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Rochester Top 100: Telecom company thrives amid industry change

Rochester Business Journal
June 20, 2014

Co-founders Alex Whitaker, left, and Walt Van Leuven agree that the company's growth has allowed them to reach a new level of understanding of its capabilities. “We’re kind of hitting stage two of our business development,” said Whitaker.(Photo by Kimberly McKinzie)

Well into its fifth year in business, Tri Tower Telecom Corp. has continued to make inroads in an industry that has changed more in the past five years than it had in the last two decades.

The telecommunications company employs 16 people in Rochester and expects to add at least five this year, primarily in its sales division. It expects to increase revenue by 5 percent.

The bulk of the business is selling communication products, including data and networking hardware such as routers, switches and optical transport, to large carriers across the nation.

Since 2013 the firm has added 100 customers for a total of roughly 500 spread across the nation. Five to 10 percent of sales come from clients in Europe and Canada. Roughly 5 percent of its business is in New York.

“I’d say 2013 and ’14 were kind of our ‘Let’s take a breath’ (years) because we grew very quickly, and now everything is in place to have that growth second half of this year and through 2016,” said Alex Whitaker, CEO and co-founder. “Our profits have grown, which is nice, but now I think we’ll get that revenue number (to) grow incredibly again.”

Some growth has been attributed to the timing and development of client relationships as well as to the beginning of more brand recognition in the area.

“Over the last 15 years for Walt and (me), it’s just (been) getting more in depth with the customers,” Whitaker said. “The two main contracts we just landed (were) a direct result of just getting to know that customer.”

Other sources of growth can be attributed to the company’s asset recovery program, which doubled this year. Through the program, Tri Tower Telecom tests, remarkets and resells the excess equipment of its clients.

“I think that (is) a reason for our success because we help our customers on all angles from all different sides of the company,” said Walt Van Leuven, chief operations officer and co-founder of Tri Tower Telecom. “We help them with their older stuff, their surplus stuff, (and) we help them regain their initial investment on (equipment).”

He added: “We’re kind of a well-oiled machine with how we handle product here. Taking care of our customer’s equipment, providing all the information they need and being able to assess (clients) in a timely manner really helps for them to know us and what we’re doing.”

Through growth the company has reached a new level of understanding of its own capabilities.

“We’re kind of hitting stage two of our business development,” Whitaker said. “When we started the business, it was just pedal to the metal, ‘Let’s sell stuff,’ and all of a sudden after five years it’s ‘Holy cow, look at all these things we’ve accomplished.’ Now it’s just a matter of building, which is exciting. It’s almost like starting over again to get to the next level.”

Expectations are set for this year and 2015, but the growth will depend on a number of factors, Whitaker says.

“This year depends on the contract work we’ve been doing,” he said. “A lot of the time has been spent managing those contracts that have been set up, so I would imagine we’ll probably be much like last year. I think (in) 2015 we’ll begin to have that massive growth again.”

Being positioned to control and manage big data bodes well for the company’s future, its top officials say.

“I think we’re in a good spot because we really deal with transporting data,” Whitaker said. “Doesn’t really matter what it is. Whatever the content may be, it still has to get from here to there, and that’s the technology we supply.”

He added: “Everybody has to deal with it (data). Whether you own your own business or you’re supplying storage—everybody’s dealing with it.”

The rate of change in the industry creates a challenge for companies.

“It’s changing faster now than it ever has,” Whitaker said. “It’s a little easier out west, where the cities and towns are newer, than it is in an older northeastern city where the infrastructure is there.”

Part of the reassessing process this year requires the company to reflect on where it has been.

“It’s like having kids,” Whitaker said. “You don’t really recognize how big they’ve gotten until you step away, and then it’s like ‘Oh, what happened?’”

The Rochester Top 100 program is presented by the Rochester Business Alliance Inc. and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. This year’s Rochester Top 100 event will be held Nov. 5. For more information, go to rochesterbusinessalliance.com.

Tri Tower Telecom Corp.
An international reseller of equipment for the delivery of communication services
Year founded: 2009
Top executive: Alex Whitaker, co-founder and CEO
Employees: 16
2013 ranking: 19
Location: Ogden
Website: www.tritowertelecom.com

6/20/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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