Slow Economy Triggers Busy Time for Armada

While just the mention of the “R” word sends most businesspeople into belt-tightening mode, it is just as likely to prompt Scott Wise to consider expanding.
Wise, president and CEO of Armada Consulting, 4500 S. Garnett Road, Ste. 904, makes a living telling other companies how to better manage their finances.
“When times are good, nobody ever really worries about costs, but with the recession and the economy slipping, our phone is ringing off the hook. We are getting calls from other large organizations, including some of the largest banks. which are now wanting to focus in on cost management,” Wise said. “Our practice is kind of reverse cyclical.”
Wise, an Oklahoma State University graduate with a degree in accounting, started Tulsa-based Armada five years ago, after working for KP&G Consulting for 10 years.
He has grown the company, which provides strategic finance and information management for Fortune 100 companies, to 12 employees with revenues nearing $2 million a year.
“We have worked on cost management in large companies such as AT&T, Wells Fargo, USAA Bank and DuPont,” Wise said. “We basically go in and model and identify opportunities for cost improvements, profitability improvement and build systems where they can better manage their finances.”
Wise said Armada has a goal of providing a return on investment of at least five times its fees.
“Of course corporate politics, corporate America and internal things sometimes don’t allow us to do that, but we have been so successful that we have become a trusted adviser for a lot of these finance executives,” he said. “We will execute one project for them, but they keep us. We have been working with companies like AT&T for nearly five years.”
Armada’s clients keep finding new opportunities for it to tackle.
“It’s a model that is part Jerry McGuire, where we help them succeed both personally and corporately, and its part MacGyver, in the fact that we can operate off a shoestring budget and make magic happen with existing resources, technologies and things that are already in that company,” he said.
Armada specializes in melding technology use and cost management practices.
“Too often, executives think, ‘if I go out and buy this technology, it’s the silver bullet that is going to solve all of our problems,’” Wise said. “We have a little unique spin in the fact that we say, ‘Let’s define what it is you want to do and then get the technology.’”
He said he realized a defining moment for the company when he attended the Association for Management Information in Financial Services conference in Chicago last year, and the 300 attending finance executives were asked if they thought it was the CFO’s responsibility to control technology spending?
“Amazingly enough, nearly all the finance executives in the room raised their hands,” Wise said. “The follow-up question to that was, are you equipped to accomplish that objective? Very few hands went up.
“From that moment last summer, we have tried to stay on the forefront of specifically taking some of our best practice methodologies and cost management and integrating those with other finance functions, such as performance management, strategic planning, benefits realization, even down to basic accounting levels,” he said.
The goal is to combine all that finance into a common framework that will actually implement some cost controls for companies.
“That has been our passion project for the past eight months,” he said.
Armada will present its research and a framework at the Association for Management Information in Financial Services conference in Washington, D.C., April 27-29, he said, “to try to get companies to move beyond just financial transparency and really start getting into cost transformation.”
While a slowing economy provides an opportunity for Armada to grow its business, Wise said the company will be cautious about exceeding its ability to provide good service.
“We could probably go out and sell and sell, but we don’t want to outsell our capability to deliver. That would probably be counterproductive to what we have really built,” he said. “Our growth has slowed in the past year, but that is intentional, because we don’t to stop delivering great work. I think too often what you find in consulting is just build, build, build and put butts in chairs to do project work. That’s not the way that we intend to operate.”
Although revenue growth has been relatively flat the last couple of years, the efficiency of the company has kept net income and profitability growing, he said.
“We have built infrastructure and efficiency within our organization so we could grow from 12 to 50 without missing beat,” he said. “So we are looking for opportunities to expand, but it has to be very strategic and has to be the right people.” ?

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