But organic growth can present its own challenges. Scott Reeve, president of Composite Advantage, a division of Creative Pultrusions Inc. since October 2018, explains that growing his company only as money was available led to costly inefficiencies over time.
“When we started out, we bought one building. Then as we expanded, we bought a second nearby building and a third,” Reeve recalls. While that allowed the company to sink significant capital into product and market development as the money became available, rather than securing a large loan or turning to an investor, it led to problems. “We were wasting a lot of money in terms of moving between buildings and redundancy,” Reeve says. Today, the company has solved that problem by bringing its 100 employees under one roof in a 300,000-square-foot building in Dayton, Ohio.
While smaller companies can recover from missteps by cutting back on staff (or the owner’s salary), estimating and cost control become much more critical as companies scale up. So do people.
Putting a skilled workforce in place becomes necessary as founders find themselves pulled in different directions. Yet as Kreysler points out, growth at this stage brings with it a responsibility for keeping that workforce employed. Kreysler recalls, “[In the early days] every penny was in the business, and as I slowly added work and needed more help, I became aware of my responsibility to [my employees] to not make a mistake.”
As Kreysler’s operation has become more manufacturing-intensive, his labor needs have only increased. As a case in point, his company’s new facility manufactures exterior building panels and relies heavily on automation and technology. “I don’t subscribe to the theory that robotics will displace blue collar workers,” Kreysler says. “Every time I invest in a new robot, I have to hire more people to keep up with increased productivity. The custom FRP work we do is still very much a craft. The automated tools are just that – tools.”
Put Trusted Partners in Place
Bringing people on board with the right skillsets proved to be an “aha” moment for Reeve, who founded Composite Advantage in 2005 with now-vice president Andrew Loff. “For the first couple of years when there was only a handful of us, we all did a little bit of everything,” says Reeve. As the company grew, Loff focused on the technical side while Reeve took on more of a sales, marketing and project management role. In time, they began to onboard additional management-level employees to support the company’s growth, including a general manager to run the manufacturing operation.