Mike Miller, president and CEO, credits his company’s 419 percent growth over a three-year period to having the right team in place, particularly his working partner, Kevin McGeary; to being a tough competitor; and to not giving in to the temptation to buy business at any price.
Line Systems, founded in 1999, posted $22.5 million in revenue in 2004. And while he declined to release 2005 revenue, Miller does say that the first quarter this year was the best in the 60-employee company’s history.
But the ride hasn’t been without bumps Miller says he struggled as CEO to let go of the need to wear all of the hats as Line Systems took off.
Smart Business spoke with Miller about how he had to let go of some responsibility in order for his company to grow.
How was Line Systems able to grow so rapidly?
A lot of telecom companies were experiencing difficulties when we got started, cutbacks, bankruptcies. We were fortunate in that we were able to bring on board some very capable and talented people from those companies.
For the most part, those people are the leaders in our organization today and allowed us to experience that rapid growth on the sales, operations and financial sides. It did provide a lot of the people that we did attract and employ, but our growth was so rapid at that point, and it was a short time period until we could catch up with the growth that we were experiencing.
We did experience, for a short time period, not being able to frontload fast enough to keep up with the pace of growth, both because we were limited on space and because we couldn’t find enough experienced people.
How difficult is it to delegate some of the responsibility of running the company to others?
I did wear a lot of hats and I did make a lot of decisions, along with (my partners), of course. I did have difficulty giving up those responsibilities.
And once I started to do that and saw that they are absolutely capable and talented people capable of making the right decisions, of hiring the right kind of people, of putting their teams together, it became easier to do that.
That made it easier to allow delegating those decisions. As I’ve done that, that’s allowed Kevin and I to focus on the big picture, things like acquisitions.
How do you promote a positive experience for customers?
Competition is more fierce than it’s ever been right now, and we try to improve the relationship with our customers. We strive to make sure that every time a customer interacts with our organization, they have a positive experience. We want that customer to become a loyal customer.
We provide customer care training from time to time for the entire organization because the one thing we want to make sure of is when that customer communicates with Line Systems, they come away with a positive experience, regardless of what department they’re dealing with.
How do you avoid price wars with other companies in a very tough competitive environment?
We’re able to offer that pretty significant discount and still maintain the customer care team and the inside support team we need to service the customer. We can’t drop below where we need to be on our margins simply to win the business.
Competitive pricing is very important, but it doesn’t serve us or the customer’s best interest to offer an unrealistic price point simply to win that business and, on the flip side, skimp out on meeting the needs of the customer. It’s a balance between being competitive on price and meeting the needs of the customers.
What is the most critical skill that the CEO of a fast-growth company should possess?
One skill that’s very important is the ability to listen, to understand what’s going on with your organization, both in a practical sense and through measurements of customer care. We have a retention team in place, so we’re constantly getting feedback from our customers and really just stay in touch with where the organization is headed.
How to reach: Line Systems Inc., www.linesystems.com