Best Performers Above $100 Million Mobile Storage Groups Keeps on the Move With Global Growth Mobile Storage Group was founded in 1988 by Ronald Valenta and his partners to provide on-site storage services to businesses throughout the Los Angeles area. It offered a wide-range of trailer, containers, temporary offices and refrigerated units to business that needed temporary storage. Upon its entry into the market, however, the world of mobile storage was far from consolidated. Dozens of different companies across the country were selling the same services in different locations, often to the same clients. Burbank-based Mobile Storage saw this fragmentation as a growth opportunity. It began an acquisition campaign, buying control of smaller companies across the country and hoping that clients would rather deal with one company that offered lower rates and had a broader product line. The strategy has served Mobile Storage well in the ensuing years. It now has over 75 locations across the United States and the United Kingdom. The company has surpassed 104,000 active accounts and it has a fleet of 83,000 storage and office units. The company, with revenue growth of 9.59 percent, is one of the best performers of firms with more than $100 million in revenues on the Business Journal list of fastest growing companies. Mobile Storage has been an international business since 2000, opening for business in England, Scotland and Wales. In 2001, it purchased Ravenstock Tam (Hire) Limited and saw the companies locations in the United Kingdom double. Co-founder Valenta resigned his position as CEO in 2003, although he remained as Chairman of the Board. The company hired Douglas A. Waugaman to replace Valenta in February of 2003. Waugaman came to Mobile Storage with a background in the rental equipment industry, having previously worked as president and chief operating officer of Rental Service Corporation in Scottsdale, Ariz. While he was there, revenues grew by 24 percent annually, and margins increased by 30 percent. He also grew familiar with expanding and combining with other companies. While he was at RSC, the company grew from 115 locations to a total of 356, and it combined with a sister company to create a network of 536 locations with revenues of $1.5 billion. Transportation Broker Goes Global As Worldwide Freight Volume Rises David Lund describes his family’s business as a travel agent for freight. Companies producing products from produce to durable goods in Southern California and across the country often don’t have the time and resources to arrange transportation. That’s where the Allen Lund Company comes in. The company has contracts with about 10,000 different carriers, and can arrange to transport goods originating anywhere between Van Nuys and Tennessee to customers throughout North America. David’s father Allen and his wife Kathleen started the company almost 30 years ago. Allen had been hired by another third-party transportation broker in Salt Lake City and transferred to Los Angeles. After a while, he decided that he could run a better business on his own. The Lunds, while supporting six children, opened an office across the street from the Los Angeles Produce Market, and needed to book four loads of cargo every week in order to stay in business. The company’s beginnings stand as a sharp contrast to its current form, the Allen Lund Company now employs more than 250 people in offices in 26 states. Since the day it opened, the company has been a family affair. David has worked for the company for 25 years, and his two brothers are also employees. His three sisters serve on the board of directors. David says he’s never considered working anywhere else. “I’ve always enjoyed the operations of the company, I’ve been working here ever since I was a teenager,” said Lund. “I think it was the same way for my father.” The company has sustained a period of remarkable period of growth in the last few years. In 2001, it reported $132.5 million in revenue in 2004 that grew 56 percent to $206.7 million. “We’ve been averaging, since the recession of about five years ago, a 15 to 25 percent growth rate over the last three years or so,” said Lund. “There’s been more freight to ship and more customers, and we’ve been able to expand by opening other offices.” In the last year, The Allen Lund Company has opened locations in Tucson, Charleston S.C., Iowa City, Iowa and its new international office in Tennessee. “We’re very excited abut the new international division, we’re just bringing it online around the first of the year. We typically only arranged for transportation inside the U. S. and Canada,” said Lund. “I think what we’ll see is that we’ll offer more to our present customers. Rather than just offering domestic trucking, we’ll be able to offer more services.” Best Performers between $25.1 and $100 Million Guitar, Amp Manufacturer Plugs In to Artists’ Desire for Innovation It’s safe to say that if you’re a musical instruments manufacturer that can count Nine Inch Nails, No Doubt, Metallica, U2, Radiohead and Duran Duran as being among your clients, business is going well. Such is the situation for Agoura Hills-based guitar and amplifier manufacturer, Line 6 Inc., a company that boasts a 32.4 percent growth rate. Founded in 1996, Line 6 was one of the first musical instruments manufacturers to embrace the digital revolution, creating a variety of guitars and amplifiers that allow for musicians to embrace a wide range of tones and sounds, without having to purchase many different pieces of equipment. Suddenly, guitarists became able to channel an array of different sounds at a relatively low cost, something that had until then been unavailable to them. Despite many musicians’ traditionalist desires, Line 6 became a quick success, as sales of the company’s guitars and amps quickly took off. In its nine years in existence, Inc Magazine, Deloitte & Touche, the Los Angeles Business Journal and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal, have repeatedly honored the company for its impressive growth rate. In its first year of operations in 1996, the company grossed just $2.27 million. By 2002, those figures leapt up to $38 million, in 2003, the company claimed revenues of $44.2 million, in 2004, it grossed $58.5 million, and by the mid-point of 2005, Line 6 boasted revenues of $33.2 million. But for Mike Muench, the company’s president and CEO, the mission of the company is also about making cool instruments and amplifiers that musicians would enjoy. “Our strategy has essentially been to build products that we felt would be cool for guitarists to use,” Muench said. “We envisioned what some of the challenges that they have in recording electric guitar live and in the studio. We thought, let’s get some cool product, then let’s make sure we get them priced at a price point that the guitarists like. There really hasn’t been much more to it. Although we do work with our dealers in order to make sure that musicians have a good in-store experience as well.” While the musical instrument industry is packed with household names like Gibson, Fender and Marshall, Line 6 has carved out a sizable niche, by appealing to guitarists who want a truly unique sound. “We’re a product for guitarists who pride themselves on innovation and want their own sound,” Muench said. “There are a lot of guitarists that want to create their own sound and their own voice, one that defines who they are. We think that we have the best suite of tools that allows them to craft their own sound. And we think that’s something we can do better than all of our competitors.” Red Peacock Grows Quickly Through Fast Response to Electronics Retailers It’s staggering to think of how fast Red Peacock International, Inc. has grown, with as few employees as it has. Despite having a meager nine-person staff, the consumer electronics distributor has managed to perennially be on the fastest growing lists of both the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles Business Journals. In fact, the Glendale-based firm has had such rapid growth that it has made the prestigious Inc. 500 list in both 2003 and 2004, with five-year growth of 1,582 percent and 1,012 percent, respectively. It ranks No. 3 this year on the San Fernando Valley Business Journal list with a 151.9% growth rate. The company prides itself on its ability to effectively provide independent consumer electronics retailers with factory-direct wholesale pricing and quick delivery. Of course, with independent consumer electronics retailers forced to compete against major big box-retailers such as Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Circuit City, price point is always a concern for them. However, Red Peacock has managed to transcend this difficulty by being willing to occasionally accept lower margins in order to retain customers. Early on in the history of the eight year-old company, Red Peacock customers complained that the company’s prices were 15 to 20 percent higher than its competitors. In an effort to be more competitively priced, Red Peacock found a vendor willing to work on a small margin and cut its own margin down to 2 percent. This flexibility and attention to customer service has allowed the company to bring in revenues of nearly $27 million with just nine employees. Ruby Mansukhani, the company’s president has gone on the record that it is her goal to be extremely focused on customer satisfaction. In fact, the company’s motto is: building connections that last. In order to further enhance its service to customers, Red Peacock has created strategically located sales offices in key states, to give retailers a local contact to help with questions or concerns. As a “global electronic super mall,” the company also has liaison offices in Miami, Seattle, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates. The company believes that this worldwide network strongly contributes to the business of both its customers and its vendors. The company’s growth is also partially due to its international focus, as Red Peacock is keenly focused on its overseas business. For example, when Furbys became extremely popular in Latin America, Red Peacock became a Hasbro distributor and made a killing selling the plush toys in Chile. But Latin America, Asia and the United Kingdom aren’t the only places the company does business as it also sells to retailers in Moscow, Sydney, Australia and Helsinki. Best Performers Between $10.1 and $25 Million Gigantic, No-Frills Design Keeps Flooring Store Ahead of the Pack Michael Cope’s Amigo’s Flooring Monster stores aren’t built for comfort. The warehouse locations, which range in size from 10,000 to 30,000 square feet are built with efficiency and space in mind. The no-frills design is perfect for Amigo’s, which makes money by purchasing flooring and carpets direct from manufacturers and keeps tens of thousands of samples and millions of square feet in carpeting and flooring in stock. Rather than keep samples that are three inch by three inch square pieces, Amigo’s displays samples of four feet by four feet to give customers a better idea of what flooring will look like once it’s purchased and installed. “We’re a fun, casual operation. You walk in, and the sales people aren’t all over you, we’re very professional. We treat you like a guest in our home,” said Cope. “We’re a no frills operation, we tell people to wear your shorts in the summer and bring your coats in the winter.” “Our staff does not work on commission,” Cope added. “They’re paid very well to be the most courteous and knowledgeable sales staff they can be.” Cope has been in flooring for more 22 years, and began his career as an installer working throughout Los Angeles. “After working for many dealers over the years and seeing how they did business I started carrying carpet and flooring out of my car and taking samples into homes to sell them,” said Cope. At one point, he sold his entire stock to the owner of an apartment building and promptly went on vacation with his wife. Upon his return, however, he started planning his own store and worked on his business plan for three years before opening his first location in North Hollywood. “Everyone thought I was crazy, they thought I had a lot of guts to be opening such a big store, and nine months later we had 9/11,” said Cope. “I said, ‘people aren’t going to be traveling, they’re going to be staying home more and saying, “my cabinets need to be replaced,” or “we need new floors.”‘ Our business is good during a bad economy and better during a good one.” Cope now has six locations, and will be opening his next warehouse in Rancho Cucamonga before the end of the month. Amigo’s, he said, has attracted customers from hundreds of miles away, and duplicate businesses have sprung up across the country. Business, he said, has doubled for Amigo’s every year, revenues went from $8.2 million in 2003 to $18.9 million in 2004, and Cope said 2005 is shaping up to be another year of doubled sales. With revenue growth of 130%, Amigo’s is the fourth fastest growing private business on the Business Journal list. Buying Spree Puts Firm on Fast Track When Robert G. Adams purchased Sun Valley-based Pull ‘R Holdings LLC in 2002, the company didn’t appear to be a candidate for any sort of fastest growing company list. After all, the company had been making the identical products under identical ownership for the previous 30 years. But Adams, the president and CEO of the Sun Valley-based firm saw opportunity where others did not. Almost immediately, Adams set out on a strategy of growing through both organic growth and mergers and acquisitions. Starting with just the Maasdam line of cable pulling tools that he originally purchased, Adams embarked on a buying spree of related hardware manufacturing companies. Within one year of owning the company, Adams bought the assets of a Canadian jack company and Dead On Tools, a maker of framing hammers. Since then, Adams has purchased four hardware companies that produce lines of tools such as Bucket Boss Brand and Hart Tools. These purchases have allowed Pull ‘R’s products to break into major retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe’s. Accordingly, the company has racked up an impressive 78 percent growth rate for the past five years, making it number seven on the Business Journal’s list of Fastest Growing Private Companies. But while Adams is satisfied with his company’s current growth rate, he also has plans to sustain it. “We’re going to continue to develop new products and to continue our customer intimacy program by reaching out and understanding our customers,” Adams said. “People are becoming tired of ho-hum homogenous offerings and our products bring a sense of style and fashion to the workplace.” But such rapid growth is never easy to manage. Adams admits that one of the biggest obstacles he has faced in his three years at the company has been integrating the different acquisitions and maintaining a strong corporate culture. “Handling this kind of rapid growth is definitely a major obstacle and creating a culture that is in alignment with our business objectives makes the task even harder,” Adams said. “When you grow quickly and add more people to the organization, you really need to have a strong sense of purpose and be unified. It’s a tough thing to handle for a fast growing company, but I believe we’ve managed to achieve success in that area.” And Adams says that there is a great likelihood that his firm will continue to be on the M & A; path for the time being, though he maintains that the company’s organic growth rate will also be high. “We’ll continue to grow and expand our product offerings, through acquisition or developing more unique brands to our family of product,” Adams said. “We want to continue to provide a good work environment and support our people both domestically and internationally. We like doing what we do.” Best Performers Under $10 Million Early Adoption of Offshore Plan Boosts No. 1 Fastest Growing Firm The motto of Infospectrum Inc. this year’s fastest growing private company in the Valley is: keep what you have, we’ll make it work. Clearly, something has been working for the 12-year old systems integration company, as the firm boasts a whopping 216 percent growth rate over the past three years. The impressive growth stems from a decision the company made in 2001, at a time when tech companies were in the throes of the post-dot.com downturn. In a move to cut costs and increase production capabilities, Infosprectrum executives decided to establish an off-shore team in India. Currently, sales and customer relations are handled locally in Agoura Hills, while the majority of product development takes place in India, where roughly 80 percent of the company’s 160-employee staff works. “Outsourcing has made it easier from a cost and schedule perspective. We can quickly ramp up based on the customer’s requirements. We interact with our customers out of Agoura and we deal with the India facility to help give the customers what they need,” Infospectrum’s President Suresh Radhakrishnan, said. “If we were to be totally dependent on our staff here, it would cost a great deal more and we wouldn’t be able to ramp up nearly as quickly.” The company has found a niche catering to the aerospace and defense industries, particularly to firms that have systems that have difficulty interacting with each other. Rather than replacing these systems, which can be quite costly to a firm, Infospectrum’s technology allows these systems seamless communication. “At first, getting started was difficult because few people knew who we were, but now we’re reasonably well-known in the industry,” Radhakrishnan said. “Now we have a major presence in companies like Northrop Grumman Rockwell and Nortel Networks.” As the fastest growing company in the Valley, Radhakrishnan is well aware of the difficulties of maintaining such a high growth rate. However, he is confident that by broadening the company’s list of service offerings and maintaining a keen focus, it can keep up its success. “Most of the growth we’re going to see is off shore because of our newly gained ability to enter into different domains. We’re currently branching out into marine logistics, homeland security, and port operations,” Radhakrishnan said. “With that and our ability to bring products to market quickly using our off shore capabilities, I think we’ll be able to sustain this growth over the next few years.” Mortgage Professionals Given Tools for Meeting Challenges After more than 10 years in the mortgage industry, Tim Braheem was recognized by his peers as one of the best in the business. Although he spent a considerable amount of time in speaking engagements across the country, Braheem maintained his own business in Westlake Village. Braheem and Rich Katz, a fraternity brother from California State University, Northridge, who was now working as a financial advisor, worked together frequently as referral partners. The two began exploring the idea of forming a business teaching the principles that Braheem had learned to other mortgage professionals across the country over computers. After leveraging their own savings, the two opened their LTB Inc, which stands for LoanToolbox, in 2002. “We knew that we were creating something really cool, but we were working in a vacuum, and we weren’t 100 percent sure that people would like it,” said Katz. “When we went to a meeting of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers and rolled out the product debut. We knew it would work right away, people were like, ‘Wow.'” The business has grown at a steady clip, more than doubling its size in 2004 to post revenues of $4.8 million dollars. They expect to gross about $9 million by the end of this year. In their first days, Braheem used his speaking engagements to promote LoanToolbox, and as the company grew it was able to hire a sales force. The company has built a sales force of about 16 people who sell the product over the phone. “We find out where loan originators are having their difficulties, and the really neat thing about the product is that pretty much any deficiency or challenge they have in their business, we’ve got it covered,” said Braheem. The training platform covers traditional ground like presenting loans, overcoming objections and qualifying borrowers. It also covers strategies for developing referral relationships with realtors, CPAs and other professionals. They provide complete marketing campaigns and over 60 scripts so that loan originators can perfect their sales routine. The goal, said Braheem and Katz, is to make the LoanToolbox indispensable for subscribers. The company currently has more than 7,600 subscribers, and they expect to reach 8,000 by the end of the year. A majority of subscribers renew every year, they said. Braheem and Katz have seen enough potential in their marketplace that they’re considering an expansion which would see them developing LoanToolbox clones for professionals from insurance brokers to financial advisors.
The List’s Best Performing Companies in Four Revenue Categories