- change ups
Morley helps customers leverage wallet share
Morley isn’t cocky or gloating — he has taken his licks along the way and learned how to roll with the punches — but he and his employees have much to be thankful for and he knows it.
Morley started DPT Solutions in his home as a one-person business after losing his job abruptly at age 39. That was back when the dotcom bubble burst at the turn of the century.
DPT stands for “Driving Performance Together,” and as the business began picking up speed, the initials alone became sufficient identification for the growing company.
DPT revenues actually increased slightly during the second half of 2008 and all the way through 2009. “Not a lot, but we didn’t have to lay anybody off and didn’t have to close the doors,” said Morley.
Then it really improved.
“2010 will be best year the company ever had, from a revenue perspective,” he said.
Three new employees were added this year, along with some additional contracted help. The nine employees plus the subcontractors brings the total roster at the firm to about a dozen.
“We’re pretty small, obviously. Adding a couple people isn’t going to change the Grand Rapids economy, but every little bit helps, right?” he said.
DPT, located at 3350 East Paris Ave. SE, focuses on helping companies increase revenues and decrease costs, he said. Its three core services are business process management, customer relationship management and project/program management.
That doesn’t sound much like mechanical engineering, which is how Morley’s professional career began — or at least was supposed to begin.
After graduation from Brighton High School, he attended Western Michigan University, earning a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering in 1984.
His first job was at Bohn Aluminum & Brass in Holland, which mainly made parts for office furniture and some automobile companies. He was hired for an opening in engineering, “but when I started, they said, ‘Oh, by the way, we’re going to have you rotate on the floor for a week or a few weeks.”
It turned out to be more like a year, and he wasn’t doing engineering; he was supervising about 25 unionized production workers on the second shift. While not happy about the situation at the start, he said, “that was an interesting time and a tremendous learning experience for me.”
He did eventually end up working as an engineer at Bohn. Morley said the discipline and rational approach of engineering “helped me a lot in my career.”
Three years later, he took a job with Jet Electronics in Grand Rapids, working mainly as a manufacturing engineer. Today, that aerospace business is known as L3 Communications Avionics Systems.
A few years later, he got married and then decided to go back to school full time at Michigan State University, commuting every day from Grand Rapids while pursuing an MBA degree in supply chain management. His wife, Mary, helped put him through school.
While studying at MSU, he also worked part-time in East Lansing for a supply chain management consulting firm.
With his MBA in hand, Morley landed a job in 1991 at the Steelcase wood furniture plant in Kentwood. He was brought in as an engineer “with promises,” he said. He had been told the plant would double or triple in size with lots of opportunity for upward mobility.
“It just never materialized,” he said. After a few years, he left in order to use his MBA training at Integrated Strategies, an East Lansing consulting firm founded by Morley’s brother-in-law, Steve Trecha.
“He’s the closest thing I’ve had to a mentor. He taught me how to be a good consultant,” said Morley.
“I actually liked the work. What I didn’t like about the business was the travel,” he said. He was working as a consultant all over the country and sometimes outside the country, and that was a problem, because “I had three little kids at the time.”
He next joined the WhittmanHart office in Grand Rapids. The Chicago-based firm soon after merged with another company and was re-named MarchFirst — a global, publicly traded systems integrator and Internet consulting service that had thousands of employees around the country. Morley estimated that there were about 150 at one point in the Grand Rapids office, located in the Brass Works Building on Monroe Avenue.
The sudden demise of MarchFirst in 2001 made it a poster child for the dotcom failures taking place at that time. MarchFirst was formed by Whittman-Hart and USWeb/CKS on March 1, 2000, according to Wikipedia, and filed for bankruptcy protection in April 2001.
“As soon as that merger took place, things started to unravel,” said Morley. “We went up really fast, and then came down the other side really fast.”
The company’s stock had been as high as $52 but was only 16 cents on March 28, 2001, according to Wikipedia.
Fortunately, there was a silver lining in it for Morley. GreenStone Farm Credit Service had been a MarchFirst client and Morley had spent a lot of time working on the account.
“I called them up and said, ‘Hey, would you like me to do some more work?’ And they said, ‘Absolutely, we’ve got a lot more to do.’”
He started working as an independent contractor.
GreenStone, based in East Lansing, now has its own internal staff for IT needs but still calls on DPT occasionally “because we understand their business,” said Morley.
Jack Kelly, a GreenStone executive, used the expression “wallet share” to explain the company’s strategy, according to Morley. Where other companies were aiming to increase market share, Greenstone’s strategy was to build “wallet share”: more business with the existing customer base by expanding and strengthening the relationship with the customer.
Morley said DPT’s competition is generally perceived to be “technology implementers” — consulting firms that typically base their services on a particular type of software. Morley said his company tries to be “technology agnostic” in its approach.
While technology is certainly a component of DPT’s success, “whichever technology it is, is less important to us.” What matters, he said, is the specific change the client hopes to achieve in business results going forward.
Other competitors are the large national consulting firms like IBM Global or Deloitte & Touche, according to Morley, but DPT has a couple of advantages: It doesn’t charge as much and it is truly a local company.
DPT now has from seven to 10 clients at any given time and has worked with dozens over the years. Clients include a national manufacturing company, a health care service, an education company, a small biotech startup and more.
Customer relationship management, or CRM, has been particularly valuable during the recession, he said, which gets back to that issue of leveraging “wallet share.”
CRM means organizing all customer information so that each department at a company knows what the other departments are doing with that customer. A salesperson, for example, should be aware that there was an issue with a recent delivery, and the accounting department should know what the marketing department is doing with that customer.
CRM is “about managing those relationships so that you can keep those customers,” said Morley.
Happy customers, of course, can lead to new customers.
“The reason we did well in the recession is, everyone is pretty focused on business development and generating revenue — how do we sell more, how do we get better at selling, more efficient at selling.
“So we have done a lot of work in that area (CRM) in the last couple or three years,” said Morley.
DPT has had some clients pull back plans during the recession. One client started a project but had to put it on hold for more than a year due to a lack of money.
“Now this year, they’ll be one of our top three clients,” said Morley.
Morley does not believe a double-dip recession is in store.
“I do believe it’s already flattened out,” he said. “Some people would say we’re already in a second dip, but I don’t believe that.”
His bio notes that he enjoys spending time with his family, plus golf, basketball — “and the occasional political discussion.” His economic prediction does have a political perspective. He said that if Republicans do well in the fall election, it may put the brakes on government spending.
“The issue with the economy, in my opinion, is business confidence — myself included. Even though I’ve had a really good year this year, I don’t have confidence that next year my taxes aren’t going to go up by 20 percent” or that regulations will balloon related to health care.
“Small business is right in the crosshairs of that, in my opinion,” he said.
A Republican victory, he said, is “by no means certain.” But if it does happen, it “will allow business to get more confident,” he said.
“So I think 2011 will start out pretty average, but I think it’s going to end very well.”