Where Are They Now? AbeTech (Sept. 2010)
By Mike Monocello, editor-in-chief, Business Solutions magazine
What makes one company more successful that others?
Good people? Often.
Tenacity? Vertical focus? Experience?
In many cases, it's a combination of many different things that contribute to a company's success and pinpointing what's leading to success is difficult. Even more difficult is copying the success you see in one company for your own business. Charlie Schmidt, business development manager for multimillion-dollar integrator Abetech, says there are a few things his company does that VARs of any size can emulate and, in turn, reap similar benefits.
The above kicked off "3 Tips For Improved AIDC Sales" in the Sept. 2010 issue of Business Solutions. In the article, Schmidt was candid about what was helping his company achieve 18% sales growth. I was eager to catch up recently to see if the company's streak of success had continued since he and I last spoke.
How has your business fared since we last spoke with you?
Schmidt: 2010 was actually a solid year for us when the numbers were all crunched. In early 2009, we spent a lot of time exploring costs on all fronts and we have weathered the recession low points very well. We increased revenue and profit in 2010 and again put together a record sales and profit year in 2011. It sometimes takes challenging economic times for companies to look inward vs. the temptation to always look outward. We are in our strongest financial position in our 20-year history today and we are currently outlining an aggressive strategic intent for the next 10 years.
What has contributed most to your success since we last spoke?
Schmidt: We continue to evaluate our strategic manufacturer partnerships and time spent with them on a monthly basis, focusing heavily on our Enterprise accounts with them and teaming up arm in arm in order to maintain a strong sales and delivery reputation. We are very judicious when adopting new technologies or solutions and we instead normally focus relentlessly upon optimizing our current solution offerings. Finally, and even more and most importantly, every person in our company has been asked to do more with less and have risen to the occasion time and again. Our people are the differentiator and the reason we have risen to an industry leading position
Are there any new technologies/solutions you're offering which are impacting your business?
Schmidt: The continued migration into cellular-based mobile computers continues to have a positive effect on our business and industry in general. Real time data, regardless of location on the map, keeps driving innovative thinking at end user companies and we are merely tapping into the technical solution options available to bring even the smallest of fleets to the technological edge. On the flip side, the fear that the cellular carriers presence would start lessening our value and profits with low-cost OS-based mobile computers really hasn’t taken off. Low grade and low cost devices, when placed in the hands of decision makers, are not the loss leader that the carriers had hoped for and our value proposition is actually even stronger when it becomes clear that the carrier's objective is to obtain voice and data activation revenue while we provide the best complete solution with all of the services we offer. We have the ability to design, procure, stage, document, deploy, and support our solutions as we always have — something outside of the carrier’s core business.[pullquote]Low grade and low cost devices, when placed in the hands of decision makers, are not the loss leader that the carriers had hoped for.[/pullquote]
We also have seen a relatively large increase in our RFID solution offerings in recent years with asset management and inventory solutions rolling out on a larger scale. Our ISV (software partner) channel remains strong and we are the go-to hardware and implementation partner for a dozen or more leading ISVs nationwide. Finally, we have expanded into the rapidly growing healthcare market and have had success there using our blue collar manufacturing experience to parlay into white collar mobile computing, scanning, and printing best practice.
Speak to any failings you've experienced since we last spoke.
Schmidt: One area of improvement is our system engineer’s billable utilization percentages, which are lower than we would like after several years of focusing on that as a growth area. A challenging economy unfortunately means that you sometimes have to sacrifice a little more time to show value in order to either get in the door or push through larger projects. While the non-billable time spent has been very productive from a hardware sales standpoint, we are working on getting back on track with our billable time as our technical expertise has undoubtedly created or driven solutions that would have stood still otherwise.
Are there any other tips/tactics that you think are worth mentioning that are contributing to your success?
Schmidt: Like most businesses, personnel tend to be our largest cost and we have realized that in order to be economically viable, we need to have the most educated and passionate team members in all roles. If we have a super system engineer, he or she can do the work of 1.5 engineers if they are able to work smarter vs. harder. Our company motto is “Working Smarter Together” and that means not allowing roadblocks to prohibit timely execution and communication — two items that today’s clients demand. No idea is foolish, no issue too small if it allows us to execute with explosive responsiveness! We respond faster and that is the key.