CEO Michael Stevenson and his partner incorporated their business in 1989 as a vending company, but when the automatic teller machines industry was deregulated in 1996, Stevenson jumped at the opportunity to change markets.
“We could put a (sur)charge on your account at the terminal, and that opened up the doors to private enterprise to get into the ATM business,” he says.
The Willoughby-based company, which manufactures, sells and services ATMs, had 2006 revenue of $26 million.
Smart Business spoke with Stevenson about how he identifies opportunities and adversity and how he supports his growing employee base.
How do you grow your company?
The initial thing is being able to identify an opportunity. We were involved in the music and game industry, and we identified an opportunity to change.
Every time our company has gone through significant growth, it’s been pretty much reactionary something’s happened in the industry or with our partners in the marketplace, and it’s caused us to react and caused us to grow.
I did some MBA work at Notre Dame, and one of the smartest professors spoke about identifying adversity and showing how it becomes opportunity. Every adversity is an opportunity for somebody, the other side of the coin. We had a lot of adversity, and we turned it all into opportunities.
How do you recognize a good business opportunity when you see it?
Things are easy to identify on the surface. It’s just a question of how deep you look to make sure that what you’re looking at is really true.
Before, we would go out looking for different programs to work on, whether it was software-related or to add features and functions to an ATM.
Now, opportunities are coming to us because of our place in the industry. We’ve positioned ourselves well. We created the groundwork to have a good reputation in the ATM industry, and that drives business by itself, just by doing things right.
How do you establish a good reputation?
You don’t do it overnight. You focus on where you want to go. You don’t let short-term opportunities overwhelm your long-term goals, a quick buck as opposed to building a really strong foundation.
We’ve had a lot of opportunity to turn a quick dollar. It wasn’t always the right way to do it, and we look past that.
How do you communicate that philosophy to your employees?
It’s real simple. Everybody here’s going to make a mistake, but as long as they’ve got WRG in their hearts and they’re trying to do the right thing, they’re not going to have a problem with management.
How do you support your employees?
When my partner and I first started with the ATMs, we had about 15 employees and were adding employees on a regular basis. We thought we should do something for our employees to show them how thankful we were. So we told everybody we were going to do something really special if we hit a certain goal.
Four years ago, we took 46 people, our employees and their spouses or significant others, on a cruise to the Bahamas.
We did it to say thank you, but it turned out to be the best thing we could have done because it bonded everybody. Everybody had a chance to spend four days with each other in a very informal environment and enjoy themselves, relax and get to know families.
When they came back to work, they worked hard, so we set another goal and hit it within two years. Then we set up another goal that was absolutely ridiculous, and we hit it again in two years. This January, we’re taking everybody on another vacation. It will probably be about 75 or 80 people on this one. It’s the best money I could have ever spent.
If you have the philosophy that the company is supposed to be in everybody’s heart, you’ve got to do something to back up your word. What you say has got to be what you do.
What has been your biggest personnel challenge?
The biggest challenge is hiring the right people before we need them. It’s a little bit of a struggle. My chief financial officer says, ‘We don’t need them,’ and I say, ‘We’re going to need them six months from now. Let’s train them now before we’re in a pinch.’
People come into the company, and we have the luxury to train them slowly. It’s a financial burden, but I think the long-term benefit is very good for us because we have people in position.
Our existing employees aren’t overwhelmed by handling business and trying to train a new person. We get this stuff out of the way ahead of time.
HOW TO REACH: WRG Services, (800) 531-1230 or www.wrgservices.com