Sagestone Counsulting to RCM Technologies
From the time he was a kid, Keith Brophy had an interest running his own business. The entrepreneurial seed germinated throughout his college years pursuing a degree in computer science at the University of Michigan, an eight-year career at IBM in Washington, D.C. and sprouted when he landed a job in his hometown of Grand Rapids.
“I continued to think about starting my own business,” Brophy relates. “During my off-work hours, usually between 10 pm and 2 am, I started writing books on emerging technologies relating to the internet,” he continued. His third book was translated into 14 languages and he began receiving emails from all over the world about internet and software questions.
Brophy, along with a small group of his colleagues, began to consider the possibility of starting their own company. At the same time, Brophy’s mother sent him an article on the Small Business Technology Development Center (SBTDC), a network that offers business counseling and training for those in business or interested in starting a business. “I stuck the article in my sock drawer, I thought it was just another gimmick,” Brophy relates. He came across the article a short time later and decided to give the SBTDC a try. “It was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done,” Brophy states. “The SBTDC took me through each step of starting a business. Nancy Boese, a business consultant for the SBTDC and Carol Lopucki, the Regional Director, taught me the importance of business infrastructure. They connected me to attorneys, CPAs, marketing specialists, and most importantly, gave me the encouragement to start my own company.”
Sagestone Consulting was launched in 1996 in Brophy’s basement. Brophy and the other co-founders raised $100,000 of their money to start the business. The company started growing right away, developing custom web software based on Microsoft technology. While initially many of their customers were located in Michigan, Sagestone’s customer base quickly expanded to include companies throughout the country. Sagestone continued to take advantage of the SBTDC, receiving services and training in financial projections, marketing, and sales techniques. “My vision for Sagestone was to build the software scaffolding for our community and I think we achieved that vision. I am proud that Sagestone built software for 21 of the top 25 west Michigan companies.”
In 2005, NuSoft Solutions acquired Sagestone Consulting. The new company now combined NuSoft’s expertise in IT infrastructure with Sagestone’s specialized web and custom software development solutions. Brophy and Dale Mansour, NuSoft Solutions CEO, had similar business perspectives and both believed the new company could become a national leader in the IT market. “While the move was technically an acquisition, it felt more like a merger. The visions of NuSoft and Sagestone were extraordinarily aligned and joining forces significantly enhanced our capabilities,” regarded Brophy. Together they built one of the largest privately held technology solutions companies in the U.S. with almost 200 employees.
Despite the success of Sagestone and NuSoft, Brophy’s relationship with the SBTDC continued to evolve. Brophy became a mentor and advisor to other SBTDC clients. He helped the SBTDC with its web solutions, launched a technology council at the Right Place, the Grand Rapids area economic development organization, and co-founded the Michigan Homeland Security Consortium which aimed to open up opportunities for small companies to enter the defense and homeland security markets.
In 2008, NuSoft decided to go public and Brophy and Mansour found the company that would allow NuSoft to respond to more opportunities and increase the scale of its business in RCM Technologies. RMC, a New Jersey-based company, is a diverse provider of IT and engineering services. The acquisition of NuSoft resulted in the creation of a new RCM business unit, Enterprise Integration Services, headquartered in Michigan. Brophy, now RCM Vice-President of Enterprise Integrated Solutions, is excited by what he sees as building business momentum. “The fact companies in all sectors are transforming, shifting and finding new business models offers great software opportunities and increasing web activity for us. I enjoy interacting with emerging businesses, helping them create software, working to foster their growth, and generally providing what counsel I can,” Brophy relates.
Brophy views himself as one of Michigan’s business success stories - he’s evolved from a basement operation to become an integral part of a global company. He says, ”I must acknowledge the SBTDC and its key role in my success. The encouragement and practical advice the SBTDC has provided along every step of our journey has been invaluable.”