There’s a 30 year old sleeping giant in Eden Prairie.
HelpSystems, an enterprise IT management software provider, has been quietly growing through acquisition to north of $100m in revenue with 280 employees. Veteran CEO Janet Dryer now has a new target: $150m by 2016. With goals that ambitious, we had to learn more:
What is the company’s history?
HelpSystems was founded in 1982 by Richard Jacobson as part of Advanced Circuits (AC), a circuit board manufacturer in Minnetonka. He wanted to offset the computer costs for AC, thus creating HelpSystems, which was spun off in the late 80’s after AC was sold.
How and when did you become part of the company?
I was the 3rd employee of the company, joined right out of school in sales and marketing. After it became independent/private (post AC), there were about 20 employees with about 5 IBM products in the portfolio geared towards data center automation. We ran with that, added more products in and increased the success independent of AC. I became one of the four owners throughout this time. Looking back, I’ve been with the company for 29 years of my career and the CEO for the past 15.
What exactly does HelpSystems do?
There are three different areas that we cover: systems management, business intelligence and security – there’s probably 60 products now across those areas. We started with and mostly serve the IBM AS/400 (now Power Server) but have expanded to cover all flavors of applications native to Windows, Unix, Linux and now support all OS with our product suite (some deeper than others). We have a vision to cover A-Z on all three, some of which is completed and some of which is in the works.
We’re industry agnostic, but have a lot happening in finance, banking and retail. If they are tied to the Power System as their centric solution, we are the Cadillac solution.
How many employees and where are the offices located?
We have 280 employees and 15 offices. Headquartered in Eden Prairie, we also have sizeable offices in Rochester, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Fleet, UK.
What is the relationship with Summit Partners?
The company was sold for the first time to Summit Partners (http://www.summitpartners.com/) about ten years ago. They held it for 2.5 years before selling to Audax Group, which owned us for around 4 years and then they sold back to Summit Partners 2 years ago, our current owners.
What is the significance of Chris Heim and Phil Soran joining the board in July of 2012?
I was very impressed with what they have done in their careers with their companies. They both offer great value to us, Chris specifically with the acquisitions, integration and transition. We’ve completed 14 acquisitions and he’s been instrumental to us. Phil brings an enterprise tech view to the board and knows what it’s like to start from nothing, grow, and scale to exit. It’s great to have CEO’s on your board who have been in the trenches before.
How do you measure success?
I never want to take a step back and am committed to growth and want to complete the product line, the best in those three areas I mentioned. We’ll either fill the holes organically or continue with the acquisitions. Today we’re north of $100m in sales revenue and by the end of 2016 we want to realize $150m in revenue. It’s not the number of people that we hire, rather shipping quality products that our 10,000 customers are happy with.
Is there a geographic focus to your customers?
80% US and Canada, 20% outside US
What are you challenged with?
Acquisition integrations are always hard
Do you see more ahead?
Yes, we have a few more going on right now.
What do you attribute your continued success to?
Happy employees means happy customers. We spend a lot of time focused on incentivising and rewarding our employees. We’re also active in giving back to our community. When we became the first software company to achieve ISO 9001 status back in the day, that gave us a great backbone to build systems on.
What’s your take on running HelpSystems from Minnesota?
I love having people with great work ethic. Our turnover is very low, about 25% of our team has been here for 15 years or more. I couldn’t think of HelpSystems located anywhere but here!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
It’s been such a fabulous experience to manage this business…it’s always growing and changing. I couldn’t have defined a better career with more challenges. We’ve reacted well and are moving forward!