How Inc. 5000 companies make other companies better. And in the process, make the economy work.
By Leigh Buchanan
We know companies that operate data centers are critical to the economy. If we thought about it, we would realize companies providing air conditioners to keep those data centers running are critical, too. But how critical are companies that maintain and service the air-conditioning systems that cool the data centers?
Toby Thomas found out in 2007. At the time, he was working for a business that was hired by Perot Systems to ensure its data center stayed cool while a new one was under construction. Perot Systems had many big financial clients, and "the day before we went in, we got a call from a top executive saying, 'I want you to know, if this fails, what will happen,' " recalls Thomas. " 'It will be on CNN. The stock market could be affected. The value of the dollar could be affected.'
"I realized, Wow, we're not just guys in hardhats doing a job," says Thomas. Two years later, he founded EnSite Solutions, now based in Irving, Texas. "Data centers are more tied to our economy than oil is," says Thomas. A company that services data-center cooling systems is mission critical to the mission critical to the mission critical.
The Fortune 500 traffics in consumer products, oil, pharmaceuticals, cars, retail, and the kinds of telecom services and software most people use every day. The Inc. 5000 is, by and large, a more esoteric crowd. Many supply businesses and government agencies with such products as network-on-chip design (Arteris), cloud-services brokering (Cloud Sherpas), and electronic payment technology optimized for the clinical-trial industry (Greenphire). The niches they ply can be inscrutably specific. Acquia provides products, services, and technical support for the Drupal social publishing system. Understanding Acquia requires a pit stop at drupal.org to learn about a fascinating corner of the global open-source movement.