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Executive Leadership Coaching

4 minute read

How Spinnaker Earned a Spot on the 2019 Inc. 5000 List

Sep 6, 2019

Written by: Shawn Sweeney


When you hear about a company that made the 2019 Inc. 5000 list of the nation’s fastest-growing privately owned businesses by achieving almost 900 percent growth in just 3 years, you probably think it’s some cool start-up from Silicon Valley or it’s a company that developed some hot new app or game. Truth is, it’s a cool start-up from Richmond, Virginia — it’s us!

Spinnaker hasn’t developed any new technology. And we’re not the next Google or Apple. What we have done, I believe, is identified a need in the marketplace for seasoned consultants who are willing to roll up their sleeves to deliver real results. So how did we get here? How did we achieve this level of growth in such a short period of time? How did we earn a coveted spot on the 2019 Inc. 5000 list? We did it by consistently focusing on 5 things — and they may not be what you’d think of first.

At our core, Spinnaker is focused on helping others move their business forward. With that in mind, I wanted to share our 5 keys to success in growing our business over the past 3 years, so you can apply the concepts toward advancing your own team or business. For each concept, I’ve also listed a core question to ask yourself to drill down to the heart of the issue — and help you deliver on the goal.

5 Keys to Success: How Spinnaker Earned a Spot on the 2019 Inc. 5000 List

Focusing on these 5 keys to success created a tremendous trajectory of growth for Spinnaker over the past 3 years, which earned us a spot on the 2019 Inc. 5000 list. It’s a recognition of which everyone here at Spinnaker is immensely proud — and, honestly, everyone contributed to our success. I think these concepts can apply to any team or business looking to succeed, whether you’re a new business just launching or you’re an established team within a large organization. These concepts have worked for us and, I believe, they can work for you, too.


Whatever you do, first take care of your team. Of course, it all starts with hiring talented people who also share your goals and values. Once they’re on board, it’s up to you as a leader to make every person on your team successful. It’s not about you and your success — it’s about theirs. Create a place where people want to come to work, where they get to do work they enjoy and are proud of, where they get to collaborate with people they respect, and where they feel recognized for the results they’re delivering. And P.S., notice none of this advice is about installing a beer keg in the office or allowing people to bring their pets to work.

Ask Yourself: As a leader, are you working to knock down the obstacles that make it hard for your team to do what they do best?


This might seem obvious, but it’s surprising how often this is overlooked in business today. Once again, it’s not about you. If you’re in a service-based business, as Spinnaker is, it’s about your clients and advancing their success, not yours. Their success will drive your success — but it doesn’t necessarily work the other way around. Be a true partner who genuinely cares about building long-term relationships, not just what immediately makes you more money this quarter. Apply this to your internal customers as well!

Ask Yourself: Have you met both the written and unwritten needs of your clients?


It’s hard to succeed at anything if you haven’t defined what success looks like. If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. When you establish clear goals, everyone knows what you’re all striving for — so you can all work together to get there. Be specific. Be concise. And be judicious. Everything can’t be a priority. Because when everything is a priority, nothing is. As a leader, one of your goals is to set priorities as well as help prioritize the work. There’s always more work to do than there are available resources. Great leaders make the tough decisions and bring the priorities into focus. Reassess often to ensure you’re on the right path, and don’t be afraid to shift and respond to change. For more about goal setting, check out Spinnaker Principal Chris Landrum’s previous blog on the topic: “Ask Spinnaker: How Can I Set Better Business Goals?”

Ask Yourself: Will what we’re doing right now get us where we need to go and by when we need to get there?


You either get better or get worse every day. Learning gives you the opportunity to get better! Embrace learning and role model it to your organization so it becomes baked-in as an essential part of your culture. Hire people with a bent toward learning who will “fit” with this core value. Read. Listen. Ask. Learn from other experts. Learn from one another. Learn from your industry. Learn from other industries. Most importantly, learn from mistakes. Hold post-project reviews to analyze the answers to basic questions like what went well, what didn’t go well, and whether there were surprises — good and bad. Then strive to not repeat your mistakes.

Ask Yourself: Where can we make positive, impactful changes based on what we’re learning?


It’s easy to get distracted by day-to-day fire drills. It’s also easy to spend a crazy amount of time looking in the rearview mirror. Stay focused on what’s ahead! Teams who want to grow and be successful have leaders who spend time looking forward. Be proactive. Build processes, tools, and technologies before you need them. It may seem wastefully unproductive to build something you’re not going to need for 6, 12, or even 18 months, but if you have to stop to build something once you absolutely need it, it will certainly slow your momentum — and turn into its own fire drill.

Ask Yourself: Where do we hope to be in 6 months, and what will we need to be successful when we get there?

These 5 keys to success have worked for us at Spinnaker, fueling the growth and success that resulted in being recognized on a national scale. In truth, we are all sincerely humbled to have earned a spot on the 2019 Inc. 5000 list, because getting there wasn’t a goal we set our sights on, but rather the outcome of being who we are and always striving to do more. In the words of Vince Lombardi: “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”. At Spinnaker, success is about giving our best every day.

If you want to read more about managing Spinnaker’s growth preparation, check out our recent blog by Principal Brett Ludden titled “8 Change Management Lessons from Spinnaker’s Growth Preparation Initiatives.”

At Spinnaker, we’re the go-to resource for the real-time results you need now, and the lasting impact you depend on to strengthen your business in the future. Our expertise, agility, and first-hand business knowledge move your business forward. To find out more, connect with us today.