What Lies Beneath

Scratch the surface of these new entrants to the B.E. 100s list and you'll find smart planning, successful growth strategies, and a strong commitment to quality

says.

With more than 900 employees, Fergus, 48, is far removed from the days he first launched COMTek in 1990. “It started with one person, myself, over the kitchen table,” he recalls. “Now we have a lot to be thankful for.” Like Hankins, Fergus admits that his first year business strategy could have been described as “ignorance is bliss”; he didn’t fully realize how daunting running his own company could be. “Not being mindful of certain things wound up being positive for us,” he says.

Fergus laughs as he remembers one bold move he made to secure a certain piece of business, one of his first major contracts. The former Navy communications specialist had run into an Army general at a conference. The two talked and Fergus was able to convince the general to meet with him to discuss business at another time: “Three weeks later I called his office, his secretary put me on his calendar, and we met. Before [the meeting was over,] he said, ‘This is a company I want on my team.’”

This, Fergus says, was the start of his early success. “In the early years, we were struggling to establish the company as a player, to be recognized by larger firms and customers … and you have to be persistent and tenacious in your efforts,” he says. That tenacity has paid off. COMTek has operations in all 50 states, plus the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam. And Fergus, who spent nine years at Bell Labs spearheading research in areas such as Signaling System No. 7, ISDN, and Intelligent Networks, is an internationally respected telecommunications expert. Fergus says that when it comes to business, despite vision and planning, “there is no script to follow. You have to develop a keen sense of what is right for you and the company, and use your gut instinct to make the best decision.”

This combination of head and heart (or gut, as the case may be) has served him well. COMTek tripled its revenues in 2003 and Fergus plans to bring on another 300 employees this year. He’s also focusing on implementing two strategies: providing added value to COMTek’s customers and combining acquisition with organic growth. “Managing growth is always a work in progress,” he explains. “But growth will always be based on what we understand to be our core strengths.” COMTek has had to broaden the definition of what its core business is. “We’ve had to be flexible in terms of what we consider our niche without stepping out of the bounds of telecom,” says Fergus. “Understanding your skill set and making sure you offer value to your customers are very key to success.”

B.E. 100S FRESHMAN CLASS

B.E. 100S INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE COMPANIES

Company

Type of Business

Location

Ranking

Revenues*

Converge Tech manufacturing Peabody, MA 10 317.0
SET Enterprises Metal processing Warren, MI 24 161.0
The Romar Group Apparel design Los Angeles, CA 38 90.0
Communication

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