When stubbornness leads to success Featured

9:39am EDT July 22, 2002
Peter Miragliotta has a stubborn streak. Against the recommendations of friends and professional advisors, the owner of Tenable Protective Services refused to declare bankruptcy even after learning that his partner was diverting cash away from the business and that the company was enormous debt, including about $300,000 owed to the IRS.

“We hit a turning point approximately six years ago,” Miragliotta says. “Everything’s been up since then. I had a partner that I had trusted the financial excellence and the administrative responsibilities to. Operationally, we were sound. But he was diverting the cash into another entity and he was using that cash himself. When were finally able to leverage him out, we were approximately $1 million in debt.”

Bankruptcy seemed the most appropriate option. “A lot of people said you need to declare bankruptcy,” he recalls. “But that meant I couldn’t have used the name Tenable, which my clients recognized. I felt I was kind of screwed either way. I knew I had to work hard to come out of it or be destined to be a nobody. I reorganized my staff, thought about what we did, what the problem was. We started to rock and roll. We put a business plan together, a financial plan. We called all of our clients. I went out personally and put all my cards on the table to all my clients at the time and told them exactly what I was up against and said if they stuck with me that I would continue to provide the service and continue to upgrade it.”

And then Miragliotta analyzed his personal situation closely. “We sat down and we all said, ‘well, how much can we live on.’ And that’s when we started to pay ourselves just what we needed to live on. We put in as many billable hours as we could,” he says.

The tactic worked. Only one customer left — to move with his former partner who opened a competing business. Within three years, Tenable was out of debt.

Since then, Miragliotta has been able to rebuild the business and has even opened Tenable Entertainment and Event Management, a sister operation that provides ancillary services for events all around Northeast Ohio. The company now has a staff or 30 and Miragliotta expects gross sales to exceed $10 million this year.

His efforts have been recognized outside the industry. Miragliotta was named a finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year program. “I’m pretty excited,” he says. “It’s great for me. If I had followed all the traditional books that I read on business practices I’d be out of business. I had no other choice but to continue to roll the dice, and sometimes I still do. We’re in a much loftier position than we’ve ever been in.”

Miragliotta credits his employees for the company’s success. “They truly are the ones that deserve it,” he says of the recognition. “They’re the ones out on the front lines anymore doing this stuff. I’m tickled because it’s my industry. How many times have you every heard of a security agency being considered for this type of a nomination? It goes to the perfumed generals out there. Where are you going to find another company where my bottom line worker is scrimping and saving to take care of his family? It validates them. They can say ‘I work for Tenable.’”

And keeping that name was important to Miragliotta. “The name was picked because while I was in the Marine Corps I was in a reconnaissance unit. I had been kind of military history buff, especially about Viet Nam. When President Kennedy first sent his advisors over to Viet Nam, he sent over as the special forces A team. A lot of them worked in 10-man teams and when they would sign off the radio the would sign off as ‘ten-able.’ And that was a derivative of tenable. Tenable is Latin word that means a force to protect and defend. Everybody had recognized that name.”

As a 19-year-old marine, Miragliotta dreamed one day of owning his own company, one with a name that would command respect. “I just didn’t want to abandon those principles.”

How to reach: Tenable Protective Services, (216) 361-0002.

Daniel G. Jacobs (djacobs@sbnnet.com) is senior editor of SBN.