opportunity to learn different aspects of the automobile manufacturing business and develop key contacts.
Still, the first year was a struggle. “[Every startup company needs] a champion, someone who will stick their neck out for you and make a make-it-happen decision,” says Taylor. His champion was Ford Motor Co.; it gave SET its first contract. At the end of 1989, SET had earned roughly $90,000 in revenues. “This year, we’ll end up north of $200 million,” he says, adding that slow, steady growth has been his strategy. “I watched what some suppliers had done — they grew too fast and, in some cases, grew themselves out of business. I wanted to make sure I had healthy growth.”
Taylor’s healthy growth strategy includes key mergers and acquisitions as well as moving the company when necessary. In 1998, SET purchased a company in Detroit’s empowerment zone. “I moved from the suburbs … to bring jobs to the city of Detroit. This was my first big move,” Taylor explains. In 2000, the company purchased six plants from Michigan-based Noble Metal Processing. It was after this purchase that the company changed its name from SET Steel Inc. to SET Enterprises and moved its headquarters to the city of Warren.
In August 2003, Taylor made another key move: SET acquired a facility owned by the Sumitomo Corp. of America, one of Japan’s largest integrated trading and investment business enterprises. What did that mean for SET? Well, for one thing, it provided the company with a larger facility and better equipment. Something else it did was increase the company’s visibility and give it a certain amount of business cachet. The move also put SET in the expose
d steel business, making it the only minority supplier to work with both kinds of metal. Exposed steel, or exposed blanking — the metal on a car’s surface — is a higher quality, more sensitive, and more challenging metal to work with. It’s also more expensive to produce. “The Sumitomo deal put me in a niche category,” Taylor says. “I am no longer doing just unexposed, which is easier to do.” About the significance of acquiring the facility owned by Sumitomo, Taylor says, “It’s important for customers to see you as having growth potential; it’s crucial. It shows [them that you] have the wherewithal to grow.”
KING OF THE TECH WORLD?
His telecommunications firm might not yet run the world, but Fergus has plans to change that. “We’re not in business to be a follower,” says the president and CEO of Communication Technologies Inc. (No. 54 on the BE 100S INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE list with $70 million in revenues). The Chantilly, Virginia-based firm provides telecommunications broadband, network operations and maintenance, systems integration, information security services, and training and development to the public and private sectors. Communication Technologies, or COMTek, is also one of only a handful of firms capable of providing facility-based broadband services worldwide. “We own our own switching systems and fiber, and we team with companies around the world to provide end-to-end solutions for our customers,” he