Jim Richards – Co-Founder & President, Capstone Consulting

Jim is the co-founder and president of Capstone Consulting, and has helped companies develop and enhance their internal development processes and projects, advising them on all aspects of the software development process. Jim works with key customers on how best to implement technology to provide real business value.

Jim has over 20 years of experience in developing and leading software solutions. He is experienced in all phases of software development, and performed most roles on software development projects, including architect, software engineer, discipline lead, scrum master and project manager.

Jim enjoys working and spending time with his family, and has a heart for international missions and local mercy ministries.

Tell me about your early career.
I grew up on a farm where my parents raised crops and livestock. I enjoyed the farm life but felt a call to more analytical work. I studied computer science in both undergraduate and graduate school. I started as a software developer, then moved to a technical leader, and finally a project manager. As I was working in large corporations, I realized the job security bent with the winds of market, so I decided to try consulting.

How did the concept for Capstone Consulting come about?
As I was working as a consultant, two divergent themes played out that I couldn’t reconcile without starting something new. One is the consulting world has its own set of ethical and integrity challenges that often aren’t handled well. In addition, I wanted to work at a place that strove for integrity and had strong values, preferably based on a Christian ethos. The second theme I had the opportunity to help setup computer schools in Romanian orphanages. This required time off in the order of several weeks a year. Most firms would not allow either of these themes and none would allow both, so we launched Capstone Consulting.

How was the first year in business?
It was slow and tough, but rewarding. Running the business, invoicing, cash flow, ensuring clients were happy, getting new clients, and still working in the business made it an exciting but heavy year. We stayed true to the two themes and had a good time at it. I remember having an early invoice being paid at just over $20,000 and it was a great experience. We grew from just myself to adding a new team member.

What was your marketing strategy?
Word of mouth. Since we had a reputation, we continued to lean on past relationships and success. It allowed us to focus on our services delivery and not too much on marketing.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We grew from two people the first year to around ten the second year. The next two years we grew to about 25 people. Then, the dot com implosion happened (2001-2002). We had very difficult times, but grew immensely from a business process perspective.

How do you define success?
Providing value while enjoying what you are doing. If you don’t provide value, eventually, you won’t enjoy what you are doing.

What is the key to success?
Focus on the thing or few things you are good at while adapting to what the market needs. It’s very tempting to expand into areas you don’t know anything about, but more times than not, you will fail. The balancing act is to adapt into things where you will succeed.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Personally, that I am a sinner who is in need of a Savior, and that Savior is Jesus Christ. From a business perspective, that at best, I’m a steward and need to act responsible. I don’t have control over that much, but with what I do, I strive to do well.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Surely goodness and mercy, will follow [pursue] me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” – Psalm 23:6

“Do to others what you would have them do to you.” – Matt 7:12

“Think in terms of the art of the possible.” – Glen Tindal

What are some of your favorite books?
The Bible, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, and Through the Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliott.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
We lost a large contract and had two invoices rejected by the same client in a single meeting. Overnight, we went from positive to struggling to survive. We had layoffs. The blessing was that all of our people found great jobs, which meant they were great people. It made me realize, I am steward, and I don’t have control over much.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
That I get to work in a Christian-based business that values people and integrity.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
If you want to make a lot of money, go get a job in corporate America and make as much as you can and save most of it. If you want to do what you love, be an entrepreneur, but don’t tie success to money.