Conversation With: How Bret Farrar Built Sendero Consulting Into a National Force (2024)

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Author Layten Praytor References

When Bret Farrar launched Sendero Consulting in 2004 with his wife Ruth, who now serves as COO, he knew he was taking a risk. At the time, the couple had three 1-year-old triplets and a 7-year-old. The entrepreneur felt he had enough money to sustain the family for about 18 months, but should the business be sputtering a year-and-a-half in, Farrar knew he would have a decision to make on continuing down the startup path.

The decision wound up being simple. Sendero not only survived beyond Farrar’s self-imposed 18-month threshold, but thrived. By the end of 2006 the company had eclipsed $1 million in revenue. Today, the firm boasts six offices across the country, totaling 250 employees nationwide, and is on track to grow by 15 percent compared to its 2023 financials.

Working in myriad industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, financial services, and more, Sendero has elevated itself from a small startup in a Dallas garage, to a nationally recognized business consulting firm.

Farrar is a graduate of Texas A&M University where he earned a mechanical engineering degree. He got his start in the consulting industry after he landed a job with Arthur Andersen’s newly formed management consulting practice in 1988. That practice later morphed into Accenture.

Here, Farrar discusses his earliest memories of getting Sendero off the ground, how he’s grown it to where it is today, and why he’s prioritized giving back to the community.

D CEO:What level of skepticism did you have when first starting the firm? What was the moment you realize it would be successful long-term?

Farrar:“The first month when you don’t have a client and you have no income, you’re questioning. But I knew I had 17 more months. The thing I remember the most—and it didn’t make me want to quit doing it—but it definitely impacted me was five or six years in we started doing our family party where people could bring their spouses and kids. The first couple parties we hosted at our house because we weren’t that big and had about 15 employees. But then, as we grew, spouses and kids started to show up and now the party was at about 60 people. It hit me like a ton of bricks—all of these people are dependent upon me. I was almost hyperventilating. We had to be successful, we couldn’t fail.

“Ruth and I went on a trip, and we needed to decide what we wanted to do. Did we want it to be just us and use contractors occasionally, or did we want to make the leap to the vision we had of an employment model, development model, and leadership pipeline? On that trip we decided we were going to do it right. Doubt started to creep in because we had to hire people and pay them, but then I had this peace and calm right after because our probability was good, we were adding clients, and the model was sustainable.”

D CEO:Talk us through the process of growing the company from a local firm to branching out nationally while still maintaining consistency with clients?

Farrar:“That was paramount. We were actually slower to expand than most companies. We’ve taken our time getting there because one of the things we wanted to make sure of was that before we start branching off and building these other offices was that we needed to scale our culture, delivery, onboarding, and training. All of which really helped create that consistency of delivery. We spent an extraordinary amount of time ensuring we had that consistency rather than trying to go into other markets and hiring a market maker and someone who is going to sell a ton of work. The problem with that is quite often that person comes with a lot of baggage. And so, they create that office, that market in their image, then it starts diverging. We looked at it very differently. We’ve allowed people to transfer to those markets. We have Dallas, and Houston was our next one so now it is serving as a market to feed our new markets.”

D CEO:Why is Sendero’s primary recruiting practice to hire recent college graduates?

Farrar:“We’re going to hire roughly 35 new college grads this summer, and because of our growth next year it will probably be about 45. What is so great about that is we’re constantly getting new blood, new people, they grow up through the organization, and it means we’re a really young company. It’s a validation of that growth. One of our college hires right out of the University of Oklahoma has grown up in the organization and she has taken off. Ten years later she’s moved through our six levels of attainment, and now she’s a managing director doing great work. So, I take pride in seeing that people have that opportunity to grow, develop, and be able to rise very quickly and progress their careers.”

D CEO:What has led to the company putting such an emphasis in partnering with nonprofits and giving back to the community?

Farrar:“One of the things that I always believed through building this company is that we wanted to create good paying jobs where people could grow and develop in their careers. I’m a big believer that when you do that, those people become pillars of their community and they help raise the living standard. What I’m more interested in is when you give money, you give money. But when you give time, you give your heart. I think we did over 35,000 hours of community service last year through Community Rocks. What we’re doing is not sweeping a park or doing manual labor. We are providing consulting services. Why can’t we make that same difference with some of our community partners?”

D CEO:Where did the idea for the name ‘Sendero’ originate from?

Farrar:“I grew up in Corpus Christi, and sendero is Spanish for pathway. Growing up in South Texas, it’s very different than North Texas. It’s just farmland. But when you go to the ranches there’s not big trees, it’s just brush and its very thick, so you can’t see further than 10 feet. Hunting and fishing is what I grew up doing. So, what they’ll do is they will cut these paths, and another half mile later they’ll cut another and it’ll make a criss-cross pattern. I loved the fact that nobody in Dallas knew what it meant, so it was a good conversation starter. And the reality is for our clients is what we’re helping do is navigate change. We have to find the path and walk them through it.”

D CEO:What is the most underrated challenge in business management consulting or most difficult project Sendero has had?

Farrar:“There is always politics. There is always somebody that isn’t excited about whatever the change is because people hate change. And let’s face it—what we do is help companies through change. No matter what we do—if its putting in a new system or completely changing the organization—it all involves change. There are always a lot of people that don’t like it, and usually a lot don’t tell you they don’t like it. All projects are difficult in their own way. The technical pieces, the challenges, the integration, all of that stuff. That wasn’t why this project was difficult. The biggest thing was that it was a big project for us at a time where our scale probably wasn’t quite big enough. It was all consuming. Suddenly, everybody thinks that is all we do is just this one kind of project and its everything. But you have to say, ‘No. We need to continue to diversify.’”

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Conversation With: How Bret Farrar Built Sendero Consulting Into a National Force (1)

Layten Praytor

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Conversation With: How Bret Farrar Built Sendero Consulting Into a National Force (2024)

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