Outsourcing firm Vorsight thrives on founders' ability to reach executives

Vorsight co-founders David Stillman, left, and Steve Richard have recorded increasing revenue each year since starting the company.
Vorsight co-founders David Stillman, left, and Steve Richard have recorded increasing revenue each year since starting the company. (Ingrid Freemyer)

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By Thomas Heath
Monday, July 19, 2010

Some of the most satisfying reporting moments are finding the elusive subject.

I was trying to reach a federal judge many years ago for a story, and he kept dodging my phone calls. He was several hundred miles away. His home number was unlisted.

So I called his office telephone one Saturday morning, thinking he might be in the courthouse working. I knew judges often go in on the weekend to catch up. He picked up the line.

I had my story.

Steve Richard, 29, and David Stillman, 32, have built their growing company -- a sales training and outsourcing firm called Vorsight that expects to earn up to $3 million in revenue this year -- around the same kind of reporting.

The entrepreneurs cut their teeth at the Corporate Executive Board, working the phones, burrowing inside corporations -- avoiding secretaries and other screeners -- as they tried to schedule face-to-face meetings with executives who might purchase subscriptions to the company's services.

The Corporate Executive Board, founded by Atlantic Media owner David Bradley, sells its research and corporate-networking services to executives all over the world. Think of the Arlington-based CEB as a club for senior executives to share ideas.

"We would cold-call very senior executives and chief information officers and their direct-reports," said Richard, who graduated from Georgetown in 2002.

He has learned to be resourceful at reaching people, and now those skills are part of the Vorsight playbook. He has taught employees to arrive at work around 7 a.m. to catch senior managers before their secretaries arrive. Sometimes he calls employees at target companies and asks to be rerouted to an executive's direct line. (I'm not saying whether I have done that.) He has discovered a code that in certain phone systems sends you to a company directory. (That's a new one on me).

He knows how to block his number so his target cannot see who is calling.

"Then you can call the person four times in the same day," Richard said.

Once he has them on the line, he knows how to grab an executive's attention in the first five seconds. It's important, he said, to act like a peer to the person you are talking with, even if they are decades older.


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