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Road to success Featured

12:58pm EDT September 26, 2005
Earl Scott spent 18 years working for companies in the environmental industry before venturing out his own.

Scott, president of Premier Environmental Services Inc., founded his company in 1998 to provide strategic environmental and consulting services. Today, Premier has grown from a one-man business to one with more than 100 employees in 10 offices across the United States and Canada. In 2003, it posted revenue of $7.7 million; in 2004, that grew to $11 million.

Smart Business spoke with Scott about the challenges of running a fast-growth company, attracting the best employees and the importance of communication.

How do you attract and retain the right employees as your company grows?

Initially, most of the growth that we experienced was relatively easy to deal with. People we knew in the industry, people we worked with in the past, usually colleagues and sometimes competitors, came to work for us, what I would describe as the low-hanging fruit. We attracted people we already knew and trusted and had a good relationship with.

We offer competitive salary and benefits. More importantly, we also have a very innovative incentive bonus program that really awards people for their contribution to revenue rather than makes them dependent on the success of others in the organization.

I do think that as we have grown, recruiting has become more difficult, because now we are attracting people that we don’t necessarily have a past relationship with.

How do you communicate your vision and message as you keep adding employees?

It is one on one. We’re big believers in face time, particularly with our senior personnel. If you think about it and you want to try to disseminate your vision, the best way is to effectively communicate it to your internal leaders.

They, in turn, will communicate that information to those people that they reach. It’s important to do it face-to-face. I and our senior management team spend a lot of time in all of our branch offices meeting with people and talking.

What skills and qualities are important as you lead a fast-growing company?

I think that an important skill is the ability to listen and to understand the needs of our employees and customers. An important quality is the ability to adapt to change, to not always look at a problem in the same way you always looked at in the past.

Be innovative, creative and flexible. And always work really, really hard. People see and respect you for being willing to roll up your sleeves and dive in.

What challenges do you face as the company continues to grow?

By far the biggest challenge is capital, making sure you have adequate financial resources to not only fund your ongoing operation but also to fund your growth.

In our industry, it costs us $25,000 in cash for every person that we add. When we hire somebody, we have to cover their costs for about three months. Plus you have all of the start-up costs. It is very important to have strong cash management protocols and follow them so that we can grow profitably. Our profit provides the fuel for future growth. So I think cash management is No. 1. No. 2 is to make sure you have the proper infrastructure so that the personnel that you have out there working every day to solve clients’ problems have all the tools and resources that they need to be successful.

Where do you see Premier Environmental Services in the future?

Our objective is to continue to grow the company to a point where it has critical mass, and what I mean by that is a company that is self-sustaining. Included in the process is having a diverse clientele.

We don’t want to have too high a percentage of our revenue concentrated with any one client. I really would like to see no more than 7 percent of our total revenue be with one client. So objectives are to continue to grow the company, add new clients and to diversify our revenue. At the same time, we also want to create a positive environment for people to work. If we do that, we will continue to add quality people with their clients, which fuels our growth and revenue diversification.

What advice do you have for presidents of other fast-growing companies?

Although it may seem trite, I think my main advice is to establish very specific goals and objectives for your business, develop a plan to achieve these goals and objectives, and execute. All too often, I have seen firms start strong in one direction and then get totally distracted, lose their focus on the fundamentals which brought them early success, and then they crash and burn.

Another problem is a lack of a definite exit strategy and a willingness to exit when the external factors make it attractive to do so. There is a strong emotional attachment to what was built that sometimes results in an irrational response to change.

Finally and probably most importantly, business is just business. Don’t let it destroy your family, your health or your faith. The more successful you become, the greater the likelihood that you will become attached to the financial rewards.

They are nothing if you don’t maintain your relationship with God and your family. HOW TO REACH: Premier Environmental Services Inc., (770) 973-2100 or www.premiercorp-usa.com