Cary’s Dude Solutions outpaces its own expansion plans

Kent Hudson, CEO of Dude Solutions
Kent Hudson, CEO of Dude Solutions Dude Solutions

It turns out that when software company Dude Solutions announced in February that it expected to hire up to 100 employees this year, it was being conservative.

So far this year, the privately owned company – whose cloud-based software is used by by school districts, hospitals and others to manage their buildings – has added 120 hires, boosting its employment to 340. All but 20 of those employees work at Dude Solutions’ Cary headquarters.

And the company anticipates it will hire 28 more workers by the end of the year “assuming our recruiting stays on track,” said co-founder and CEO Kent Hudson.

Hudson said Dude Solutions intentionally understated its hiring goals when it received a commitment of up to $100 million in new capital from private equity firm Warburg Pincus earlier this year. That’s because it was unsure how successful its recruitment efforts would be at a time when companies such as Red Hat, ChannelAdvisor and Citrix were scaling up their workforces.

“To be honest with you, we had a little question in the back of our mind that we could attract 100,” Hudson said. “We knew we wanted more.”

In retrospect, those fears turned out to be unfounded for a couple of reasons.

First, the company’s business model – offering software over the Internet, a business model know as software-as-a-service – is hot right now.

“The software-as-a-service cloud is where all the investment is occurring in the software industry,” said Lee Provost, co-founder and president of the company’s flagship business, SchoolDude. “We think our employees are very motivated in being part of something new ... part of something that is changing the game.”

Second, the fact that the company’s software helps crucial institutions – school districts, state and local governments, health care providers and others – manage their costs and improve their operations also seems to resonate with prospective employees.

“People want a good paycheck,” Hudson said. “They want the benefits. But they (also) want to make a difference.”

Dude Solutions’ original business, SchoolDude, offers more than two dozen software applications that help school districts and universities manage their buildings and information technology operations. That includes functions such as streamlining and processing maintenance requests, tracing utility costs and managing inventories.

One-third of the nation’s 200 largest school districts are SchoolDude customers. SchoolDude has about 6,000 customers overall.

The company’s other business, FacilityDude, offers a similar suite of facility management products to about 2,000 state and local governments, health care institutions and an array of organizations that have members, such as country clubs, churches and YMCAs.

Some customers that FacilityDude hasn’t even targeted with its sales efforts, such as zoos and aquariums and manufacturing plants, have signed up even though the software isn’t tailored to their specific needs, said Tom Knox, president of FacilityDude.

“We’ll probably add 25 to 30 manufacturing clients that will find us this year,” he said.

Dude Solutions’ revenue totaled $34 million last year and is on track to hit about $40 million this year.

“Going from around $34 million to $40 million is good growth in the software world. It’s not exceptional growth,” Hudson said. “That’s because the bulk of these new hires are in training. We’ll see that impact in 2015 (and beyond). This year is a lot of investment for the future.”

In addition to ramping up sales and marketing efforts with its new hires, Dude Solutions also is bringing its software development in-house at its Cary headquarters.

Although that will be more expensive than its former practice of outsourcing software development overseas, Hudson expects it to pay off by enabling the company to reduce development time significantly. In addition, having developers on hand who can interact with Cary employees who work closely with customers should improve the software’s user experience.

The company recently used some of the cash it received from Warburg Pincus – it’s not disclosing how much – to acquire exclusive rights, in the markets it serves, to a mobile crisis management app. In essence, it enables institutions to transfer their crisis plans from a three-ring binder to a smartphone app.

Initial interest in the app, which became available to SchoolDude and FacilityDude customers at the beginning of the month, has been encouraging, according to company executives.

“In case of a crisis, all you need is your smartphone,” Hudson said of the app. “You’re not dependent on cell coverage. You’re not dependent on the Internet being up.”