Making the Right Move

Skye Perry’s small business, which he and three co-workers operated from his basement, was at a pivotal point. The company was doing well, but 80-hour work weeks and limited capital and resources were keeping it from growing.

So what would Perry do? Scale back or go all-in?

He chose the latter, and has been reaping the rewards ever since. Perry’s entrepreneurial vision—coupled with detailed analysis and some good advice—has taken his company, SSP Innovations, to new heights. SSP Innovations will be one of 100 companies honored Friday during the inaugural Gator100 awards, which recognizes the fastest-growing, Gator-owned or Gator-led businesses in the world.

Expanding SSP Innovations, based in Centennial, Colorado (about 15 miles south of Denver), wasn’t an easy choice for Perry, 36. He wasn’t going to take such a professional and financial leap on a hunch or emotion. So he relied on what he knew best: Analytics. He analyzed every aspect of his company and its potential growth in the IT industry. Perry (BSBA ’00), developed an interest in data and analytics at Warrington where he majored in Decision & Information Sciences (now Information Systems & Operations Management).

“That program was about using IT tools with business analysis,” Perry said. “That blend was pretty exciting. Now, I’m a huge data hound. I analyze everything.”

Perry also needed someone with business savvy to give an objective breakdown of his company. He found that in Scott Barth, a value creation advisor and exit planning consultant. After visiting with Perry for a few hours, Barth said it was obvious that Perry could not continue running the company in its current state.

“You could see it was taking a heavy toll on him, both personally and professionally,” Barth said. “I told him ‘I really can’t help you until you make a decision to scale back or create a real business.’”

“He took that to heart. About three or four weeks passed, then I got a call from him asking how quickly we can meet. I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Let’s make a real business.’”

SSP Innovations’ focus is providing IT solutions for electric, gas, and water utilities as well as telecom providers, an industry Perry believed was not being catered to properly.

“Utilities and telecom are unique market niches,” Perry said. “We really felt we could attack that space with our services.”

A prime example of one of SSP Innovations’ solutions is when power goes out in a neighborhood, and a customer calls to report the outage. Perry’s team implements the automated system that customer uses, which alerts workers to the outage, predicts the most likely failure point and provides those workers the necessary information to resolve the problem quickly and efficiently. When multiple customers report the same outage, the solution is able to capture all those reports and streamline them into a single report to not confuse operators and repair workers. SSP Innovations implements solutions like these via a blend of technology including industry-leading partner products along with SSP-driven customization, systems integration, and consulting.

Perry’s career in technology began at the height of the dot-com bubble upon graduation from UF in 2000. He planned to attend graduate school, but when he had seven job offers he couldn’t refuse the salary and work experience. He began at a small startup in Fort Lauderdale, but less than two years later the bubble burst. He became a contract worker in Colorado specializing in Geographic Information System (GIS), which is a foundation of SSP Innovations.

“[GIS] is a very unique area in IT,” Perry said. “It’s been a very stable and growing area all the way through my career, even during downturns.”

With a good-paying job and having to support his wife and three children, Perry said he wasn’t going to venture out on his own until he had a plan. Perry slowly built a strong network of customers, and secured a year-long contract with one of them. That gave Perry the confidence to step out on his own in June 2007.

Perry said larger firms have offered to buy SSP Innovations, but he’s refused because he simply loves where he works and the culture he’s helped foster. In fact, it was two SSP Innovations employees—Chalmer and Susan (BS ’96) Donahue—who nominated the company for the Gator100.

“It’s amazing to have an organization stand behind me,” Perry said. “They’re our employees and our friends, and when they go the extra mile it means everything to me.”

Perry doesn’t know where he ranks on the Gator100, but he said it doesn’t matter. He said to be included in this exclusive and inaugural group is an honor in itself.

“I couldn’t care less if I was 100 out of 100,” Perry said. “This is really exciting. I value my education, and it’s a big part of who I am as a person. I support the university, and am looking forward to recruit other Gators and give them a chance.”

Perry will be representing SSP Innovations at UF’s Spring 2015 Career Showcase on Feb. 4 (Technical Day) from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the O’Connell Center.