Seven Small Jewels, 2011: Nouveon

Nouveon

T.J. Eberle HQ: Charlotte, N.C.
Additional Offices: Morrisville, N.C., Raleigh, N.C.
Billable Consultants: 68
2009 Revenue: $7.5M
2010 Revenue: $14M
Revenue Growth: 87%
2011 Revenue: $24M (projected)
Client Industries: Financial Services, Energy & Utilities, Retail, Healthcare
Service Line: IT

T.J. Eberle grew up in large consulting firms, having worked both for Andersen Consulting and PricewaterhouseCoopers. However, he also spent some time working in industry before launching Nouveon in 2003. In fact, Eberle’s career track is pretty much identical to the typical Nouveon employee—most of the firm’s consultants have worked at a large consulting firm and in industry.

“We see that as a differentiator for us,” says Eberle, who is CEO and president of the firm. “We’ve been on both sides of the table, and there’s a big advantage to that. The average experience of our consultants is over 18 years. That’s a huge advantage for us, especially in the IT space.”

Another advantage, he says, is the local model, with the firm focusing mainly in North Carolina. Eberle does say, however, that Nouveon could move into new geographies as the business grows. For example, Nouveon has a large energy and utilities client in Philadelphia, which could be a potential target market.

For now, about 90 percent of the work is focused in North Carolina, “which means that our consultants are typically side by side with our clients all five days of the week.” Nouveon’s competitors—often the Big 4—arrive sometime on Monday and leave sometime on Thursday, he points out. “Let’s face it, our clients get great value for the level of experience we’re bringing to the table.”

From launch through about 2009, Nouveon stayed relatively small, ending 2009 with just 22 billable consultants. But in 2010, the firm tripled in size and doubled in revenue—and he’s projecting more of the same for 2011. Eberle forecasts another 71 percent hike in revenue and says the firm will end the year with 111 consultants.

Most of that growth was, and is, projected to be organic (although Nouveon did make a small acquisition last fall). “I would like to see us keep those percentages up, but as we grow it gets harder and harder to maintain,” Eberle says. “I do see us remaining in the 20 to 30 percent growth rates over the next several years. We can grow the business across all of our sectors.”

Those sectors include financial services, energy and utilities, retail and healthcare, while the firm’s core competencies include project management, strategy, organizational change, process excellence, systems integration and technology.

The real trick to the growth, Eberle says, was a shift in focus, both internally and externally. One, the firm was struggling to expand geographically, so it doubled down in the Carolinas but expanded the industries it served. Two, Eberle began to bring in more senior-level people to help drive the business and target larger, Fortune 1000 companies. Today, Nouveon counts several Fortune 50 companies as clients. And three, the firm opted to focus on fewer clients—decreasing its active number from as many as 36 down to 15 or so. “We really ramped up on the customer service and revenue doubled and tripled.”

And it all adds up to plenty of success for Nouveon. The firm was named to the Inc. 5000 for the third consecutive year, jumping 1,000 spots in 2010. Nouveon also was included on the Charlotte Business Journal’s list of the 50 fastest growing companies in the region for the past two years, and was named Business Leader Magazine’s Top Small Business in Charlotte.

“Our consultants are doing great things every day, and people are noticing,” Eberle says. “Our people are our strongest asset, and we believe in spotlighting them and our culture. We’re always looking for people who want to be part of something special.”

But how many people? “I do think we’ve built an infrastructure that allows us to grow to the 200-person mark without a lot of radical changes,” Eberle says. “We believe in purposeful growth. Growth that’s best for our people and best for our clients.”

—J.K.

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