It's Getting Hot in Here

Concentric Marketing & Access Diabetic Supply

Concentric Marketing
Having high expectations and focusing on goals helped this company stay centered.

The three co-founders of Concentric Marketing in Charlotte, North Carolina, are the first to admit they started their company at the worst possible time. It was in September 2000, the beginning of the economic downturn, that Robert Shaw, 39; Tricia Snead, 34; and Frank Rizzo, 36, opened the doors of their marketing agency.

"We've never allowed the economy to be an excuse," says Shaw. "I'm by nature a hypercompetitive individual who sets unreasonable goals." Not that unreasonable, considering the fact that Concentric Marketing went from five employees at start-up to 19 employees today, and sales of $267,000 their first year to a projected $8.8 million in 2003. This year, the company came in at No. 78 on our Hot 100 list.

Although the three co-founders struggled in the beginning stages, their business exploded as they started to land huge accounts such as Coca-Cola and Sonic Automotive. Hiring the best people for the job has been an important factor in achieving success, according to the partners. Says Shaw, "The extra two weeks you take to find the right person pays off times 100 in the long run."

Not only does Concentric Marketing extensively screen and interview prospects to make certain they're as driven and competitive as the founders, but they also structure the company to play on everyone's strengths. For instance, Shaw is the company's visionary and strategic marketing guru, Snead is the creative force and Rizzo is the financial mind.

One of the biggest challenges arising from fast growth has been communication between the three partners. "As the company grows, yelling over the cube is not a good way to function," explains Snead. "When we started experiencing this huge explosion in growth, it was time to put the right people in place and make sure the processes were in place before the agency got too big for us to wrap our arms around--and that's what we're [still] doing."

That process includes maintaining a delicate balance between being happy with their growth and striving for more. The expansion strategy, Shaw explains, "is to allow people to catch their breath a little bit and feel great about what they've accomplished, and still keep that burning desire and ambition going to never feel satisfied."

With plans to grow the company more than 100 percent in the next year, Concentric Marketing's founders seem to have the burning desire part down.--Nichole L. Torres

Access Diabetic Supply
A health-care company reaches out to the masses.

Managing long-term illness is an unfortunate but real aspect of many people's lives. For Access Diabetic Supply's co-founders, Montgomery Byers Jr., 34; David Wallace, 36; and Timothy Stocksdale, 34, offering mail order medical supplies to the 17 million Americans who are afflicted with diabetes caused their business to skyrocket from its first-year sales of $400,000 in 2000 to projected sales of $25 million in 2003. Banking on a profitable niche market, Access Diabetic Supply's co-founders are controlling its growth while laying the groundwork for its continued expansion and success.

As former executives at specialty chemicals and materials company W.R. Grace & Co., where they handled health-care acquisitions, Byers, Wallace and Stocksdale knew that investing heavily in technology and automation--something most of their competitors have been slow to do--would be key to moving ahead of the competition as well as managing growth. Because Access Diabetic Supply employs a direct-billing process where Medicare and insurance companies are billed electronically, the company is a virtually paperless operation.

The No. 25 company on the Hot 100 list, Access Diabetic Supply is now determined to "overemphasize" customer service. Flooded with calls and enrollment prospects as they increase advertising, the company is meeting the challenge by creating a 7-to-10-day turnaround time for enrolling new prospects. The co-founders will also bulk up their staff from 50 employees to 150 by year's end. Luckily, South Florida's cluster of health-care firms has presented a pool of well-trained specialists for the company to wade through.

The Pompano Beach, Florida-based firm continues to grow its diabetic supplies division as well as its recently added respiratory pharmacy division. Distributing respiratory medications and supplies to those suffering from asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis, Access Diabetic Supply's most recent target market includes 30 million potential new clients. "It really is our platform to be one of the top three players in our business," declares Wallace. "The investment's made, and that's the direction we're heading."--April Y. Pennington

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This article was originally published in the June 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: It's Getting Hot in Here.

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