In 2015, 51 Alabama companies were featured on the Inc. 5000, an annual list of the fastest growing private companies in America.
The companies on the list came from the high growth, high margin sectors of Alabama’s economy that you would expect — real estate, technology, financial services and pharmaceuticals, to name a few. But while the companies’ backgrounds were diverse, as Yellowhammer analyzed the group — and many of Alabama’s other fastest growing business — we found a surprising link.
Founded in 2011 by Birmingham-based serial entrepreneur Cord Sachs, FireSeeds is a recruiting and leadership development firm that has quietly become a high-powered piston in the growth engine of Alabama’s hottest companies.
TAKING THE FITNESS WORLD BY STORM
When Birmingham native Forrest Walden started Iron Tribe in his garage in 2009, it was probably difficult to imagine that just a few short years later he would be the CEO of one of the fastest growing fitness franchises in America. Iron Tribe has been on the Inc. 5000 several years in a row now, most recently in 2015 when the company achieved 325% growth and $3.6 million in revenue.
But that kind of growth does not happen without overcoming significant challenges, particularly when it comes to hiring and developing leaders.
“For us to grow and scale our business, it became clear that our number one issue was recruiting and developing really good people,” Walden told Yellowhammer.
That’s where FireSeeds came in.
“Their process was impactful because it began with us first,” said Walden. “We learned about our own wiring, specifically about what we do really well and even our own shortcomings. This translated to how we led, how we hired, and how we related to our staff. This allowed us to focus on our new hires’ strengths and were able maximize their wiring.”
FireSeeds has now helped Iron Tribe hire over 85 coaches and managers located in corporate-owned and franchise locations around the United States.
A TICKETING REVOLUTION
“We provide the smartest and most user-friendly cloud-based ticketing experience on the planet and will focus relentlessly on delighting clients through innovation and superior service.”
TicketBiscuit’s mission statement is an attractive proposition to anyone who has experienced the hassle of online ticketing.
Their ability to deliver on the promise of the best ticketing service on Earth propelled them onto the Inc. 5000 in 2015, with 93% growth and $4.3 million in revenue.
“The roles that FireSeeds recruited for us were created because of our growth,” explained TicketBiscuit CMO Eric Housh. “These roles were crucial to our overall growth strategy. FireSeeds recruited a VP of Sales for us in the summer of 2015 and because of the growth we’re experiencing we needed a Director of HR in January of 2016.”
THIS. IS. SPARTA.
The Spartan army of the ancient Greek world is still remembered centuries later for their relentless discipline on the battlefield. That same quality has defined Alabama-based Spartan Invest’s approach to real estate.
“Our mission is simple: to deliver the maximum return on investment to each of our investors,” the company says on its website. “We will work through the night and sometimes go to incredible lengths to verify new ventures and eliminate risk.”
Spartan has achieved stunning 884% growth in the past three years and boasted $7 million in revenue in 2015. FireSeeds has been behind the scenes throughout the entire process.
“I believe that the key to Spartan’s success is rooted in how we’ve built and maintained a great culture,” said Spartan CEO Clayton Mobley. “Our culture was completely built on the FireSeeds platform and is a key reason for our success.”
FireSeeds reputation as the company behind Alabama’s fastest growing companies began with its ability to identify and recruit leaders, but that reputation has been taken to a new level with the addition of a platform built to grow leaders.
Mike Kemp is the CEO of Kemp Management Solutions, a company that provides services like site due diligences, cost estimating, scheduling, project management, construction management and move management to clients in the healthcare, higher education, financial and industrial industries.
Kemp is one of Alabama’s fastest-rising CEOs, and as his company grew, he realized they needed a program to develop the leadership skills of their team members.
Enter WildSparq, a web-based leadership development platform created by FireSeeds that has quickly become the go-to way for companies — from small businesses like Kemp’s to large corporations like Chick-fil-a — to invest in developing their people.
“Prior to WildSparq, we did not have a formal leader development program,” said Kemp. “As a small business, these things sometimes tend to get lost in the day to day running of the business. WildSparq provided a very organized and intentional way to focus on developing our leaders while not occupying large chunks of time sitting in meetings or seminars.”
Kemp and his team begin a new WildSparq lesson at the same time each month. At the end of the month, they get together for a one-hour team meeting to discuss together what they learned individually.
“I’ve found those monthly meetings to be life changing for some of our team members,” said Kemp. “The commitment per month has not been a challenge at all because the modules are well done and really get to the meat of the topic in a very efficient manner.
“I’ve had team members share how WildSparq has caused them to be better wives or husbands,” he continued. “This is big for me because at KMS we want our people to be well-rounded. WildSparq provides a platform for the individual to really grow as a person. Almost all our team members have expressed how WildSparq has challenged them to be a better person.”
BUILDING TALENT FACTORIES
It is often said that human capital is the most valuable resource any company has, but few companies — particularly small businesses — have a process in place to identify and develop leaders.
“In most organizations, the development of leaders tends to fall in the ‘important’, but not ‘urgent’ category,” said FireSeeds CEO Cord Sachs. “It isn’t that organizations don’t desire to build leaders, it’s just that they don’t invest time into building a strategic plan and process. They invest in marketing strategies, sales strategies, operational strategies, even compliance strategies but most never invest in what they will find to be their greatest future asset for growth…Leaders Ready.
“Speaking with hundreds of CEOs, across a wide-range of disciplines, they all say they value leader development,” he continued. “The struggle tends to occur when they attempt to build a scalable process that can be measured and evaluated. Due to this constraint, one of two things happens. Either organizations try to outsource leadership development or they fall into the trap of throwing money at the problem through conferences and books.”
FireSeeds developed WildSparq to solve this problem.
“The overall strategy is to create a multiplying movement of multiplying leaders in an organization,” said Sachs. “Leaders from the top of the organization down must buy-in to owning the new expectation that we will build our own leaders, who in turn will be expected to build more leaders. When this occurs, our organizations become their own talent factory. It is not enough for mid managers to simply manage processes and systems, they must grow to also develop leaders who multiply their strengths and leadership into others.
“Our organization helps equip any type of organization with a content distribution model that sets the stage for leadership development in an ongoing format,” concluded Sachs. “We have found that consistent, ongoing conversation, empowerment and engagement is the biggest step into shifting an organization’s culture and creating an organization that multiplies leaders who are multiplying leaders.”