“A lot of the processes start here, but we’re the company we are today because of the people in our affiliates,” says Godbout. “They have equity and they owe me money, so they’re out there with skin in the game and that means a lot to them.”
The equity piece “made all the difference,” says Riberi. “You’ve got the ability to be part of something larger. Each of the partners define what their particular market needs but the customers get the best of both worlds: the buying power of a company with a quasinational footprint and locally owned customer service.”
The partners have monthly video conference calls via the Blue Jeans Network, says Riberi, but there’s “no tremendous hierarchy and no real bureaucracy. My partners are my board of advisors. We’re all facing the same challenges with a little twist on it.”
“There are no ‘big wigs’ at CCS,” says Rod Andrewson, engineering manager. “When I think about how we’re structured, that term always makes me laugh.”
And, while CCS has certainly grown bigger than probably anyone imagined when Godbout gave his friend and former colleague a loan about 15 years ago, that doesn’t mean it’s been without its problems and challenges.
“We made a mistake in Chicago and hired the wrong guy there,” says Godbout. “We did the same thing in Denver, although we’re open again there and thriving today.”
Burned twice by partnering with “the wrong guy,” Godbout and CCS management has made their screening and interview process much more stringent, as Godbout’s newest partners, Brian and Mike MacGee in Kansas City, found out.
“Other people want to see their companies expand so they can beat their chest and let everyone know. John Godbout [shown] is exactly the opposite. He’s like a proud papa.” — Jim Landrum, Mitsubishi Digital Electronica AmericaThe six-month vetting process includes someone from the headquarters office as well as at least three other partners, says Godbout.
“We’re much more diligent on helping our partners be successful,” he says. “You have to be dedicated to finding the right people to open up new offices,” says Andrewson. “John spends a lot of time with these people. The most important thing you have is your brand name. When you don’t spend the right amount of time putting together those partnerships, you’ll degrade your brand.”
Joining the Team
Most of the time, people looking to join the CCS team will contact Godbout or someone else asking about becoming its newest partner, but Strib Meares launched the Mid-Atlantic region for the company at Godbout’s request — and after some negotiations. Godbout says CCS gets about two or three serious inquiries every year, with the most recent coming in St. Louis but those talks “went nowhere.”
Godbout is always looking for the next region where CCS can plant its flag and he hopes to eventually return to Chicago and turn that memory around in the same way Scott Bestick and Claudia Prince have done in Denver. Godbout also has his eyes on Cleveland, among other locales, for expansion of the CCS family.
“We’re always looking for quality people,” says Godbout.
Riberi, who helped to bring in New England owners Chris and Cheryl Ganst through his relationship with Chris at Proxima, sees room for growth in the Pacific Northwest, Southeast U.S., Tri-State area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and Philadelphia.
“To do this well, you have to be an entrepreneur and a sales guy and it helps to have a family structure where one is the sales person and one handles the operations side,” says Riberi. “And, of course, you have to trust each other.”
And, while the model has traditionally been that the new partner has started the operation from scratch, “it doesn’t have to be a startup,” says Godbout. Although CCS hasn’t made any acquisitions over its history, that doesn’t mean it’ll never happen.