Growing a Successful Company with Propeller

Propeller’s growth and success is largely due to the value it places on its employees.

Brand Story – Business consulting firm Propeller has been in business for just nine years, but has already proven that success and growth can be achieved without losing sight of the company vision or values.

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The Portland-based company opened its doors in 2012 with intentions of helping businesses be more nimble and adaptable in a rapidly changing business environment. Propeller’s tagline is “Move Fast, Act Small,” recognizing that large business organizations often need external support and an outsider’s perspective to navigate change, transformation and day-to-day needs.

Propeller’s founders, CEO Amy Weeden and COO Jeff Foley, didn’t just want to create another typical consulting firm focused soley on the bottom line. One of their key pillars was the desire to truly put people first, to do right by employees and clients. Weeden and Foley created a growth- focused, people-centered business plan from the beginning — knowing that quality work would build relationships, open doors, and drive repeat and referral business.

“Our employees are essential to our growth and success and we wouldn’t be where we are today without such amazing staff,” Weeden said. And that’s not an empty statement. Talent Acquisition Lead, Julia Rine shares the sentiment: “Our leadership leads with excellence and warmth. I came to Propeller for the same reason I stay — the vision and purpose to help people, not just to drive the bottom line.”

Propeller’s primary focus is to serve businesses in nearly all industries, from leaders in consumer apparel to local utilities, healthcare providers, technology organizations, and even nonprofits. Propeller’s consultants are chosen based on their broad skill sets and diverse career experience that can be applied to many business needs.

JEK 3899Propeller works with clients to design and deliver custom solutions to complex problems.

“There isn’t any spectrum of the business world where we don’t fit in,” Weeden said. “Since we started small, we had to wear a lot of hats and we pride ourselves on being adaptable and bringing robust resources with us.”

Propeller works with clients to design and deliver custom solutions to complex problems. Consultants step into various roles ranging from change and program managers, to product owners, and more — always in partnership with client teams. Sometimes the focus is on people and process, other times it’s on technology and tools. For some clients, Propeller offers training and workshops in specialized areas.

“Our model is different,” said Portland managing director AJ Oberland. “There are a variety of reasons why clients initially hire us, but it’s our focus on quality — both in the people that we hire as well as the work that we deliver — that leads our clients to come back time after time. We build trust-based relationships with them.”

Since its founding, Propeller has grown to a 130-person firm with additional offices in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Denver. Consulting Magazine has named Propeller a fastest growing firm for three years in a row. Propeller has not only experienced successful growth, it’s been recognized as a certified “Great Place to Work” for the same three years by an independent party, and was recently recognized by Fortune as one of the nation’s top 100 places to work.

Even as Propeller helps some of Oregon’s leading businesses and top employers tackle their challenges, the company invests time and effort in its own employees. And it must be working considering 96% of the employees surveyed by the independent party reported that Propeller was a “great place to work.”

Propeller is one of several Oregon ESOP companies, granting stock ownership opportunities to each of its employees. This provides business visibility, accountability, and allows the success of the firm to be shared by every employee.

Perhaps one of the more interesting ways Propeller has made a commitment to its employees, and in turn to its clients, is with its local model of consultancy. Unlike many other consulting firms, Propeller’s consultants don’t travel, hopping on planes and living out of suitcases. All of Propeller’s 70 Portland-based employees work where they live, with clients in the community.

JEK 3776Propeller’s 70 Portland-based consultants don’t travel but work with clients in their community.

While a local model may limit some of Propeller’s national business opportunities, the company believes it helps create happier employees who do better work. This gives both employees and the company more chances to give back to the communities they are part of. Plus, a local model increases the likelihood that a client might coach an employee’s child in Little League, or volunteer together at a non-profit event.

Ultimately, for Propeller, business success and people-first values go hand in hand. Weeden and Foley are still actively at the helm and their vision has remained the same.“We see two sides to growth: the employee side and the client side. We want our employees to feel fulfilled and we want our clients to be happy,” said Foley.

When you’re growing, it’s important not to lose sight of the people who are helping you grow, meaning both the customers and the employees. Weeden believes culture planning is just as important as overall business planning. To help achieve that, Weeden has weekly one-on-one coffees with as many consultants and employees she can meet with.

“Being a people-first culture for a company is not just a set-it-and-forget-it approach,” she said. “It takes a lot of investments and reworking and tooling.”

The firm also surveys its employees regularly to gauge their feelings about working at Propeller. The survey touches on how they feel their efforts are being recognized and how they believe clients view their work.

The efforts to harmonize both growth and company culture mean that not only can Propeller’s employees do their best work, they’ll want to take care of each other and their clients in the same way.


Brand stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share news about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues.  The stories are produced in house by the Oregon Business marketing department. For more information, contact associate publisher Courtney Kutzman.