VANCOUVER, Wash. – Tony Curtis, owner of Current Home Technologies, is in the enviable position of having a business that grew during the recession. He started in 2008, and by 2009 he had two employees and a steady stream of new and returning customers.
In 2012, he experienced a power surge. Net income grew more than 700 percent from 2012 to 2013, and more than 1,000 percent from 2013 to 2014. His staff grew from two to seven and he has plans to open two more offices in the next 2-3 years.
That explosion of growth earned Current Home Technologies the title of Fastest Growing Company (years 1-5) at the 2014 SW Washington Business Growth Awards sponsored by the Vancouver Business Journal.
Remarkably, Current Home Technologies didn’t introduce products, go after new markets or change its business plan significantly. In fact, the first step was just talking with Buck Heidrick, a certified business advisor with the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
Meeting with Heidrick helped Curtis take the time to reexamine business fundamentals – such as his company’s purpose, mission, vision, values, competitive advantage and brand promise – and target customers.
“It was apparent from the start that Buck’s intention was to give me the tools to allow me to be successful,” Curtis said. “He took the time to thoroughly understand my business in order to make recommendations that are relevant to my industry.”
Curtis said he has worked with business consultants in the past, but often the focus is on creating a plan and then the plan gets put in a drawer or on a shelf.
“Buck assigned the work for me to do on my own,” Curtis said. “I created the manuals, the growth chart and planned the restructuring.” Implementation was much easier, he said, because it was his plan and he was already invested in it.
They also pored over his financial statements to figure out why Curtis had not been able to build up a comfortable reserve.
“We seemed to be working awfully hard for what we were making,” Curtis said.
Heidrick did an industry analysis of what similar services cost in Washington and across the country and showed Curtis where he fit. (Near the bottom.) Then they talked about business sustainability. What was the true cost of the services he was providing if he wanted to make sure he had adequate revenue to compensate his employees, plan for future growth and safeguard his retirement?
Curtis and his staff specialize in creating customized, integrated systems that allow people to control just about any electronic device in the house with a tap, click or switch.
“There are more things that come and go than you can imagine,” he said, laughing. One reason for his company’s success, he said, is that employees vet each product and don’t recommend something just because it’s shiny and new.
Current Home Technologies is not a “one and done type of business” he said, because as technology advances, clients come back. Or when clients move, they hire Curtis to wire the new house, too.
A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Curtis started his first company after he left the service in 1992. He did both regular electrical work as well as low-voltage work and created custom systems that integrated audio, lighting, home theaters, security and whatever else the client wanted.
When a competitor offered to buy him out, five or six years later, he took the deal. Over the next decade, he kept current with technology and worked for other people in sales and design. But in 2008, he decided to strike out on his own once again.
Working through the recession was tough, he said, but he has come out the other side stronger than ever. The market for integrated consumer electronics systems is growing, not just at the high end but in the middle as well, he said.
“I’ve been doing it for 20 years and it’s becoming more mainstream,” he said. “It’s not just a gimmick. It makes sense.” Sort of like meeting with an SBDC advisor.
By Hope Belli Tinney, Washington SBDC