Lessons learned building one of America’s fastest-growing companies

There’s a lot of room at the top when you are one of the first to recognize opportunity, but it doesn’t take long for the competition to close the gap, especially if you aren’t prepared.

I created and built one of the most successful botanical extraction manufacturing companies in North America in just three years. It took hard work, sleepless nights, determination and faith in our long-term vision. The journey, although a bit of a roller coaster ride, has been pretty amazing.

That’s not to say we didn’t make our fair share of mistakes. Now, I look at them as teaching moments. The way we navigated the most difficult times made us stronger and contributed in a significant way to our success. Sometimes the mistakes are more valuable than the victories — if you learn from them.

Not alone anymore

I officially founded Apeks Supercritical in 2012, making botanical extractors for the emerging legal cannabis market. New business came in so fast that we became one of the 25 fastest-growing companies in the U.S. by 2015.

It wasn’t hard to see why. We fulfilled an unmet need in an industry with tremendous growth potential. It showed by the volume of business and on the company ledger. We went from $250,000 in revenue our first official year to over $15 million by year three.

That’s when things started to change. In 2016, our revenue flatlined, and we lost market share. It was an eye-opening experience because we weren’t sure why. We were just trying to hold on. We had no real strategy behind our sales and service efforts; it was reactive.

What happened wasn’t the result of changing political landscapes or an oversaturated market. The reality was, we weren’t alone anymore. Competition had entered the market, targeting our clients and marketing against our weaknesses.

From reactive to proactive

The good news was, once we identified the problem, we quickly understood how to fix it. It wasn’t rocket science, just basic business principles we had never put in place because, frankly, we didn’t think we needed them. Lesson learned — the hard way.

We made three key moves to get back on our original track and make our business stronger and more valuable.

  • We installed a proactive sales strategy with training and automated outreach technology. This helped free our sales team for high-qualified conversations with potential leads, becoming more efficient.
  • We hired a dedicated service team, created training videos and other assets for customers, and built an e-commerce store for customers to easily order replacement parts.
  • Most important, we continued to innovate. Through the ups and downs, we stayed focused on engineering and designing cutting-edge equipment, which separates us from our competition.

If we had it to do all over again, we would have been more proactive from the start. You can’t let success lull you into complacency. Now, we spend more time identifying and fixing our weaknesses, rather than just celebrating successes. Doing that sooner, rather than later, sets you up for long-term success.

 

Andy Joseph is the president of Apeks Supercritical, which designs, refines and manufactures botanical oil extraction systems utilizing subcritical and supercritical CO2 — a cleaner, safer, purer and faster way to extract plant oils. Andy directs the Apeks leadership team and communicates the vision for the company. Since launching the business, his overriding goal remains the same: to achieve 100 percent customer satisfaction. Andy also is the inventor of five patents, including the Valveless Expansion Technology featured on all Apeks CO2 extraction systems, and a U.S. Navy veteran.