Before Wade was the Founder and CEO of Fluid, he was in a rock band (with more hair) in the 80’s.
Why did you start the business, what was the catalyzing event?
My father started his own business when I graduated high-school and my uncle had his own business, so that was the spark. I worked for enterprise sized IT companies and the thought of starting my own business was always on my mind. The catalyst, which definitely was an ‘event’, occurred in November of 2001 during the dot com bust. I was working in the IT Strategy practice for PwC Consulting here in Dallas and when the bubble burst, the firm started setting very stringent utilization requirements, which resulted in the desired layoffs (“not billable, not employable”). I was able to remain billable and watched as our team quickly shrank. I was called into the partners office and after I was told what a great job I was doing and would receive a promotion, he then told me I would also be receiving a 10% pay cut. In those days in the ‘big 4’, there were only 6 levels of promotion throughout your entire career. So when you received a promotion from one level to the next it was a large financial event coupled with more responsibility. In one motion I went from receiving a 20-30% increase to a 10% decrease- a 40% swing I would never get back, all the while with more responsibility. I gave notice a few weeks later and started the business, what was then called Fluid Consulting, in January of 2002.
How did you find your first customer?
He actually found me. I was providing consulting to the CIO and his staff for a Fortune 500 company prior to leaving PwC. One of the executives previously left the company to take the CIO job at another company. I was thinking of calling him to see if he needed any help and he ended up calling me first. He was my first client, who turned into a 3-year engagement with a Fortune 500 client.
Describe your first office/location.
We lived near Highland Park Village at the time, so I opened a PO Box there to have a ‘legitimate’ office address. My physical office was the guest room of our house, which I didn’t use much because I was consulting onsite 90% of the time.
What’s the most creative thing you did to get your business started, or kept it going through a tough time?
Being in the business of IT with the expectation of being the ‘expert for all things IT’ for all of our clients and staying relevant is a constant challenge. We have continually had to reinvent. Perhaps the most creative and biggest move was to pivot from a project-based revenue business to a recurring revenue business. At the time, 80% of our business was ‘one-time’ with 20% recurring. The goal was to swap those percentages in a year and we did it. That shift was a challenge but keeping the business healthy and profitable through the great recession of 2008 and now the pandemic has been a different level.
What’s something quirky or superstitious you do as a CEO?
I’m not really superstitious so I’ll have to go with quirky. I’ve been told, sometimes I perform an old man jig when we get some good news. Although I believe any of my dance moves are current and awesome.
What was your last job working for someone else? What was your favorite day job?
My last job working for someone else was 20 years ago as a consultant with PwC. My favorite day job was probably when I was in a band living in Deep Ellum in the late 80’s and early 90’s trying to ‘make it’. Obviously, I didn’t, and it wasn’t really a ‘day’ job, but it was pretty fun – until we had to load all that gear at 3 am.
Where did you come up with the name for your company?
I knew from the get-go I didn’t want my name tied to the business name because I was hoping, and still do, that I am able leave a legacy beyond myself. So, anything with Yeaman was out. Back in my enterprise days at EDS, PwC, etc., I used to hear people say – ‘the situation is fluid’. It always struck me as a very good way to describe business and easy to quickly visualize. I had certainly been through a lot of business change and ‘fluid’ situations, so it seemed like a good name. I chose the name Fluid Consulting with the tagline …because business is Fluid. We changed to Fluid IT Services around 8 years ago to help clarify what we do and avoid any confusion among the massive increase in IT companies and competition. 20 years later I still believe business is Fluid and laugh every time I catch a client say it without realizing it.