Heat Wave

Arbitech; Pro-Motion Technology Group

#1 Arbitech

It's high tide at Laguna Beach, California, computer products distributor Arbitech. Manned by Torin Pavia, 32, and William Poovey, 33, our second-place winner for both 2002 and 2003 has now vaulted to the top of this year's Hot 100.

Growth is the buzzword around this business. Sales for 2003 popped up to $86 million, and the company has expanded from 26 to 35 employees. But what's even more impressive than the numbers is the way Arbitech got there. "All our growth has come from existing accounts buying more from us, and word-of-mouth," says Pavia.

Staying down to earth (or down to sea level, in this case) is a priority at Arbitech. As Pavia puts it, "We've fought hard to keep our corporate culture-the fun Hawaiian shirts, [being] near the beach, surfing and playing basketball together. We're all still surfing." Fun and hard work go hand in hand in their office's high-energy trading-floor environment. Every trader working at Arbitech is his or her own CEO, says Pavia. That's not just lip service. Each employee makes major decisions, from accepting returns to setting the price for computer components. That attitude of empowerment is one of Arbitech's most potent secrets for success.

Beyond the catered lunches and annual retreat (this year to Las Vegas), the Arbitech team stays heavily involved in the community. They donate computer parts to the local high school and sponsor a golf tournament benefiting underprivileged youth, among other charitable activities.

Arbitech is still engaged in one of its greatest challenges: positioning itself as a complementary company alongside industry giants Tech Data and Ingram Micro, while still competing with them. Pavia and Poovey are accomplishing that by settling strongly into their niche of handling discontinued and constrained products (products that aren't readily available through Tech Data or Ingram Micro). This area also allows them to offer incredibly competitive prices to their small and midsize reseller clients, many of whom rely on Arbitech as a lifeline for staying profitable in competitive times.

Looking ahead, the Arbitech founders plan to continue to work their niche, hang their surfboards on customer satisfaction, and trust their employees to lead the way. Says Pavia, "We couldn't stop growing right now if we tried." -Amanda C. Kooser

#11 Pro-Motion Technology Group

Pro-Motion Technology Group went from zero to $9.4 million in sales in one year. That's faster than you can say "audiovisual." The Wixom, Michigan, company headed by founder, president and CEO Lynn Matson, 41, shows no signs of slowing down. "This year, it's going to be $9.4 million to $22 million," she says. Pro-Motion provides audio, visual and interactive solutions to retailers, restaurants and others across the nation. Its clientele list includes heavy hitters like Bally Total Fitness, Foot Locker and TGI Friday's.

Though the business is young, its history is lengthy. Matson founded a similar company in 1986, which was purchased and run into the ground by an outside interest. In 2002, she picked up the pieces by buying the assets from the bank and set out to launch self-funded Pro-Motion at the start of 2003. "I had a very good reputation with the clients in the field we dealt with," Matson says. That reputation and a fierce focus on customer satisfaction helped her ramp up the business quickly.

In one year, Pro-Motion went from five to about 30 employees. The challenge of adding so much staff hasn't fazed Matson in the least. "Business is so fundamentally easy if everybody is doing [his or her] part. My role is to make sure that everybody else is fully entrenched in their roles and enjoying doing what they do." That philosophy is echoed in the colorful and homey office where a casual work environment, music, and an on-staff masseuse are the order of the day.

With a knowledgeable staff, an office building big enough to handle huge growth, and its own product distribution center, Pro-Motion is poised to produce in 2004. "We think we're the best stock on the stock market, and we're not on the stock market," quips Matson. Her business has earned every bit of that confidence. -A.C.K.

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This article was originally published in the June 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Heat Wave.

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