Posted: July 06, 2011
Colorado success stories: comCables
Success in a mature industry by being the champion of the low-voltage contractorBy David P. Mead
Editor's note: This is another in a series of Colorado company success stories as told by CEOs and business owners.
When we started the Colorado success stories series about our clients and friends six months ago, we decided to focus on companies that were enjoying success despite the downturn by disruptive innovation, new business models and superior execution.
What we discovered is that success for these companies is not a matter of industry or a sizzling new technology but of innovation, creativity, good management, hard work and a relentless commitment to superior customer service. The subject of our latest interview, comCables, is a perfect example of how a different strategy and values have led to success in what most would consider a commodity product - communications cabling. The company has enjoyed consistent growth, including 30 percent year over year increase in the first quarter of 2011. comCables has been recognized as a 2011 Colorado Company to Watch.
Greg Greenwood, the CEO and founder of comCables, is one of the most passionate and personable folks you might have occasion to meet. We recently met to discuss the comCables story.
The communications cabling industry is a mature, commoditized industry. Why this business?
I've been in the cabling business my whole career. We had a previous company that had two divisions - networking and cable distribution. The two were never a good fit. As the business was winding down, I saw an opportunity. The major cable manufacturers had consolidated, which led to consolidation of distribution into a few large players. We decided the best way to compete was to manufacturer our own line of structured cabling products and distribute it directly to the installation contactor avoiding the additional distribution mark-up. Through our direct sales model, we deliver "products that meet or exceed Industry Standards at competitive prices" so that our low-voltage contractor customers can most effectively compete for business. By becoming known as the product providing the best value, we have created the comCables brand with a strong following that continues to grow.
Also as low-voltage systems contractors (surveillance, security, fire alarm, audio/video, nurse call, etc.) have extended to the internet (IP network), they are new to the communications cabling business. comCables has been there to help them, distributing a comprehensive line of low-voltage special systems products. We have also been able to help educate, support and collaborate with these contractors.
How is comCables different?
We strive to be the champion of the low-voltage contractor. We help them get more jobs and make more profit by lowering the overall cost of the materials. We also work hard to identify job opportunities for our customers.
A good example is two years ago at an NREL site, a mid-sized contractor was bidding on a project. A major cable brand was specified, while the contractor was offering comCables products - at a significant savings. We did a "head-to head" performance comparison with the major brand and demonstrated that our product was equivalent in quality, functionality and reliability. So the contractor won the bid - a huge win for their business, especially during the downturn.
This carries through to your culture which is very customer-centric.
We strive to create the "comCables experience" for our customers and employees. We seek to build "emotionally-connected" relationships. Everyone in the company knows the customers by name. We create a bright, welcoming environment in our locations, encouraging the customers to visit, see the products and interact with our people. We offer certification training for contractors. Everything we do centers around trying to serve and empower our customers to become more successful.
Our team members deliver "and then some" service to our customers. One example is our "Rock Star" award - which any team member can be awarded for being caught exemplifying our beliefs and values.
Our company culture also extends outside the company to the community. comCables is very involved with programs to promote and encourage opportunities for inner-city youth by donating more than 10 percent of net profits since our beginning, leading fundraising efforts as well as mentoring and coaching. The kids come in to the company and mingle with our employees and customers on a regular basis.
How has the recession impacted your business?
Certainly construction has been hit hard. In 2009, we pulled in the reins a bit on growth and focused on profitability, then began to expand again in 2010. You might say that our growth rate was moderated by the recession, but we have been able to maintain exciting momentum and grew 10 percent in 2010 and 29 percent in the first quarter of 2011.
What are the keys to continued growth over the next 5-10 years?
Today, comCables has a blend of local and national business with approximately 30 percent-40 percent coming from out of state. We want to expand the comCables brand by continuing to increase national sales. To that end, we will continue to expand and enhance our product offering so we provide high quality, complete end-to-end solutions. We have re-engineered our installation certification program, which we will be rolling out this September. Additionally, we will seek to open regional offices in key geographical areas across the country to develop a national sales and distribution footprint. We are excited about our future and the impact we will continue to have on our customers, employees and the community as a whole.
David Mead is President of The Mead Consulting Group, a consulting and advisory services firm, based in Englewood, that has been helping Colorado companies grow since 1981. The firm's 40+ senior consultants with operating backgrounds assist Colorado-headquartered companies with strategic growth and execution, improving profitability and cash flow and maximizing value at exit. Dave is the past Chairman of ACG Denver and a long-time Board member and is on the Board of Young Americans Bank. Contact Dave at: meaddp@MeadConsultingGroup.com or (303) 660-8135.