Jim Kelly

Business Services
Jim Kelly

Anyone who remembers 2009 knows that the economy was in rough shape. But for Jim Kelly, the timing was right to launch a new business.

“A recession is a great time to start a company, because your competitors are all probably contracting. Everybody’s back on their heels,” recalls Kelly, CEO of ThreeBridge Solutions. “When you’re at zero, it doesn’t take much to grow.”

And Kelly’s Minneapolis-based consulting firm has grown, from zero to $45 million in annual revenue. This year alone, the company has added 50 new employees within a matter of months as it continues to expand. It opened a second office last year in St. Louis, and has plans to open a third.

The opportunity Kelly saw was for an IT and management consulting firm that operates in the space between small IT staffing firms and the more expensive Big Fives. ThreeBridge works with clients on complex enterprise software issues, including business transformation consulting for companies that have merged operations or are undergoing other big-scale changes. In many cases, a corporate client may not have enough of its own staffers to implement new software systems.

“Our clients tend to like us because of our intense focus on employee development,” Kelly says. “We’re more focused on giving our clients the absolute best talent.” In addition to boosting its experienced employees’ skills, ThreeBridge operates a division called Boom Lab, which develops fresh-out-of-school consulting and corporate talent.

“It was fun to watch and see him succeed,” says Mark Joern, principal owner with the Ameriprise affiliate Minneapolis Wealth Advisors, who has been an advisor to Kelly. “It’s my belief that their business has succeeded because they’ve got a good culture. They have invested a lot in their employees.”

ThreeBridge is something of a rarity among young companies: It has no outside capital or debt on its books. “We don’t focus a lot of time and energy on revenue growth goals. Our focus is more on employee development,” Kelly says. “As a private company, we can make the right decisions, not the decisions that satisfy short-term revenue growth. We’re trying to build a sustainable company.”