envision this type of growth continuing? “I could easily see that our model would be a good one to move to other subject matter practices within the advisory and expert testimony services space, broadly speaking,” he says. “If we did, that would allow for continued and significant growth.”

Those other subject matter practice areas of interest, Sellick says, would be energy, oil and gas, anti-trust, transportation and telecommunications.

The Gnarus model is a bit unique in that Sellick is bringing on almost exclusively senior-level talent that has a roster of built-in clients. Sellick, who left LECG in 2007 to launch Gnarus, says he did so originally only as a way to have a platform to continue his own practice serving his own clients. Once Gnarus was up and running, several former LECG colleagues asked if he had given any thought to growing and expanding the new firm. He hadn’t, but was starting to move in that direction.

At the beginning of 2010, Gnarus added environmental science and engineering expertise to the fold, and Sellick says this combination of expertise in economics, engineering, regulatory history, and advanced quantitative modeling is unique in consulting.

In this type of business, he says, clients tend to hire the individual rather than the firm. So, each time he brought someone in, new clients followed. “In one sense, it’s the simple arithmetic of the addition of senior people who bring their work with them that has grown the business,” Sellick says. “But in another sense, it’s also that we’ve been able to combine the economic, finance and regulatory expertise along with the similar depth in environmental science and engineering. It’s that combination that allows up to expand the firm above the simple arithmetic.”

Sellick still views Gnarus as a platform where experts can better perfect their work and collaborate on projects without the unnecessary bureaucracy of a larger firm. “We don’t do something because that’s the way the firm does it,” he says. “Everything we do is done specifically because it makes sense for the people who work here and their clients. We’re here for people to be able to better do their work and better service their clients.”

Those clients include ARCO, Dana Companies, LLC, General Electric, ITT Corporation, Motorola, Raytheon Company and Shell.

Sellick says clients come to Gnarus when they are looking for the higher end expertise (Gnarus means “expert” in Latin). “Clients are coming to us for expert testimony and expert consulting services, but really, they are coming to us for our people,” he says. “This is particularly important in litigation. It really does boil down to the people we have.”

—Joe Kornik

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