Born in South Africa and a resident of Great Britain for over a decade, Fred Hefer, CEO of Pomerol Partners, never would have guessed he’d be moving his family to Kansas City.
“Really? This place in the middle of America?” Hefer said. “With the tornados and the story about Dorothy?”
Hefer said his wife and two sets of young twin boys have been looking for a change, and Kansas City offered the opportunity he’d been waiting for.
“Really? This place in the middle of America? With the tornados, and the story about Dorothy?” – Fred Hefer
With headquarters in London and an office in South Africa, Pomerol Partners was founded in 2013 by Hefer, Hamish Imrie and David Van Rooyen. The firm provides business intelligence and data analytics consulting for financial services, bio-pharma, industrial, manufacturing and fast-moving-consumer-good sectors. Using the third-party data visualization tool Qlik, Hefer aims to provide clarity for clients under the belief that data is “meaningless” unless it is used to drive improvements.
Hefer said that he believes that in America people are more likely to look to technology to solve problems than overseas. He began to notice that some of Pomerol Partners’ best clients —Bank of America, AbbVie and Dematic — were American companies.
On the contrary, Hefer said that in Great Britain there is more of a tendency to look towards traditional physical labor and manual solutions for solving problems.
“Not to generalize across the board, but within our field, people are generally very reactive in London,” Hefer said. “People are willing to collaborate, but in a reactive way.”
Seeing America as a big opportunity, Hefer knew he’d have to take a risk and open a US branch sooner or later. But, he did not know where.
Hefer went to the British Government’s UK Trade and Investment department and met with American delegates representing the east coast, west coast and Midwest. After presenting the company and its business model, Hefer got the opportunity to speak with each delegate about the benefits of each location.
“The delegate told me that in the Midwest, there are thousands of companies just like Dematic, less competition, the people are friendly and often overlooked,” Hefer said. “I knew that if I wanted to build a niche consulting firm, I had to look at the Midwest.”
After meeting with Kansas City’s Economic Development Corporation, Hefer was attracted to the number of entrepreneurial initiatives, Google Fiber and the city’s central location.
But what he wasn’t expecting, was the warm embrace of the city’s Midwestern charm.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Hefer said. “The people are so open, friendly and willing to do business. When people say they’ll help you, they mean it and follow through. The people are more proactive and willing to collaborate.”
Hefer visited Kansas City in February with hopes to expand the company internationally. During his visit, Hefer presented at 1 Million Cups and had a chance to meet with community leaders. He was impressed.
“I got more achieved from a business development perspective in one week in Kansas City than I could in three to four weeks in London,” Hefer said. “That was a bit of a ‘wow’ moment for me. It was America who gave us a shot.”
Hefer officially moved to Kansas City in August to open Pomerol Partners’ new office. With a team of 6 in the US and 30 overall, Hefer plans to double his US team every year until 2020.
It was not hard to convince his family to make the move. With his children settled in at school, Hefer said they’ve already learned the pledge of allegiance and are “loving it.”
Recently, Kansas City selected Pomerol Partners as one of the city’s innovation partners in which the firm is granted free office space and the opportunity to test and develop innovative solutions to city problems. Hefer said they are working on using data to optimize 311 calls so that the city can be of better service to citizens.
The biggest challenge for Pomerol Partners is to find analytics clients. He’s confident that he will find those people in America from his outpost in Kansas City.