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Blending marketing know-how and technical expertise

Blue Door Consulting expands its team through the acquisition of

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October 3, 2023

NORTHEAST WISCONSIN – For the past two-plus decades, Blue Door Consulting – a strategic marketing consulting agency headquartered in Oshkosh – and – a branding, application development and internet hosting company headquartered in Fond du Lac – have each brought subject-matter expertise to their respective industries.

Now, following a two-year collaborative process, the companies have joined forces.

Heidi Strand and Brenda Haines – co-owners of Blue Door Consulting – recently announced the expansion of its team to include – a merger Rick Kolstad, former owner and now senior technology consultant with Blue Door, said happened naturally.

“We’ve been working back and forth on projects over the past few years – so, the conversation naturally started that way,” he said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kolstad said the pair started to recognize a variety of synergies within their individual businesses.

“Our cultures are similar, and we thought maybe we should work a little more closely than we had in the past,” he said. “So, that’s kind of the first step.”

Strand said they had many of the same processes and business practices – essentially the pieces of what makes them who they are today.

“From that lens, it became a natural move – why wouldn’t we investigate this and take time to do our due diligence to see if our cultures would mesh?” she said.

One of the things that Strand said sets Blue Door’s acquisition of apart from others is the collaborative approach they took throughout the entire process.

“A lot of times with acquisitions, you have somebody who comes in and takes over and puts in place all of their practices and procedures – we’re not doing it that way,” she said. “We’re trying to merge the companies together in a way that takes the best of what has done and the best of what Blue Door’s strengths are and looking at how we can redefine Blue Door Consulting to be able to encapsulate both company’s obvious strengths to make the whole stronger.”

Echoing Strand’s comments, Kolstad said from the beginning, both companies knew it wasn’t going to be a typical acquisition process.

“We’ve worked closely with Blue Door Consulting to ensure our cultures align, that we enjoy each other’s company and our teams are involved in charting the path forward,” he said.

In order to accomplish this collaborative approach, Strand said they have been working with both teams and having them actively engage with each other to redefine processes.

“We’ve looked at all of the tech staff,” she said. “Are there traditions we can adopt from each other? Are there different ways we can compromise to be able to improve the overall end deliverables and service to our customers? So, it is a little different in terms of how we approach this than a typical acquisition.”

A bit more about each
Founded in 1996, the team has nearly three decades of experience in web and application development.

The company has specialized in the design and development of scalable web platforms, application development, website design and development, website and email hosting and digital signage for retail, hospitality and more.

Founded in 2002, Blue Door Consulting provides brand and design, content marketing, web and digital, design thinking, website and email hosting and digital signage services to more than 500 clients from 18 states.

Strand said clients range from start-ups to Fortune® 500 enterprises and everything in between.

Stronger together
This partnership, Strand said, opens new opportunities, including work in application development, database design and managed AI. 

“The technical needs of marketers are growing rapidly every day,” she said. “We are excited that expanding the team allows us to help our clients respond to this ever-changing environment.” 

Working under the Blue Door Consulting name, Strand said the combined 53-person team – which include the five employees transitioning over from – can now offer brand and design, content marketing, web and digital and design thinking.

Current and new clients, she said, will benefit from the team’s complementary skills.

The team will bring a stronger technical side of things to current Blue Door clients, while Blue Door will bring new services in branding, paid and organic search, social media, public relations, market research and strategy to clients.

“We’re better together,” Blue Door Co-founder/Consultant Brenda Haines said. “It’s exciting to think about what we can do together to help all of our clients continue to grow.”

Blue Door Consulting operates as a hybrid company.

Team members will work from the Fond du Lac office, Oshkosh office or remote locations across the nation. 

In terms of a leadership perspective, Strand said Blue Door takes a different approach with it as well.

“We have a number of folks on our leadership team who have grown, and we’re excited to have them there – (but) we are a flat organization,” she said. “Even though we have a leadership team, all of our team is expected to be engaged in leadership activities, and they are expected to have ownership and accountability for the work they do. They all have a say – that is the bottom line.”

Coming on board with the Blue Door Consulting team, Kolstad is assuming the role of senior technology consultant.

“The team is coming on board as part of the consulting team – there are no management roles or no ownership roles within the organization, but everybody does have their specialties,” he said. “But the management team will follow the structure Blue Door Consulting had in place.”

Strand said Kolstad not coming on board in a management or leadership role was a personal choice – in the “respect that ‘I am good with you guys letting me go back to doing the things I love to do – which is working with clients and having my hands in infrastructure from a hardware and software perspective.’”

“And it gives Rick more flexibility than he had as an actual owner to have a little more balance in his life – so a work-life balance,” she said. “You don’t get that when you are an owner.”

Though Strand said Kolstad was asked to be a member of the leadership team, “this was an opportunity for him to say ‘I’d like to get back to doing the things I love.’”

Kolstad said so far, the transition process has been seamless.

“Everybody we’ve met at Blue Door and their reactions have been amazing,” he said. “We have a great team of people who can do awesome things, and we are excited to be working with them and incorporating our skill sets in with theirs.”

Strand said Blue Door would not have moved forward with the acquisition if the team didn’t have tremendous respect for the talents and work ethic of the team.

“The team is wonderful, and we’re thrilled to be adding them,” she said. “It’s a real opportunity for us.”

Looking forward
Strand said Blue Door is in year three of its five-year strategic plan.

One of the goals the company set forth for itself, Strand said, was to reach a certain size – “and we’re well on our way to doing that.”

“We would love to be a team of 70,” she said. “Right now, we’re one of the largest agencies in the State of Wisconsin, and we’d like to see that growth continue.”

Strand said Blue Door has a “client hub” in Northeast Wisconsin, but has clients and consultants across the county.

That too, she said she’d like to see continued growth in.

When looking at overall future growth, Strand said it’s a two-pronged approach now that has been brought onboard.

“The first prong is obviously adding people because we are a time-and-billable-run organization,” she said. “And then the second, is so strong in its platform application development, so we are looking at the opportunity of being able to offer additional products – which is a new venture for us.”

In a time and space where technology and artificial intelligence (AI) are prominent, especially in the realm of marketing, Strand said the expertise the team brings to Blue Door Consulting will help give it a competitive edge.

“The team is talented,” she said. “We are adding talented team members and honestly, that alone is going to help continue to give us a competitive edge.”

Strand said the additional team members will also support Blue Door’s current client base.

“For us to be able to continue to have people who can service at the rate of capacity is going to continue to be important for us to be able to meet all of the existing demands of our clients who do now have AI interest,” she said. “We’re beginning to build custom solutions for them and the team will be integral in making that happen.”

Strand said on the other side of the pandemic and the unpredictability of the economy, “no one knows what’s going to happen next.”

“We can only take an optimistic approach,” she said. “What we have seen is that when our clients have gone through digital transformation, and they have adopted solutions, using tools that we can help them with, they have grown in spite of this craziness – and that is our objective.”

By bringing the knowledgeable staff onboard, Strand said Blue Door can now better help clients navigate through the many unknowns of what AI has to offer.

“AI is still so new that people don’t know what to do with it,” she said. “They don’t know how to adopt it. They don’t know if they should adopt it. They don’t understand the legal and compliance issues surrounding it or even the concerns about it.”

As a combined team going forward, Strand said she expects that to be a big chunk of where they see growth in the future.

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