Tim Whitley, president and co-founder of the Little Rock-based marketing firm Team SI, knows what it takes to stand out in the ever-changing realm of digital marketing.
“You have to be something different for people to recognize you,” Whitley says. “Comparing us to other advertising firms is apples to oranges. You don’t get to this size, this revenue by being an apple.”
The data-driven marketing firm focuses on singularity in data, building a foundation on individual information rather than marketing to the masses. With more than 100 employees dedicated to data mining, application development and traditional marketing as well as its own proprietary system pairing analytics with the knowledge of its certified staff, Team SI has seen constant growth since its inception in 2010.
A five-year growth rate of 921 percent from 2012 to 2016 and a 2017 revenue of more than $11 million landed the firm on the 2015 and 2016 Inc. 5000 list for the fastest growing private companies in the U.S. It has an additional location in Austin, Texas, and a new location in Arizona is in the works. Whitley says the company is looking at plans for continued growth, but those plans have to be tested before they are launched.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it,” Whitley says. “The problem is sometimes when you invent the future, when you try something, it’s going to break. So we have to get it right before we develop and send it out and sell or market it.”
Inventing the future, however, is not a new concept for Whitley. He spent 10 years working for Nexstar Broadcasting and five years working for KARK 4, in addition to acting as a digital media manager and advisor to several TV stations across the country. The result was a new understanding in the media landscape of how to build a revenue model using push notifications to deliver information to consumers.
At age 26, after losing his sister to breast cancer, he recognized that he was ready to take his knowledge and experience to the next level.
“There was a fundamental shift in the way I felt. I hit the limits of innovation, and that’s a big thing for me. That and the shock of losing my sister led to the realization that I wasn’t pushing myself as hard every day, and there were other companies that needed a technology roadmap,” Whitley says.
In the beginning stages of its business, Team SI concentrated on the automobile industry. Whitley’s experience growing up on a farm in Abilene, Texas, and being raised by a mother who worked at an equipment dealership prompted him to shift his focus to the equipment industry in 2016.
“A farmer shops just like an automotive shopper, but their price point is 10 times higher. When you look for a used piece of equipment for an ag farmer, instead of looking at a $30,000 truck, they’re looking for a $300,000 combine,” Whitley says.
Team SI wanted to provide information to equipment dealers and manufacturers about how people are genuinely shopping for pieces of heavy equipment. The team created an interactive website design and digital campaign for one of the largest John Deere franchises, ushering it into the digital world and helping to modernize the brand. This type of disruption in the business model is what Whitley hopes to continue in the future.
“We’re constantly looking for the industries and business models that have not been touched,” he says.
Team SI was recently recognized in Fortune and by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City as number 20 on the 2017 Inner City 100 list for inner city job growth and continued education.