Unlike its early days, Plymouth-based Comm-Works is eager to have visitors check out its high-tech offerings first hand.
Comm-Works CEO Al Lampe proudly shows off the Plymouth-based business technology integrator's futuristic new Experience Center, where digital displays, smart boards and other interactive components immerse visitors in the latest high-tech solutions.
The center showcases Comm-Works' expanding service offerings in a way that's more compelling than traditional sales calls, marketing brochures or PowerPoint presentations, Lampe said.
For that matter, practically every inch of the company's 39,000-square-foot headquarters exemplifies what Lampe described as Comm-Works' expertise and attention to detail, from its mission-control-style data center to its meticulously cabled and connected workspaces.
"What we were convinced of was that if we could get a targeted prospect or a customer to visit us in our facility ... our close rate would be 99 percent," Lampe said, then continued with a ready chuckle. "I'm probably exaggerating a little bit but that's what I'm holding my salespeople to."
While encouraging customers to visit now is a key part of Comm-Works' sales process, it was out of the question when Lampe and two co-founders launched Comm-Works in 1995.
They had left the corporate world with big ambitions. But their humble digs prompted Lampe to rule that customers had to be from outside of Minnesota -- even though that meant avoiding the numerous corporate headquarters right in their back yard.
"Everyone would say, why would you not want Minnesota-based companies," Lampe recalled. "The reality was, it was three of us in a 600-square-foot office trying to sell national services. We were terrified that if we landed one of those customers they'd want to come see our facility."
Comm-Works -- which now serves more than 150,000 customer locations in more than 100 countries -- and Minnesota -- integrates technology for multi-site organizations in industries such as retail, finance and insurance, health care and manufacturing and for the federal government.
The field work is done by a network of more than 20,000 technicians who have passed Comm-Works' vetting process, meeting insurance, financial, technical and other requirements and passing background checks.
Revenue last year was $80 million, Lampe said, up 25 percent from 2010. The company has 175 employees at its Plymouth headquarters and in offices in Indianapolis and Washington, D.C.
Comm-Works expects revenue to grow 15 to 20 percent this year, Lampe said. The company anticipates more business from the industries it now serves and from the federal government and international clients. Much of that international growth could come in China, where the company last year entered into a partnership.
In January, the company introduced its new project management platform, Comm-Works Command Center, or C3, a Web-based portal that Lampe said offers real-time and historical project information, inventory tracking, ordering and invoicing.
The company has virtually no debt after completing a recapitalization last year, and is positioned to grow organically or through strategic acquisitions, Lampe said. The executive management team owns 30 percent of the company while a private equity firm owns the remainder.
Business dropped dramatically from April 2009 through June 2010, Lampe said, as customers slashed the number of new locations they were opening during the recession.
Comm-Works downsized by 80 positions and sold an out-of-state division, Lampe said. The company has seen a strong turnaround since, in part because it added security and energy management services to its portfolio.
"We really kind of reinvented ourselves," Lampe said. "If we're not doing all new locations, what else can we be doing inside the customers' four walls."
Comm-Works serves as the single national installer for Sengistix, a Mendota Heights company that offers health and safety monitoring products to help the developmentally disabled and seniors live independently, said Kirk Simmons, director of operations.
"We've been extremely satisfied," Simmons said. "It's hard to find consistency through the United States, and their network is really good.''
The expert says: Mike Harvath, president and CEO of Revenue Rocket Consulting Group, a Bloomington firm that consults with tech companies, said Comm-Works has done a "phenomenal" job adapting.
"They've been almost a picture-perfect poster child for entrepreneurial growth and reinvention," said Harvath, who said he has kept an eye on Lampe and Comm-Works for years. "They've been very focused on what customers tell them they need and want. They've still been able to grow ... and that's a sign of a great company.''
Comm-Works was smart to recognize the global market for its services, Harvath said. "They built a global company from the get-go,'' he said.