By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Brian Strong uses the construction of the interstate highway system or the transcontinental railroad as metaphors to describe the growth and evolution of Vendor Registry.
The Knoxville-based company was co-founded by Strong and Chris Van Beke in 2012 to help expand opportunities for both local governments that were procuring goods and services and vendors who wanted to have more opportunities to bid on these procurements.
The company placed first in 2014 in the inaugural “The TENN” master accelerator program run by Launch Tennessee.
“We’re growing like a weed,” Strong told us in a recent conversation. The company had six employees a year ago; the number is now 14.
The growth comes from the addition of new clients as well as new service offerings. With two market segments, Strong says it sometimes feels like the construction of the interstate highway or the transcontinental railroad systems.
Those who are old enough to remember the construction of I-40 between Knoxville and Memphis will recall it was built in segments. There was a grand plan. All of the links would eventually connect across the state and, for that matter, across the country from Wilmington, NC to Barstow, CA. It did not happen at one time, but over a period of years.
In a similar fashion, Strong and Van Beke have a master plan for the services that Vendor Registry will provide and the geographic locations it will serve. Some locations have come on earlier than expected, and the planned unveiling of some services has accelerated due to demand.
“It feels like we’re building the government side from the east coast toward the west and the vendor side from the west to the east,” Strong explains. “We know they will meet in the middle.”
From the outset, Tennessee was Vendor Registry’s largest customer base, and it is still home to the single largest client (Rutherford County) in terms of population.
“We have 86 local government clients in Tennessee and more than 40 of the top 100 cities in terms of population,” Strong says. However, fastest growth in terms of new local government clients is Georgia.
“We will probably have 50 local government clients there by the end of the year,” Strong says.
Vendor Registry offers two portals – one for vendors for which they pay a fee, the other for local governments which is free. The latter enter their procurements in the system, and Vendor Registry makes that information available for any company that has signed-up for the service.
This is not the sole value proposition for commercial clients. Vendor Registry also regularly searches newspapers and webpages to find additional opportunities to add to the system for them to evaluate.
The company will soon unveil a new contract management software package for local governments.
“We have a client a week calling us about contract management,” Strong says. “This will be our first product for which we will charge local governments.”
Another upcoming service addition is an E-Verify compliance capability.
“We have new development features coming out faster and faster,” Strong says.
For now, he describes Vendor Registry’s service as “a good sealed bid option” for local governments. The long-term goal is to have cities and counties use it for purchases that fall under the less formal quoting process.