While it's true that great products like Apple's iPod will sometimes sell themselves, most companies must work very hard to pursue and keep business. This is especially true in industries like information technology and consulting, where revenues are entirely dependent on customer relationships. Companies that can't find and keep customers can shrivel up fairly fast. But those that have perfected the art of building customers and repeatedly feeding off them the way leeches do usually provide investors with superior returns.
Ideally, investors will want to find a company that is small, rapidly growing, and underfollowed, which brings me to the information technology consulting firm Perficient. This itsy-bitsy company helps clients benefit from Internet-based technologies by allowing them to become more receptive to market conditions, improve productivity, and reduce costs.
Although Perficient is tiny, with only 575 employees and a market cap under $200 million, it continues to not only find clients, but keep them as well. For the last three years, 80% of Perficient's revenues have come from repeat business. In addition, Perficient recently announced a list of some pretty impressive new and repeat customers, including Nokia, Chevron, and Toyota. Perficient has also been honored by some big players like IBM , recently receiving the prestigious IBM Value Advantage Plus 5 Star Award -- granted to only five IBM business partners worldwide. And the company seems focused on sustaining growth by completing strategic acquisitions of five privately held technology consulting firms over the last year and a half.
For the third quarter, Perficient reported record revenues, profits, and cash flow. Compared with the third quarter of 2004, revenues increased 49% to $26.1 million from $17.5 million and net income rose 80% to $2.1 million from $1.1 million. For the first nine months, total revenue climbed 81%, with net income doubling, when compared with the first nine months of 2004. Free cash flow hasn't been too shabby either, rising steadily from $0.19 million to $3.61 million over the last three years (excluding cash paid for acquisitions).
Yes, Perficient may be fairly valued -- with shares trading near a trailing P/E of 30 and analysts predicting 30% earnings growth over the next five years. But if this small-cap bloodsucker can continue to find big hosts, investors willing to latch onto a few shares for the long haul may do very well.