Phil Bligh
A True Disciplinarian
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You do not go from potato peeler at a fish-and-chips restaurant in London to the chief executive of a technology consulting company in Chicago without some measure of discipline. And you certainly do not win Ernst & Young's Illinois and Northwest Indiana Entrepreneur of the Year award in the E-Developer category without discipline. Nor do you achieve the title of fastest-growing technology company in Chicago in 2000 by Deloitte & Touche without discipline. It is discipline that also prevented Philip Bligh, founder of systems integrator Inforte Corp., from succumbing to temptation. While the Web integrator market soared in the late 1990s, popularized by companies like Lante, Razorfish, Scient, and Viant, Bligh opted to steer clear of the appealing Web integration market and began moving Inforte away from integration and toward CRM consulting. "In the year 2000 we said, 'The Internet is an important tool and technology, but it isn't what we're going to focus on. We're going to focus on CRM and integrating it into the rest of the enterprise,'" Bligh says. His decision proved to be a fortunate one for Inforte, as last year's economic slow down severely punished the Web integrators' heavily laden dot-com customer base. While the once high-flying Web integrators were scrambling for new customers, Inforte was quietly shifting its strategy toward consulting. Although Bligh was not immune from the economic downturn, he had managed to build his company from a humble beginning in 1993 to a current 258-employee operation. Two key experiences have helped instill the value of discipline, Bligh claims. The first was his degree in chemical engineering from University College of London. The second was his job as a business analyst and project manager in the London office of Accenture, where he focused on management and technology consulting for a number of high profile Fortune 500 companies. He only held one other job--that of project manager for enterprise software provider Systems Software Associates--before embarking on his own with Inforte. "We're very process-driven, so we have more predictability and less issues," Bligh says. He uses that predictability as a selling feature for potential clients. "We use our own CRM solution that we implemented to track sales and forecast revenue. We've been able to successfully predict revenue every quarter since we've been public, for nine quarters running. Our competitors haven't been able to do that." The Details Name: Phil Bligh Age: 35 Title: Founding CEO and Chairman, Inforte Education: Undergraduate degree in chemical engineering, University College of London Biggest career blunder: He and colleagues were locked out of their car in a client's parking lot. It didn't cost them the account, though. Latest book read: Good to Great, by Jim Collins Favorite music: Opera and alternative rock, such as Pearl Jam Favorite sports: Golf and soccer Volunteer work: Teaches MBA students at DuPaul University how to be business managers of technology companies.
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