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Meet Shawn Coffman of Innovar Solutions

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shawn Coffman.

Shawn, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I knew I wanted to do something with technology when I was in grade school. I always liked taking things a part to see how they worked. So no surprise that I graduated with a computer science degree.

I started my career with Sprint developing software for their billing and invoicing platform. I quickly found that I liked the “Why” side of the requirements or the business purpose/goal. I had a passion for how the business was designed and how the business process and the technology worked together. I went on to play some project and team leadership roles as well as a technical architect.

I was provided an opportunity to work for a much smaller telecommunications company. Since the company was preparing for high growth through acquisitions, there was an opportunity to evaluate every function in the company and improve it. I first started leading the project, process and architecture teams. We designed the enterprise way of doing things across the company from a business process and technology perspective. This allowed me to learn how things worked within every function of the business and ask those “why” questions.

When we learned that our company was being sold, I was excited to start something from the ground up. I wanted to put our knowledge and skills to work for other companies. In 2004, we officially started Innovar and focused on business process improvement and project leadership. In 2011, we added software development as a service and eventually spun off a new company under the Innovar brand.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
When we started the new company, we were filled with excitement and confidence in our services. I was just recently married, so being able to share the new business experience was rewarding. However, I didn’t have any business development experience. Our strategy was to basically wait by the phone. Obviously, nobody called. My comfort zone was working highly complex initiatives with impossible deadlines, so I threw myself into internal projects to keep myself physically and mentally busy. Still no ringing of the phone.

In addition to no sales, the bills kept coming. It’s a defeating feeling to see money flying out of your personal bank account month after month. On the upside, we had the best internal processes in the business…that only we knew about. We were about a month away from going out of business, ($1,200 in the bank) and I learned about a potential opportunity on a project. I was just having a casual conversation with a friend and he mentioned a project that was starting up with the company where he was consulting. It was still an unlikely opportunity and I didn’t really want to do individual consulting. It wasn’t in line with our strategic plan; however, we had to pay the bills. The process to get the engagement was actually simple and easy based on the referral of my friend and we had everything signed the next day. It turned out it was the best opportunity I ever received that I had no interest in taking (other than to pay the bills).

The fact that one “by chance” casual phone call with one “contact” could lead to an opportunity fascinated me. It would start my education on business development and networking. An education that still takes place every day for me. Sales is not natural for me, often uncomfortable and highly stressful. I was always good at influencing through facts and performance but selling services proved to be a tremendous and challenging stretch. To this day, “sales” is out of my comfort zone. I have embraced the networking, relationship building and the opportunities that come from those activities. I actually find that part very rewarding.

That unlikely first engagement lasted for over two years and allowed our company to place over 20 consulting resources. It was the spring board for us to branch out into other industries and build upon our services that we still provide today.

Please tell us about Innovar Solutions.
Innovar Solutions is an operational improvement firm. We specialize in reducing costs, improving revenue and enhancing the customer experience our clients provide. We provide both consulting and software solutions across multiple industries.

Transparency is what sets us apart. As a former CIO, I purchased a lot of consulting and software service. I rarely believed we received the value of what we were promised. During the sales cycle, we always saw the A players; however, they quickly vanished when the deal was signed and replaced with a team of people that didn’t have half of the experience our internal staff had. They also knew nothing about our process or most of the time our industry.

Our mission when we started Innovar was to become the most trusted service provider within the industries we served. Not the biggest, not to hit X revenue target, etc. Simply to be the most trusted. It is how we built our business and what we remain true to today. We achieve that trust through transparency.

Putting the client’s needs first and doing what is best for the client is the number one priority for all of our Delivery Leads. I know how it sounds (a lot like the firms that used to sell to me); however, it is real. If you talk to each one of our delivery leads, you will hear that message and see their passion for representing their client.

Our clients know that we know their processes and the challenges they face. Our team has first-hand experience and has spent more time on the operations side of the table versus the consulting side. Our clients are getting a true operational expert and a peer. The initiatives that we lead are complex and drive a tremendous amount of change across the business; however, our clients know that we will deliver what we promise. We have either delivered results for them before or they see that we have delivered the same thing for another client in the industry. Our clients know exactly the team they are getting (from the sales process to the last day).

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
As with anything, you always have help and way too many to mention. God provides the timing, opportunity and “luck”. The people that were there in the very beginning and that continue to help are:

Theyva Coffman. Theyva built the company with me from the ground up. She developed most of the consulting services that we offer and has always provided the financial and HR support for the company. She’s been there for all of the struggles and the difficult decisions about the company direction. These days it seems people spend more time at work then they do at home. It’s been a unique and wonderful experience to be able to share all of that with her.

Steve Laughlin. I worked with Steve before we started Innovar so we were able to face some tough challenges prior to becoming business partners. We both have the same life and business philosophies and our goals are 100% aligned. I didn’t think that I would ever find someone that would work as much or as hard as I did while trying to balance family life, but Steve is definitely that guy. He’s the perfect business partner and a technology genius.

George Assenheimer. George was my mentor at Sprint, TXU and continues to be one today. He’s provided advice and encouragement basically throughout my entire career. George provided many of the opportunities that stretched the boundaries of my capabilities and thought process. He’s a great mentor and true friend.

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