Conversation with a leader

Wednesday, February 15, 2006 at 1:00am

James Lewis is managing partner of Cumberland Consulting Group, a Franklin-based company that provides information technology consulting. Only two years in operation, the company has seen its revenues increase from about $2 million in 2004 to approximately $4 million in 2005. Lewis, 49, says CCG hopes to total about $7 million in revenue for 2006. Cumberland Consulting Group has four partners and 27 employees, with clients including Kaiser Permanente, Saint Louis Integrated Health Network, Washington University and Nielson Entertainment (the entity that compiles movie box office statistics). A former employee of "Big Four" consulting firm Ernst & Young, Lewis has worked in Chicago, New York and Paris. He and his business partners came to Nashville, in part, because of the city's community of large health care companies, with software implementation for electronic medical records a growing part of CCG's consulting practice. Recently, Cumberland Consulting became one of only 16 companies nationwide to be certified to configure and implement Epic electronic medical records software. Lewis is a member of the Project Management Institute and active in both The Children's Circle in Los Angeles and the University of Iowa Alumni Association. He and wife Karen will participate in the upcoming fund-raiser for Cystic Fibrosis of Middle Tennessee.

How focused on health care industry companies has CCG become?

A big part of our focus is health care. I would expect that very soon, at least half of our business will be health care related. We are technology implementation people working in a lot of industries. However, the only industry that we actively target is health care. I would rank our effort in terms of success in targeting this industry an "8."

What is area competition like?

It's substantial. There are a lot of companies active in the technology and health care marketplace. But we find that a lot of our competition is from out of town. That was a big part of why we were interested in working in Nashville. In the past years, we were consultants traveling into Nashville from out of town. The need for service here was substantial.

CCG has, in a brief period, secured some high-profile clients. How did you accomplish this?

Our initial year, we certainly leveraged people we know and had worked with before. A great deal of business, however, has come in from word of mouth. About 80 percent of our clients are large recognizable businesses. The reason for that is that the value we bring to a client centers on management of complex projects. And it's the larger companies dealing with projects with great complexity.

What are CCG's goals for 2006?

We feel good about how we're penetrating the market, but we would like more Nashville-based business. Our revenue goal is to exceed $7 million. The remainder of our goals are internal development things such as additional training for our employees as they continue to pursue professional certification. We're planning to get to 40 employees in 2006.

In what city, other than Nashville, have you enjoyed the most success and why?

I'd highlight St. Louis, which has been a pleasant surprise for us. We took a small piece of work in St. Louis through a contact and it's expanded into a number of opportunities.

How does CCG differentiate itself from the competition?

One of the ways we think we're different than other consulting organizations is that we're trying to be very selective in our staffing. We're putting together our service offering more of a quality vs. quantity approach. Our view is that while we understand we need to become more recognized, our emphasis is to attract good people. And while generating business in 2006 will be a challenge, finding and hiring talented and qualified people will be more of a challenge. Along this line, CCG pays 100 percent of employee health insurance premiums, including coverage for family members.

Has the company experienced any major difficulties regarding legal matters or finances?

We've had only one employee who has left us and we've had no lawsuits. Before we started the company, we ran all kinds of worst-case scenarios as to what could go wrong. We've been extremely fortunate.

Has the fallout from Enron created more opportunities for small IT consulting firms?

While our roots are with Ernst & Young, we were most recently with Capgemini because Ernst & Young sold their consulting business to Capgemini in 2000. We left Capgemini because we were dissatisfied about the direction of the company. That's the point at which we became disenchanted with the larger firms. Following Enron, I do think that more clients are willing to consider smaller consulting firms.

Any trends in your industry?

The fees larger consulting companies can command now are much lower than they were four years ago. We're a lower overhead business, so we can keep our fees lower.

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