Advanced Cabling Systems Keeps Climbing the Charts (Arkansas Business Journal article)
Opportunity abounds, revenue climbs toward $50 million goal by 2021
By George Waldon, Senior Editor - Arkansas Business Journal
Double-digit growth has been a constant companion for Advanced Cabling Systems LLC during its first 20 years of business.
Along the way, the North Little Rock firm has expanded with offices in Oklahoma and Missouri to install and service access-control systems, network cabling, fire alarm systems, security and camera systems, audiovisual and wireless network systems.
From its small start with three employees in 1997, the company has expanded its capabilities, grown to field a staff of 170 and risen among the ranks of its peers.
Advanced Cabling posted 2015 revenue of more than $22.8 million, which ranked the firm as the 26th-largest security integrator in North America by Security Dealers Magazine.
The previous year, the company ranked No. 31 in the trade publication’s Top Systems Integrators Report with 2014 revenue topping $18.7 million.
“This year, we’ll probably be in the Top 15,” said Bob East, managing partner of Advanced Cabling. “We’re one of the fastest-growing security companies in the U.S.”
The company remains on a revenue roll powered by increased opportunities through its operations in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Ozark, Missouri, south of Springfield.
“We were just shy of $27 million in 2016,” said David Roberts, senior vice president. “Our goal this year is $30 million.”
A northwest Arkansas office in Lowell rounds out the company’s current five-location, three-state footprint, where business remains very good.
“We could open more offices, but we have so much room to grow in Oklahoma, Missouri and northwest Arkansas,” East said.
Oaklawn Is a Customer
Some of Advanced Cabling’s higher-profile Arkansas projects include security technology and data cabling for Oaklawn Racing & Gaming in Hot Springs and Southwest Power Pool in Little Rock and IP cameras, access-control and fire alarm systems at Fayetteville High School.
Revenue growth has averaged 15 percent annually during the company’s history. Maintaining that pace is becoming trickier as each successive year of increased sales creates a new mountain to climb.
The rollout of startup offices began with northwest Arkansas in 2000 followed by Tulsa in 2012 and Oklahoma City in 2013.
Acquisitions have augmented the company’s organic growth.
Business for the North Little Rock office benefited from a series of deals for the Little Rock division of API Systems Group in 2011; BCI of Jackson, Missisippi, in 2012; Little Rock Structured Cabling in 2013; and 1st Security of Lit-tle Rock in 2014.
The 2016 acquisition of CentralAlarm took Advanced Cabling to Missouri and provided a base of business in the Springfield and Branson markets.
“We had a customer ask us, ‘Can you come to Shreveport? We wish you could do it because you have great customer service,’” said Michael Kennedy, company president since 2002. “Maybe we need to enlist our M&A firm and see what’s out there.”
The North Little Rock office is home to 73 staffers, followed by 43 in Tulsa, 26 in Lowell, 25 in Oklahoma City and four in Ozark, Missouri.
“I’m the managing member of the LLC, and I perform as CEO,” East said. “But I’m not out there day-to-day, and I don’t run it day-to-day. That’s what Michael and David do. I’m the guy that keeps prodding them to look to the future and not get lost in the weeds of day-to-day business. It’s a great industry, and they’ve built a great company.”
Maintaining the vibe of a small, family-owned operation as Advanced Cab-ling transforms into a larger enterprise is an ongoing mission. Profit-sharing, great insurance and good pay help define a company that prides itself on work and fun.
“I spent the day in Ozark and then northwest Arkansas, really for no reason than just talking with our staff, ‘How are the kids, and what’s on your mind?’” Kennedy said.
$50 Million Goal
The company has embraced the challenge of maintaining its historic growth trajectory while targeting its next goal.
“Reach $50 million in revenue in the next five years, and we think that’s attainable,” Kennedy said. “From a quality-of-life standpoint, we want to stay in states adjacent to Arkansas.”
But that doesn’t mean the company is unwilling to take on work outside of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. Advanced Cabling has served clients in 21 states.
“We listen to our customers and follow opportunity,” Roberts said. “We do well in the relationship market. Those clients stay with you a long time. We want to forge those relationships. Those relationships can take you places you hadn’t planned on going.”
In the aftermath of 9/11, all things security became a business boon.
“We were one of the only ones in the state that did everything,” East said. “We made a conscious decision to do more things requiring technology, and the security market. We found ourselves to be the go-to provider for a lot of big customers.”
What’s the next big market segment for Advanced Cabling? Cybersecurity.
“I don’t see it doing anything but continuing to grow exponentially,” East said. “We’re growing and intend to keep growing and not sell. Something as good as this is is hard to find.”