W O W.  It’s basically been since last April that I promised to send infrequent emails to you to keep in touch.  I guess I was really committed to the infrequency … I was also committed to losing weight … one for two?

2013 was another solid year of learning, growing and doing pretty good work for StartFinder and StartFinder IT.  We stuck with our goals of “grow slow” and “one client at a time” and within my IT group we really built upon our “Strategize | Solve | Staff | Share” foundation for clients.

I know this email is a bit  L O N G … but hopefully the embedded links will bring you a laugh or two and make it worth your while to read.  Plus, I will give a major award to the 10,000th person who reads this email if I can get the kinks worked out

Both Alan and I had “very good” years which -- as friends since Middle School -- is always nice to share.  Although some may debate how humble we are -- we pretty much kept under wraps our first bit of public notoriety in 2013.  First, we made the Washington Business Journal Book of Lists Top 25 staffing firms then we made the Inc 500 for the first time (#141 overall!). 

Overall, StartFinder IT really hit on all three of our core areas and we started scratching the surface in an important fourth area. 

We worked on a number of strategy engagements in 2013 for both enterprise sized and smaller clients both commercial and non-profit.  Many of these were cloud related (cloud / data center strategy and Office 365 / Exchange in particular) and many were related to one of my favorite topics -- assessing IT and helping build a higher performance CEO/COO/CIO relationship.  

We also performed some interesting work related to “IT Governance on a Napkin” and “Knowledge Management and Collaboration Essentials” that I’ll be musing about on my soon-to-be-launched blog.

Finally, we established and tweaked an offering where we can provide hourly or retained IT strategy and coaching for CXO’s or even IT Directors on-demand (typically a few hours a week) vs. a deep engagement.  This was rewarding work, we helped some great people and look forward to expanding this in 2014. 

Our project management practice had a great year as well.  Our senior, primarily PMP certified team helped design, refocus and deliver a variety of cool projects (typically 2-6 months in duration) including a well received virtual desktop program and a creative use of iPads to combat isolation in vulnerable seniors that got national coverage (that’s blurry me in the back right). 

Our staffing business really took off in 2013 due in no small part to hiring Trudy Trumbore in February to lead the IT recruiting practice.  Having two recruiters speak to each candidate (one with an HR background and me with my IT and food background) has helped improve upon our belief that quality is much more important than quantity.  Plus, I don’t have to reformat resumes any more. :)

Mainly because of Trudy, we were able to handle 3x the amount of volume than we did in 2012 and increased our “batting average” to over 50% of searches resulting in offers when competing against internal recruiting teams and competitors that were often given a huge head start (my favorite wins).

My most rewarding story was when we helped place a CTO and the CEO joked that “having this kind of hire six months ago could have saved my marriage.”  I also enjoy the bets Trudy and I have on which candidates the client may land with which client.  We’re having fun.

We also handled a number of tough national searches, successfully relocated candidates and even helped with our first few immigration conversations.  Along the way we got to read up on some cool new technologies (and some old ones), mae friends with some really cool candidates and trial some new sourcing approaches including leveraging social media, using technology specific job boards and trying an outsourced sourcing partner.  A very interesting and educational year for sure.

In our opinion, Javascript, Big Data, Salesforce, UX are trending and hot and of course .NET, Java and pretty much any programming job continue to be very hard to source. 

Although I wish I would have established my food blog (coming soon … really!) I did write my first blog post (on how to carefully take your team to the next level with top grading) -- for one of my favorite partners.

Wanting to focus more on meaningful community service I joined Taproot and will actively seek creative opportunities where all StartFinder staff can contribute to our community and world in 2014.

Late in the year we also started forming a quite unique, small, localized in-person CIO networking group.  Just as we entered 2014 I hired Calvin Reyes who will partially focus on growing this group and carefully tailor this offering exclusively around the needs of our CIO’s in 2014.  I’m really looking forward to helping old friends and new friends with their issues and relish this opportunity to stay connected to the CIO world.

Finally, we formed new partnerships in key areas (managed IT support, cloud implementation, user experience and software development) to help provide free referrals to our clients and network.  All of these -- as always -- are vetted from referrals and whiteboard discussions or trialed on client projects with full disclosure. 

Alan’s Talent Acquisition practice continued to help some of the area’s most complicated recruitment organizations (including new clients such as Under Armour, Booz Allen, and KPMG).   In case you don’t know, Alan places very senior contract recruiters which generally works best for organizations hiring 3+ people a month over a six plus month period.  Even in a year when the government shutdown, he had one of his best years yet.

Alan also started hiring his own team -- over the Summer Kristin Shillingford joined us. 

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2014 should be a big year for StartFinder and for the world.  I am looking forward to watching the evolution of wearable computing, virtual reality, 3D printing, localized on-demand retail, and of course the continual evolution of the cloud and security.  No, BitCoin doesn’t interest me much … yet.

Please stay tuned over the next few weeks and months for some news from StartFinder including a new blog, finally hopping on this twitterer thing and other mildly interesting thoughts.  I promise I’ll be careful what I post.

From all of us at StartFinder thanks again for your ideas, links, inspiration, support and -- for some of you -- your business in 2013.  I also want to sincerely thank you for reading this email and here’s hoping we all have a safe, healthy and prosperous 2014.  Eat your veggies and your frogs.

Barry Smith
Managing Partner, IT Consulting and Staffing