Business Observer: December 30, 2016
By: Mark Gordon
Tampa area tech executive Brian Murphy spent most of 2015 and early 2016 in planning mode, and he thought he had everything covered.
The company he oversees, fast-growing enterprise cybersecurity firm ReliaQuest, was on the cusp of adding dozens of new employees. Murphy and his team had to recruit the right people, refine internal training programs and find office space for everyone. This was all to meet expected growth in new customers and the customized cybersecurity work the firm does for current clients, mostly Fortune 2000 companies.
Then something Murphy didn’t anticipate happened. The company, founded in 2007, grew bigger, sooner than he thought. “Our customer base has turned into raving fans, even more than I expected,” says Murphy. “Customers keep telling others about ReliaQuest, and that has been a big boost.”
Revenue rose 115% in 2015 over 2014, and will grow at least that much again in 2016, Murphy projects. He declines to provide specific revenue figures. “It’s been a really great year,” says Murphy.
The first area of growth was to hire people to cover the increased demand. Murphy says he and the firm’s hiring managers look for energy and effort, above all else — the kind of soft skills that are hard to train. “We look for those personality qualities,” Murphy said in an early 2016 interview. “We want someone that’s hungry and wants to learn. They need to be excited about being a part of this culture.”
ReliaQuest officials projected the firm would hire 50 people in 2016, for both its Tampa office and in a second location in Las Vegas. It blew past that projection by the third quarter and hired close to 90 people throughout the year. Jobs are in every department, from customer service and sales and marketing to IT and software development.
The company closed 2016 with about 200 employees, Murphy says. It plans to hire at least 150 people in 2017, Murphy adds an eye-popping hiring surge.
Step two in growth management at ReliaQuest comes in more space for the company’s bursting-at-the-seams payroll. It moved into a new headquarters in late 2016, in 25,000 square feet of office space in a building on Harbor Island, across Garrison Channel from downtown Tampa. That space was originally going to be 15,000 square feet and serve the company three to five years, Murphy says. But with the hiring boom, the firm added 40% more space, which Murphy says will probably hold ReliaQuest for no more than 24 months.
ReliaQuest worked with commercial real estate firm Highwood Properties to find its new headquarters. Murphy says Highwood is the perfect brokerage firm because it manages more than 1 million square feet of office space in the Tampa area, and is able to adapt to ReliaQuest’s rapidly shifting needs. “It’s important to have great partners,” says Murphy.
A final big step in the growth plan comes in training — a Murphy passion. The company has long had a 90-day training program, but it recently augmented that with the ReliaQuest Leadership Academy. The company puts employees it’s grooming for management-level jobs in the program, which lasts five months and covers a range of management, leadership and technical information. Says Murphy: “We want to provide the training before they get promoted.”
Murphy says roughly 75% of the firm’s annual budget goes toward hiring, training and all the other connected human resources expenses — a high cost he says is well worth it. “It’s an astronomical number,” says Murphy, “but it shows the commitment we have to hiring and training the right people.”