NUMBER ONE: The Logistics Store
Growth: 3,449.89% Compounded Annual Growth Rate: 224.77%
Gross Revenue: 2012: $7,141,820 ; 2009: $201,184
Full-time employees: 10
It’s funny, really: As Marti Gooch sees it, the problem with transportation logistics as a sector in 2009 was that too many companies were focused on . . . logistics. “In this really fragmented space, I didn’t see a whole lot of true solutions going on,” he says. “People were focused on the nuts and bolts of moving freight and figuring the costs. It appeared to be a good opportunity to focus more on complete solutions, selling services, yes, but working with customers not just to understand what was going on with their freight, but with their whole business. So we focused on acting very much like we were the customer, on how we could help bring value to our customers.”
Finding new efficiencies, driving out costs, helping in areas where customers were short-handed: All became part of a full-service approach that defined The Logistics Store, fostered new relationships, and made the most of those already in place.
Those would be important from Day One—especially since Day One was in 2009, during the depths of The Great Recession. “We were coming in at a pretty rough point,” Gooch recalls. The biggest challenge right out of the gate was establishing credibility with the company’s partners. “There was a lot of concern, and things were tight,” he says. That was especially true with credit. To maximize every available dollar in that first tenuous year, his team leveraged existing relationships to lay the foundation for a new customer base—at a time when those customers were tight with their own finances, he said.
“That worked,” said Gooch, because prospective clients “were in a tough spot themselves, dealing with their own customers, trying to figure out how to grow sales as much as they could at a very difficult time for business. It was a very consultative approach with our partners and customers.” For one client, a large manufacturing concern, The Logistics Store not only helped manage freight needs, but implemented software solutions. “Tech is a big area for us,” Gooch said. “We focus on some out-of-the-box solutions, but also build customer-specific technology, as well. It really helped us tie in very closely with our customers to bring value to them.”
NUMBER TWO: Pivot Employment Platforms
Growth: 1,305.45% Compounded Annual Growth Rate: 139.21%
Gross Revenue: 2012: $100,169,742 ; 2009: $7,127,218
Full-time employees: 15
You’ve never seen Pivot Companies in the CR100, but that’s a function of re-branding, not performance. Last year’s No. 1 company, Nextaff, is flying that new banner this year; the Nextaff brand still exists, but now as an operating company—it previously had been a holding company, as well, duties now assumed by Pivot Companies. In addition to Nextaff’s branded, back-office support and financing, the mother ship doing business as Pivot Employment Platforms serves entrepreneurs within the staffing industry; other operations include Employment Edge, which provides marketing differentiation through PEO & HR outsourcing; and Staff Systems, offering private-label, back-office support and financing.
The company’s overall success, Daniel says, is found in the range of support services that let business owners be business owners. “Most successful staffing operators we have encountered excel in sales, recruiting or service,” he said. “We have never met an owner that went into this business to administer tax processing, work-comp claims, unemployment claims and payroll financing.”
In addition to two No. 1 finishes during its run as Nextaff, the company now boasts a pair of runner-up performances among its seven CR100 appearances.
NUMBER THREE: First Mortgage Solutions
Growth: 834.29% Compounded Annual Growth Rate: 109.05%
Gross Revenue: 2012: $4,278,009 ; 2009: $457,891
Full-time employees: 35
Ryan Wiebe wanted out of the “smile-and-dial” aspects of the mortgage business in 2008, and the realty meltdown seemed to make it good timing. One problem: Nobody else was hiring. And graduate school lost its allure before he even took the GMAT. His wife, expecting their first child, asked him what he wanted to do with his life. Answer: “I want to own my own business!” So he went back into doing what he knew best—and set out to do it better with First Mortgage Solutions, which he started from his home. The company’s strong performance, he said, came from aggressive growth and marketing strategies, combined with favorable market conditions. Strategically, he said, “We aligned ourselves to be associated with a mortgage banking perspective” to avoid the negative image mortgage brokers had at the time. That meant underwriting and funding the firm’s own loans, he said. As well as serving Kansas and Missouri from its Kansas City headquarters, First Mortgage operates in Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa, and grounds its success in three values—honesty, integrity and experience—and specializes in refinance, purchase, home equity, and debt-consolidation loans.
NUMBER FOUR: Security Benefit Life Insurance
Growth: 676.52% Compounded Annual Growth Rate: 96.68%
Gross Revenue: 2012: $4,100,000,000 ; 2009: $528,000,000
Full-time employees: 720
One of the biggest companies in Topeka—and one of that city’s biggest private employers—Security Benefit Life Insurance traces its roots to 1911 and a capital investment of $11. That would be roughly $277 today, and from that seedling has grown a company with more than $4.1 billion in 2012 premium volume, a figure that could leap to $6.5 billion this year. The spark that ignited that growth was a sharpened focus on the retirement market after new investors came aboard in 2010. That group, led by Guggenheim Partners, provided greater expertise in generating better returns for products used by clients in retirement accumulation and income. Combined with the company’s se2 administrative services platform and a unique distribution model, the result has been sales magic. Security Benefit serves customers in all 50 states and partners with 27,000 licensed and appointed financial planners and representatives with a network of 700 broker/dealers nationwide. Michael Kiley is the chief executive.
NUMBER FIVE: Core Communications
Growth: 573.73% Compounded Annual Growth Rate: 87.67%
Gross Revenue: 2012: $4,543,443 ; 2009: $674,368
Full-time employees: 21
Core Communications launched in 2008, offering telecom services to a wide range of businesses, from offices to heavy industry. Customer service, aggressive pricing and a growing reputation within the market, says President Scott Cole, produced the growth that led to this Top 10 finish. In part, the customer service comes from a stable of technicians and installers who average nearly 12 years of experience at what they do. Most of the original staff had come from another network-services provider in the region, and a desire to control their company’s fate led to Core’s founding. As did a different kind of motivator says Cole: Fear. Rather than awaiting a layoff in his 50s, he and the others would go out on their own terms. With bank capital nearly non-existent, the founders put in everything they had, drew no salaries for the first year, maxed out the credit cards and worked long hours to hold down labor costs. Result? They’ve already surpassed their initial five-year growth projections, with a goal of tripling the company in size over the next five.
NUMBER SIX: Meers Advertising
Growth: 524.98% Compounded Annual Growth Rate: 83.08%
Gross Revenue: 2012: $7,127,803 ; 2009: $1,140,484
Full-time employees: 26
After riding the rapid-growth rocket into the CR100 Top 10 a year ago, Sam Meers and his team have done it again—even though Meers Advertising is a different company than the one we last saw. “It’s really amazing to see the work we’re doing today vs. just one year ago,” says the founder and namesake. “Our clients are bigger and more sophisticated, our team has more diverse expertise, we have added new disciplines for growth and operating efficiency, our creative team consistently hits home runs—if I were looking to work for an agency, this is the one where I’d like to work.” A key to getting on track for that, after re-inventing the company in 2008, was bringing in talented people at both senior and junior level, he said. “And we honed our efforts to bring in the right kind of business, forgoing business that we knew would not be profitable to the agency.” And the sights are set on more growth: “In the next five years, we will grow past 50 people, have even more national accounts and continue to solidify our brand, locally and nationally,” Meers said.
NUMBER SEVEN: Hepacart Inc.
Growth: 455.89% Compounded Annual Growth Rate: 76.13%
Gross Revenue: 2012: $1,908,624 ; 2009: $343,348
Full-time employees: 10
Herb Farnsworth had a problem. His Shawnee company specializing in fire control, security, intercom and other systems was handling a fire-alarm system upgrade at Children’s Mercy Hospital in 2003 and needed access through the ceiling. That meant dust, dirt and debris—with no safe, durable system for containing those elements in a setting where environmental and infection-control concerns are paramount. So Farnsworth and his lead engineer, Jeff Pirner, set out to fashion their own. Four years of product development—and multiple inquiries from contractors who wanted to know how the first Hepacart units were built, suggested the potential for a national product line. “Initially, the biggest challenge was finding the time to both continue leading one successful company (TED Systems) and organize, develop and create direction for a new one,” said Mark Farnsworth, who brought a sales background to his dad’s new venture in 2011. Since then, the company has been able to exploit emerging markets, provide higher standards for air-quality management and deliver on its promise of a better infection-prevention solution with thousands of units in hospitals and other settings across the nation.
NUMBER EIGHT: Complete Appliance Protection
Growth: 454.66% Compounded Annual Growth Rate: 76.01%
Gross Revenue: 2012: $1,526,170 ; 2009: $275,152
Full-time employees: 9
After Complete Appliance Protection launched in 1998, founder Jim Ingram dabbled in direct-mail advertising, relied on word-of-mouth and built a reputation for integrity in a field where his competition sorely lacked it. But growth was slow. Then came Angie’s List, kudzu, yelp and other dot-coms, which allowed customers around the nation to praise companies they liked. And customers liked Complete Appliance. “We spend less than $300 a month on advertising—no direct mail, no telemarketing; all of it is driven by our reputation, taking care of customers and doing what we say we’re going to do,” Ingram says. Now serving clients in 34 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces, Complete Appliance Protection is setting its sights on nationwide service in both countries. It offers extended warranties that cover household appliances and operating systems against the ever-increasing costs of breakdown—kitchen and laundry, heating/cooling, even whole-house plans.
NUMBER NINE: Inquest Marketing
Growth: 377.42% Compounded Annual Growth Rate: 67.51%
Gross Revenue: 2012: $12,515,425 ; 2009: $2,621,450
Full-time employees: 35
From Brian Olson’s perspective as owner and president of a marketing agency, big growth starts with people. “Our growth comes from having a GREAT team of people, giving our clients what they need in
today’s world,” he said. To their solid strategic marketing consultation, add execution in all channels—from traditional advertising to innovative digital marketing programs—and you have Inquest’s formu-lation for a second straight Top 10 CR100 finish. “Combining strategic thinking with truly integrated execution is proving successful for our clients,” he said. And that leads to a kind of self-sustaining dynamic: Growth has created positive momentum, which “allows us to add great talent and continue to build a solid team. Our clients see the results, which spurs more growth.” Another factor is that more companies are becoming aggressive in their marketing—albeit slowly—“but companies that want to grow are recognizing that this is the time to take their brand to the next level and aggressively go after market share.”
NUMBER TEN: Truckmovers.com
Growth: 323.97% Compounded Annual Growth Rate: 61.07%
Gross Revenue: 2012: $150,725,682 ; 2009: $35,550,954
Full-time employees: 432
Taming rapid growth is one thing; sustained rapid growth is an entirely different beast. But it’s one that bends to the will of CEO Tom Duvall and his staff at Truckmovers.com, which makes its third straight Top 10 appearance in CR100. Truckmovers, though, is no flash-in-the-pan startup: The company is celebrating 30 years in business in 2013, and credits its success to the innovation it brings to the truck drive-away field. Here’s just one example: Its embrace of 24-hour GPS tracking, which provides customers up-to-the-minute access and added reassurance about their trucks, the company says. Whether the task involves new trucks, used trucks, single trucks or fleets that number in the thousands, Truckmovers says it will tackle virtually any job. Now located in Independence, the company has 432 employees (more than 100 at the new headquarters here) and more than 1,100 contract drivers.