Firing the Boss

How Zycron CEO Darrell S. Freeman grew his company by replacing himself

Zycron founder Darrell S. Freeman (right) with CEO Steven Howard Smith (Photo by John Schweikert)

Darrell S. Freeman understands that in some ways, entrepreneurship is like flying a plane. As a pilot of a Piper Meridian, a single-engine turboprop, he routinely has to adjust for wind conditions, alter attitude or altitude, or roll left or right if necessary. As founder and executive chairman of Nashville-based Zycron Inc. (No. 86 on the BE Industrial/Service Companies list with $29.3 million in revenues), he also realizes the need to make adjustments within his company as circumstances dictate.

So he did something few entrepreneurs do—he fired himself. “The problem was that it didn’t grow. I attributed that stagnation to myself,” recalls Freeman, adding that he believes CEOs often overstay their terms. “I had gone past my shelf life and just because I was the owner did not mean that I should have stayed in that role. If I’m not performing, if I can’t grow the company to the next level, then I’m not the right person for the job,” he says.

So in early 2007, he brought in Steven Howard Smith to helm the company. Freeman felt Smith had the experience to grow Zycron since, as an executive with SCB Computer Technology Inc., he helped grow that company from $2 million to $150 million before it was acquired by CIBER Inc. Since then, revenues for the information technology services firm have risen some 60%—a growth rate Freeman attributes directly to the hiring of the new boss. Now the duo and their team look forward to continuing the growth track and reaching Freeman’s goal of turning the be 100s newcomer into a $100 million enterprise.

A Steady Ascent
“We work with IT departments and [chief information officers] and we manage every facet of IT including other vendors, software purchases, hardware purchases, and more important applications such as delivery and applications maintenance,” explains Smith. With clients that include the Tennessee Valley Authority and FedEx, the company derives some 60% of its revenues from government contracts.

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