Company:i3solutions inc., a Sterling,
Virginia, technology consulting firm
2000 sales: $7.5 million
2001 projections: $11.7 million
Just months after Johnson, the new kid his senior year of high school, took a classroom seat next to Branson, the duo began comparing visions for their perfect company. Rooming together in college helped reveal their individual strengths and weaknesses, so by the time the then-Internet consultant Johnson pitched Branson, an employee of technical product and service organizations, with his idea for i3solutions, the "synergy" was a-flowin'.
While consulting for a multimillion-dollar system integrator, Johnson felt neither its consultants nor clients were treated properly. So in 1997, he and Branson invested personal savings to build an organization with better everything: technology, consulting, and career development for employees working their way up in the company.
To cut expenses, i3solutions ran from a virtual office for 10 months. That didn't stop first client Verizon (then Bell Atlantic) from signing on. Any fears the telecommunications giant had about i3solutions' reputation were quelled by the latter's willingness to map out every detail of the job and create "a lot of safety valves in case something went astray."
Johnson jokes that i3solutions' future involves "world domination," but he and Branson are starting with expansion of the 51-employee company to New York. And as for the unstable New Economy, Johnson admits, "Every consulting company in our space wears the scars of a couple dotcoms that have gone away." But between getting jobs "by the proofs of merit" and the fact that the majority of i3solutions' business comes from existing enterprise clients like hospitals, hotels, financial institutions and telecommunications concerns, these two only have more work to worry about. -Michelle Prather