MMG Growth Engine Award Finalist: Dexis Consulting Group
Dexis, a global services firm that counts federal agencies among its clients, achieved double-digit annual growth over the last decade and increased its headcount by more than 80% in 2020.
Many readers can relate to the fact that the world looks very different when your venture is born amid a crisis.
For Mihir Desai, that crisis was 9/11. “I had just quit my job at the World Bank, moved to New York and launched a management services firm for foreign assistance when the world changed forever. Job one: Trash your business plan,” he says. It was the best lesson in agility that remains at the core of the company 20 years later.
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., Dexis is a global services firm that has worked in more than 100 nations with offices in 13 countries. The firm helps U.S. federal agencies assess the social impact of fighting pandemics and countering illegal narcotics, lead stabilization efforts in fragile countries, and support the government’s effectiveness. Clients include the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Defense, with contracts ranging from six months to five years.
During the past decade, the firm’s revenue achieved double-digit annual growth. Sales increased from about $1 million in 2010 to almost $80 million in 2020—a pivotal year for Dexis. Thanks to two acquisitions (self-managed and funded by Dexis) that closed early last year, the firm increased its headcount by more than 80%, from 266 employees to 487.
Growing a company is always exciting and doubling of staff is even more so. However, doubling staff in the midst of a crisis was one of our biggest challenges.
Founder and CEO, Dexis Consulting Group
One tactic that has helped the firm succeed is the way it targets acquisitions, says Desai, who also serves as CEO. “We look to acquire companies that work in the social sector and we approach them directly,” he says. Of the three acquisitions made by the firm in the last few years, two were founder-led companies that were 50 years old. “In all cases, the owners sold to us directly,” Desai says. “We are buying firms based on values and not valuations.”
Huge percentage increases come equipped with growing pains. For Dexis, the immediate challenge was “global logistics hell,” Desai says. “Growing a company is always exciting and doubling of staff is even more so,” he says. “However, doubling staff in the midst of a crisis was one of our biggest challenges.”
During the pandemic, the firm was tasked with relocating dozens of staff from around the world back to home base—which was not always in the U.S. “In one instance, we had an American working in Afghanistan whose home was in the Philippines but was held up in New Delhi,” he says. “In another, we had folks routed from East Africa back to the United States but held up indefinitely in Johannesburg due to the pandemic. The list went on and on. But it all ended well. It was more than a test of our systems—it was a testimony of our perseverance.”
While many companies were forced to cut staff last year, Dexis has hired 40 more employees since the start of the pandemic. In keeping with its work on social issues, Dexis remains committed to diversity as it expands. For example, women make up 70% of staff and half of the executive leadership team. Over the next 10 years, the firm aims to reach $500 million in annual revenue through a combination of organic and inorganic growth.
Dexis is also using technology to advance social good, by building a strong robotic process automation and data visualization practice. Says Desai: “We consider purpose-driven digital to be one of the defining features of this coming decade, and see ourselves very much at the center of it.”