Bellevue Wash.-based Loft 9 was founded in 2010 by Edward Beals and Mark Birzell to fill what the two saw as an unmet need in the marketplace for premium services in project coordination and business analytics. The two men had been working on the business plan for Loft 9 a full four years before its launch, back when they were consulting at Point B, the 400-person, Seattle-based firm.
“Our first thought was to figure out how to do this within Point B, but the leadership there decided it wasn’t the right fit for the firm at the time,” Beals says. “We still have a great relationship with them and consider ourselves a complementary service provider. We have many of the same clients, and we support each other.” While still at Point B, Beals says, “the supply and demand was right in front of our face. After spending a lot of time sharpening pencils and formulating a plan, we decided to give it a go.”
Initially, Beals says, he and Birzell leaned on much of what they had learned in their time at Point B. “We pored over a lot of our lessons learned from Point B,” he says. “We have a similar culture. Culture is non-negotiable for us. If we think that culture is breaking down at all, we’ll shut down recruiting for a while until we get it back. We have to get that right.”
Beals says the demand is out there and Loft 9 could grow faster, but “we’re really, really selective. Only 4 percent of the people we’ve talked to are at the firm today.” Still, headcount almost doubled last year and will do so again in 2012. In 2011, Loft 9′s revenue grew 115 percent. This year, the firm is projecting about 90 percent growth.
Initially, Loft 9 was focused mainly on the high tech space but has increased its presence in healthcare, communications & media and the non-profit sector. Beals says he also expects to see more work in retail. Eventually, Beals says, Loft 9 will reach a saturation point in the Seattle market and is already looking to expand to other markets, most likely the “NFL cities,” he says. “In five years, we should be in a handful of markets.”
To make that happen, Loft 9 will have to stay laser focused on what it does best; specifically, its co-delivery model, which Beals says is the firm’s “secret sauce.” Co-delivery, simply put, is actively collaborating with, and leveraging the knowledge of, other Loft 9 Associates for the benefit of clients. “It’s why clients hire us,” Beals says.
It’s part of Loft 9′s ambitious—and rather unorthodox—philosophy of the development of its own associates.
“We recognize a lot of these people will only be with us for three to five years, and we embrace that to try to help them prepare for their future work even if it isn’t here,” Beals says. “So, we’re actually moving to professionalize the workplace and prepare our own people for their next role, wherever that may be.”