Nashville Post’s Fast15 is our annual look at the Middle Tennessee-based companies to watch. For past iterations, we used broad criteria and editorial judgment to compile a list of 50 companies of varying size, influence and years in operation. But in 2011 — in an attempt both to focus strictly on high-potential emerging businesses and to place the spotlight on some deserving and, to date, possibly overlooked entrepreneurial rising stars — we limited the list to 15 companies. And we required that the honorees be founded since 2000. With that approach a success, we stayed with it for 2012.
As in the past, the Post editorial team considered companies’ revenues, employee growth, investments in systems and technology and projected growth. But, like in 2011, we also placed emphasis on ventures that — be it because of their established leadership or their increasingly hot industries — have a greater-than-otherwise chance of continued success. Some of the companies on our 2012 list asked to be considered, while we identified many others in the so-called ordinary course of our business.
In the pages that follow, you’ll find overviews of exciting companies in various industry sectors — all enriching the Middle Tennessee economy with priceless new jobs and entrepreneurial energy.
Chairman & CEO
Acadia Healthcare’s corporate birthing two years ago showed signs of success that, to date, haven’t disappointed anybody, especially investors in the behavioral health care venture.
Formed in 2010 after the combination of Universal Health Services and formerly Franklin-based Psychiatric Solutions, Acadia quickly embarked on a buying spree throughout the country while building up its balance sheet.
In April, Acadia reported $91.3 million revenue for the first quarter, compared to $16.8 million for the same period one year before. Net income numbers have also surged year-over-year.
If past performance were a predictor of future success, Acadia has little with which to be concerned. In January, the company announced a deal to acquire three hospitals with about $43 million in revenues from Haven Behavioral Healthcare, a deal completed in March for $91 million.
More recently, the company wrapped up a secondary stock offering that raised about $120 million in growth capital, setting the stage for more such purchases.
— PHILIP NANNIE
Benchmark keeps its data in the cloud, but the company’s focus is on down-to-earth concerns such as customer service, agent productivity and satisfaction and, despite the recession, growth and profitability.
Any company that sells land as well as commercial and residential property — and had a 107 percent increase in gross sales during the past 12 months — is bound to generate a long paper trail. Not Benchmark. The company uses technology to be completely paperless.
Instead of paying rent on filing cabinet storage, it uses the cloud to receive, quality check and archive all documents. Proprietary software manages billing and commissions, allowing the company to manage a large number of agents with a limited staff, increasing both legal compliance and profitability.
While some real estate companies are shedding agents, Benchmark continues to grow. The company finished 2011 with 284 agents. Today, it has 316 agents in its Brentwood office and 20 in the new Murfreesboro outpost, which opened last December.
“The amazing part is that most of our growth has occurred since our relaunch in February 2008,” said CEO Phillip Cantrell.
Before that time, Benchmark was a small boutique brokerage representing custom home builders in Williamson County.
The company relaunched under a 100 percent commission model that is attractive to agents. Since then, all key indicators — gross sales, gross commission income, transaction count, agent count, and most important, profitability — have doubled over the prior year.
All of this has been accomplished with zero debt, Cantrell said.
“We have pretty much ignored the negative pundits and used our time to grow our business by focusing on quality of agent over quantity of agent,” Cantrell said. “And it shows in our productivity numbers.”
— BILL LEWIS
President and CEO
It used to be community banks couldn’t fail in this town — or at least it seemed that way.
The weekly news was replete with the announcement of one start-up bank after another and success was measured in only positive increments. Perhaps the best example, looking back now, was CapStar Bank.
After impressing nearly everyone with $90 million of initial capital raised, President and CEO Claire Tucker and her team have kept the pedal down with high-profile and significant lending growth as well as branch expansion.
In February of this year, CapStar officials signed a deal to buy American Security Bank & Trust, a $170 million lender with offices in Hendersonville and Gallatin. Assets are set to grow to nearly $880 million, deposits to about $770 million.
Shortly after that announcement, CapStar agreed to acquire the high-profile Cool Springs branch from Columbia-based Community First Bank & Trust. That transaction will add $58 million in deposits and $42 million of loans.
With organic loan growth proceeding apace, look for word soon that CapStar has passed the $1 billion landmark.
— PHILIP NANNIE
One of Nashville’s fastest-growing companies is also one of its most distinctive. Centerre Healthcare is the only national company focusing on developing and operating rehabilitation hospitals through partnerships with acute-care hospitals.
It’s a business model that placed Centerre in the top 15 percent of the Inc. 5000 ranking of America’s fastest-growing private businesses in 2011. The magazine identified the company as the seventh-fastest-growing private business in the Nashville area.
Centerre has been a familiar name on the Inc. 5000 list for several years, so it would be no surprise to see the company on the 2012 list later this year.
“Our 2011 national ranking improved by 28 percent (over the previous year’s) ranking and we are confident we will continue that progress in the years to come,” CEO Patrick Foster said. “Centerre experienced a growth rate in excess of 461 percent from 2006 to 2011, and in this economic time we are especially proud of this progress.”
Acute-care hospitals that partner with Centerre are able to offer their patients rehab services in a state-of-the-art facility designed to optimize results. Patients benefit from top-flight care close to home without the burden of traveling long distances.
— BILL LEWIS
Chairman and CEO
It’s easy to find a sale on clothes, cars and even travel, but discovering the best price on health care services seems out of reach for most consumers. One Nashville-area company is changing that.
Change Healthcare’s Transparency Messenger tool shops on behalf of plan members. It even delivers “Ways to Save Alerts” directly to their email addresses or mobile phones, enabling them to make smart purchasing decisions and to lower the cost of care for themselves and employers.
“Engaging patients about health care decisions is the critical first step to their ability to become informed health care consumers,” said Doug Ghertner, president of Change Healthcare. “Unlike other solutions on the market, our Transparency Messenger tool delivers proactive, customized cost savings opportunities on the medical, dental and prescription services that consumers are using in their local area — not ballpark estimates or price look-ups.”
Those services are needed more than ever. Health care costs are expected to increase another 7.2 percent this year. At the same time, government regulations are shifting higher premiums to businesses and health plan members.
Meanwhile, more than 30 percent of consumers have deductibles greater than $1,000. The growth of defined-contribution or high-deductible plans has created a problem for those who don’t have access to information allowing them to shop for health care services and maximize their benefit dollar while minimizing out-of-pocket costs.
More and more clients are turning to Change Healthcare. Client growth doubled in the past year, a period when the company doubled its staff and saw revenues increase significantly. The company is positioned for more growth next year and beyond.
“While health care companies have traditionally been resistant to change, these past few years have propelled the industry forward faster than the previous 20,” Ghertner said.
— BILL LEWIS
Belle Meade/Cool Springs
E|Spaces CEO Phil Gibbs’ idea of providing first-class office space to entrepreneurs — often more used to meeting in Starbucks than in cozy board rooms — hasn’t succeeded beyond expectations but more so as predicted, which as it turns out is pretty good.
The first “business center,” birthed in 2010 above Publix in the Belle Meade commercial district, caters to what’s properly dubbed the 21st-century workforce, a growing bevy of mobile professionals, two- to three-person partnerships, even small companies, all needing better than just adequate office meeting space. These passionate business builders have either opted to wait on establishing a more permanent real estate presence or have chosen E|Spaces because it offers the professional setting and flexibility they need. That may be for right now, it may be indefinitely.
In December, E/Spaces added some weighty names to its board of directors, giving credence to Gibbs’ concept and adding significant brainpower to what is already a proven successful business intelligence. The list of board additions included Art Laffer, the renowned economist of Laffer Curve fame. Around the same time, company officials announced they planned to open a second E/Spaces location at the highly visible McEwen Building just off Interstate 65 in Cool Springs.
— PHILIP NANNIE
The team of creative professionals at iostudio must not have heard the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Instead of being satisfied with the company’s rapid success, they keep making changes that result in even more growth.
“Growth and change is what we’re about and the results speak for themselves,” said Tom Woodard, the company’s business development director.
During the past year, the creative marketing agency has been awarded 11 new client relationships, including noted local contractor Lee Company’s advertising account. It also added new services such as in-house media buying, email marketing and public relations while staying focused on its core competencies of ad campaign development, film production, custom publishing and customer care.
Iostudio has also added resources to enable its team to reach new levels. It launched “iostudio University,” a four-year professional development curriculum designed to improve the “onboarding” of new staff, strengthen the agency’s cultural foundation and enhance quality of life and subject matter expertise for all staff members.
“We want every ‘iostudian’ to have the chance to be the best that they can be,” said Woodard.
That strategy is clearly working. Iostudio’s revenue growth has increased each of the past five years and the company added more than 100 new employees in the past 12 months.
— BILL LEWIS
President and CEO
Some companies start out with a bang but can’t sustain the fireworks. LPS Integration has been a bottle rocket from the start.
The company, which has never had a year in the red, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Revenue last year was $45 million, up from $31.2 million in 2010. Since 2007, revenue has grown more than 308 percent.
One of the main reasons for LPS Integration’s recent growth is the increasing demand for data center technologies solutions that involve the newest, cutting-edge technologies.
“Over two years ago, LPS reviewed these technologies and realized this was the way of the future,” said COO Frank Pulliza. “That vision is now a reality, with these technologies leading the bulk of IT growth of organizations. LPS is positioned to provide data center solutions that involve virtualization, networking and storage, whereas other providers, large or small, are trying to break into the field.”
LPS made another major move recently when it purchased a $1.46 million building near the new Nashville Convention Center. The 28,000-square-foot building sits on 2.2 acres and will house the company’s executive offices, a $2 million data center, sales and meeting space, an engineering division and a training center.
“Employee retention is very, very high,” Pulliza said.
The company continues to rack up inclusions on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing companies nationwide and consistently receives top awards from vendors, which include Citrix, Cisco, EMC and Microsoft, among others.
— LINDA BRYANT
MusicCityNetworks is meeting a challenge that any business would envy: providing the resources to keep up with the employee-owned and -operated web design and e-commerce shop’s rapid growth.
MCN doubled its client base from 2010 to 2011 and now has more than 1,000 customers for its website, hosting, e-commerce, mobile and digital marketing products. Revenues quadrupled during the past three years and the staff is four times bigger. Revenue in 2012 will exceed $10 million. Today there are more than 60 full-time employees assisted at times by more than 20 contractors.
And MCN’s growth is just getting started.
“We have done very little marketing of MCN, so most of our growth has come from word of mouth or people we already have connections with,” said CEO Paul McCulloch.
“We plan to market our company more in 2012 and 2013 so we can accelerate growth even more. And we have re-branded our main company as MCN Interactive versus MusicCityNetworks because of the amount of corporate and nonprofit work we do on top of the work with musicians,” he said.
MCN has experienced growth of new business coming to it via word of mouth and through acquisition of Zambooie.com and Futureshirts.com, which increased its merchandise offerings.
MCN has expertise in Drupal, the main web platform it builds on. In fact, it is one of the largest shops in the country on that powerful platform. MCN also has its own e-commerce engine and is able to provide custom stores and specialized e-commerce and design and print merchandise.
— BILL LEWIS
President and CEO
The demand for managing data and communicating in the hospital and healthcare sectors is driving continued growth at OnFocus, a Maryland Farms-based healthcare information technology marketer.
The company, which is headed up by Chairman and CCO Ronald Galbraith and President and CEO Steven Mason, is a favorite of investors. It landed $3 million in venture funds from TNInvestco in 2010 and $500,000 in late-round funding in the fourth quarter or 2011.
OnFocus is adding clients fast, including Phoebe Putney Health System in Albany, Ga., and Conemaugh Health System, a group of hospitals in Pennsylvania. Other clients include Iasis Healthcare, Providence Hospitals, Vanderbilt Medical Group and Adventist Health System.
“The operating environment isn’t getting any easier,” said Jennifer LeMieux, OnFocus Healthcare vice president/sales and marketing. “We allow leaders and managers [in health care] to have the right discussion about the right topic at the right time. We realize that software alone is not the answer, so we provide the expertise of our staff. We customize the setup, implementation, training and ongoing coaching to fit each customer’s environment.”
— LINDA BRYANT
Lindsay Bertelli is accustomed to working with big names and organizations in the entertainment industry. She managed production and sponsorships for CMT On Tour for nine years. It meant working with artists Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Sugarland, Brad Paisley and Jason Aldean.
In 2011, the seasoned tour production pro, who began her career at Moore Entertainment Group (which was later affiliated with TBA Entertainment and AEG Live), set up shop near downtown Nashville and launched REACH LLC, an entertainment marketing firm that specializes in touring and sponsorships, two of the biggest money makers for artists today.
The firm was fast out of the gate, and it’s no wonder since a star-studded line of Bertelli’s clients followed her to REACH. The boutique agency is just as likely to be working with a young artist such as Luke Bryan as it is to be hobnobbing with large corporate clients such as Toyota.
“Our expected growth in 2012 is at 25 percent in estimated net profits over last year,” said Bertelli. “We’re planning on adding two full-time employees and four to six new clients and projects.”
A few of Bertelli’s other professional highlights include project management of Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson’s 2 Worlds 2 Voices Tour, Brooks and Dunn’s Neon Circus & Wild West Show and Playboy’s 50th Anniversary Club Tour. Corporate clients with product and touring projects have included Nescafe, Crown Royal, Yuban Coffee and Toyota.
“We strive to be a well-respected force in the industry known for our strong production and talent buying capabilities, intense attention to detail and enthusiasm for building lasting client relationships,” Bertelli said.
— LINDA BRYANT
President and CEO
Nashville likes to brag about the broad reach of its $30 billion health care industry, but do executives and entrepreneurs from other areas of the country really take notice? Stephen Hau doesn’t have to think long about that question: The answer is ‘yes.’
Hau moved his barely three-year-old Boston-based medical transcription technology company, Shareable Ink, to Green Hills in 2011. The company is one of the first beneficiaries of Tennessee’s TNInvestco, a $146 million statewide pool of funds created in 2009 to fund startups located in, or willing to relocate to, Tennessee.
The first $4.5 million round included buy-ins from The Martin Companies, the venture capital firm founded by Vanguard Health Systems Chairman Charlie Martin, as well as Heritage Group and unnamed angel investors belonging to the Nashville Capital Network.
The company hit the ground running.
“We started 2011 with two live customer sites; we ended the year with nearly 60 sites,” Hau said. “Every 20 seconds of the day, our enterprise cloud-computing platform — located in Franklin — converts a page of handwritten clinical documentation to useful, structured data. That rate is doubling every few months.”
The company has “hired aggressively” since moving to Nashville and is planning to hire more.
“We are in the process of relocating two senior executives to Nashville to help support our continued growth,” Hau said. “We anticipate rapid expansion of our Nashville-based staff, starting in the second half of 2012.”
Shareable Ink was one of the smallest companies named in late 2011 to Forbes magazine’s 100 Most Promising Companies list.
— LINDA BRYANT
Principal and co-founder
Trinisys got a nod from Inc. magazine in 2011 as the 340th fastest-growing company in the nation and the third-fastest in Middle Tennessee. The contest also broke growth down by industry, which meant the company came in as the 34th fastest-growing software company in the country.
Those are three big feathers in the Brentwood-based company’s cap, but the real accomplishment may be that the firm’s explosive growth has happened with minimal advertising and traditional marketing.
“We have focused on building an enterprise quality product and extremely high quality staff,” said Mike Sole, vice president of sales and marketing. “This has led to a tremendous amount of referral business.”
The four-year growth rate for the firm from 2007-11 was 1,015 percent. Revenue has spiked dramatically from less than $250,000 in 2007 to $2.6 million in 2011. Executives say the 2012 revenue mark will be well above last year’s figure.
Trinisys specializes in data-capture software that helps clients move and store data online. There are many applications — credentialing, e-applications and claims processing, among others.
“Our rapid web development platform cuts traditional development cycles at least in half,” Sole said. “If you want to reduce your overhead, especially in a down economy, you need to find these savings.”
The company is also in hiring mode and added five employees in 2011.
— LINDA BRYANT