Technology

Homegrown consulting firm Valorem uses the cloud to bloom

Valorem Consulting Group is a technology consulting firm in the Crossroads Arts District. Employees recently used an advanced Skype system for a teleconference.
Valorem Consulting Group is a technology consulting firm in the Crossroads Arts District. Employees recently used an advanced Skype system for a teleconference. jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

A giant sea turtle hangs from the ceiling in Valorem’s headquarters in the Crossroads Arts District.

It was the most valuable prize available at PowerPlay, a game center where visitors use points to claim items. Valorem employees took it with them after they pooled their points at the end of a company outing.

PowerPlay workers had to climb a ladder to retrieve it and vacuumed the dust that had piled on top. Nobody had touched the sea turtle since the store opened.

Now the sea turtle rests in its net, a trophy for Valorem and an apt metaphor for how the technology company aims high and uses teamwork to help big-fish clientele.

Managing partner Domnick Parretta put it simply: “Companies hire us to solve a problem.”

The 6-year-old business has grabbed the attention of the tech community, both locally and nationally, for its speedy growth.

“They’ve scaled their company extremely quickly,” said Ryan Weber, president of KCNext. “They’re really a tech victory for Kansas City.”

Valorem Consulting Group LLC has about 115 companies in its client base, almost double its 60 clients at the end of last year. Those clients are generally national corporations or large business enterprises in Kansas City or Washington state. Valorem has beat out larger competitors such as Dell and Accenture to work with the likes of Alaska Airlines and Post Foods.

When Valorem started in 2009, the company’s founders, Parretta and fellow managing partner Justin Jackson — both from the area and then in their 20s — worked out of home offices in Kansas City and St. Louis.

Two years later, the company had 20 employees who bought cots and slept in the office for days at a time to finish projects.

But that was “two offices ago,” in Parretta’s words. The company now has 120 employees and, after expanding into another floor at its Crossroads location, it’s expanding again. Valorem plans to hire 30 more people to tackle more business before the end of the year.

Valorem’s burgeoning success is fueled by two main ingredients: its cloud-based technology services and its partnership with Microsoft.

Many consulting companies are heading toward the cloud, a way to access and store data from different devices, Weber said. It’s cheaper for the consulting agency and the client because the cloud cuts expenses that come with new hardware.

But what really attracts clients, Weber said, is Valorem’s partnership with Microsoft.

“Valorem is so focused on Microsoft products, which makes them unique in the field,” Weber said.

Valorem has carved a niche for itself in the consulting industry by immersing itself in Microsoft. It’s become an expert by learning about Microsoft products and engagement at a granular level, Parretta said.

In fact, Microsoft has actually hired Valorem for several consulting products.

When Microsoft asked Valorem to develop a more user-friendly way for its corporate business customers to interact with Office 365, Valorem consultants researched the program and profiled Microsoft customers. Soon they had built a Web tool.

“We helped create a dynamically generated website that has a communications engine built in,” Parretta said.

Last spring, Valorem built tools to interpret data gathered by Yammer, an internal company social media platform acquired by Microsoft in 2012.

Valorem consultants developed ways to quantify how employees use their downtime and tools to read employee sentiment by data gathered from posts. If a big company decision is announced on Yammer, for instance, employees can give their feedback. The company can then analyze those responses and determine whether employee sentiment is largely negative or positive.

The company’s consultants also use Microsoft products to solve problems for other companies. Right now, they are considering Microsoft HoloLens, an augmented reality device, to help clients in manufacturing and retail use holograms to visualize and improve procedures and processes.

But seven years ago, Parretta and Jackson struggled to solve a problem of their own: finding a name.

“We’re literally brainlocked. It’s a damning statement, right? We can’t solve our own problem!” joked Parretta.

They settled on the Latin word for value, Parretta said, because Valorem’s mission is to add value for its customers.

As Valorem has expanded, it has experienced growing pains in areas such as scouting and hiring talent.

“We identify what we call the synthesizer gene,” Parretta said. “We actually measure this gene to see how well you synthesize seemingly disparate pieces of information to pull them together to make a solution.”

Despite the challenges, Valorem has managed to expand its workforce and workplace. And its Crossroads offices have their merits: The exposed brick of the renovated factory building. The spray-painted patterned art, commissioned by Valorem, by local graffiti artist Sike. A pingpong table next to a kitchen filled with healthy snacks. And a treadmill desk, available to employees who don’t want to give up their exercise routine for work.

It’s all part of the effort to attract driven employees and to keep the workforce productive and healthy.

The company doesn’t intend to stop growing any time soon. It is preparing to expand its Kansas City headquarters as well as its current Seattle and St. Louis offices, establish locations in Chicago and Dallas, and eventually set up in Europe, south Asia or South America.

Parretta is convinced that the company can accomplish these goals in the next two to three years.

“They sound pretty ambitious,” said Parretta. “But if you would have told me we’d be where we are right now six years ago, I’d have told you that you were too ambitious.”

To reach Kasia Kovacs, call 816-234-4455 or send email to kkovacs@kcstar.com. Twitter: @kasiakovacs.

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