An Inside Look at CS Erickson’s Growth Strategy

Published: May 13, 2024
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Courtesy / CS Erickson

Based in Grand Haven, Mich., CS Erickson is a turnkey design-build firm whose unique set of offerings attracts an extensive commercial and industrial clientele. In 2017, the strategic acquisition and merging of three entities (C&S Electric, Erickson Electric and Custer Technology) heralded a new era of growth and opportunity for the electrical, low-voltage and technology systems provider. The fusion of the three entities not only enhanced project capacity but also solidified its dominance in the Michigan market. 

Originally a niche operation, the company has evolved into a comprehensive one-stop shop…a full-service provider. Indeed, it offers a wide array of services, including construction, electrical services, building automation integration, structured cabling, AV technology and industrial automation. CS Erickson projects run the gamut from doing industrial robotics and machine control to managing audiovisual systems design-build for clients. 

Wes Richard Pull quote“Anything that an electron touches, we have a group for that!” Wes Richards, director of AV technology, quips. “From primary power to low-voltage technology, we have the capability to handle any integration needs,” Josh Lester, president of CS Erickson, adds. 

Lester joined the company in 2017, just as the three entities came together. At that time, CS Erickson was making about $3.5 million in revenue. “We weren’t very big at all,” he recalls. “We were three small companies coming together.” In the seven years since, revenue has grown tenfold. “To see such tremendous growth has been a blessing,” Lester says. He adds, “Our growth surged by nearly 100% in a single year. And while we’ve maintained a robust pace in the subsequent years, I anticipate a more stable growth rate of 10% to 20% annually moving forward.” 

Over the last three years, CS Erickson has shifted its strategy, coming to embrace a future-forward vision that places technology-led design and consultative methodology at the core. 

Technology-Led Design  

According to Lester, “Our team has really harnessed the ability to lead with technology, earning the trust of architects, owners and general contractors by demonstrating a deep understanding of the critical path and construction. This ensures the building is constructed correctly and [we’re] ready to integrate technology seamlessly toward the project’s completion.” He continues that, historically, technology integration often occurred in isolation. This, Lester notes, often “[leads] to conflicts with the construction team late in the process. However, our expertise in managing technology from the outset is now recognized as essential by owners and architects, ensuring the infrastructure is designed effectively from the start.” 

CS Erickson takes a holistic approach to design-build, operating as a unified team and providing customers with a seamless communication experience. There’s no passing off responsibilities between departments — on the contrary, everyone is in sync, responding as one. This approach has been a secret to CS Erickson’s success, Lester adds with pride. 

The team also approaches design-build with longevity in mind. Rather than designing a building solely for today’s technology, the team anticipates the client’s future needs and seeks to ensure they have the necessary infrastructure in place from the start. This foresight avoids the need for disruptive updates, such as tearing apart drywall for new installations. Instead, CS Erickson can make upgrades easily by swapping out devices. 

Consultative Approach 

CS Erickson team working on project

CS Erickson takes a holistic approach to design-build, operating as a unified team. Courtesy / CS Erickson

When clients partner with CS Erickson, they won’t encounter a typical sales team, nor will they have a simple box sale. Instead, they’ll meet a consultative group dedicated to partnering with clients, building meaningful relationships and identifying core needs. 

This team doesn’t view projects as simple “wins.” Rather, the team’s focus is on project success. “Our approach is solution-focused, not limited by brand loyalty [to any specific manufacturer],” Richards explains. “We prioritize meeting clients’ needs with the right solution, embodying our core belief that people matter.” 

A client might love a particular product, but that product might not be the best solution for a given application. CS Erickson will collaborate with the client to find the best solution to meet their needs. “Even if it doesn’t always result in a sale, that’s OK,” Richards declares. “Helping clients identify what they need — even if it comes from another source — is more important to us. We’re not deterred by that.” 

CS Erickson’s goal isn’t to sell the largest technology solution, either. The team aims to simplify things, removing unnecessary complexity. The ultimate solution, tailored to the client’s needs, might involve condensing a three-page GUI interface to just one page. 

Creating Technology Standards 

The pandemic was a wake-up call for many clients, prompting them to reinvent themselves and forge environments capable of attracting both current employees and new talent to the office. CS Erickson has participated in these transformative conversations, working on several projects with key clients. Its focus has always been on creating collaborative spaces enhanced by technology; this has led to its projects reshaping the way clients work and interact. 

CS Erickson corporate boardroom project

Courtesy / CS Erickson

According to Lester, “We develop effective solutions and assist in their documentation, essentially creating catalog pages for future deployments. This includes outlining small, medium and large boardroom styles for nationwide use, aiding in implementation and establishing corporate standards.” He continues, “Our goal is to support organizations in navigating the return of employees and determining optimal solutions, serving as a vital resource in this process.” 

The CS Erickson team doesn’t merely excel in the design and construction of collaborative spaces; it also emphasizes creating impactful experiences. “When entering any conference room, what will my experience be?” Richards asks rhetorically. “Is it seamless, with one-touch join, or [is it] cluttered, with cables requiring multiple connections? How do the audio and video quality measure up? I believe focusing on this experiential aspect will drive growth over the next five years, without becoming just another buzzword.” 

The CSE Way 

CS Erickson is in the process of developing and defining the CSE way. “Successful operations require intentionality,” Richards explains. “Many organizations rely on outdated processes that haven’t evolved in decades. Our goal is to prioritize people and deliver exceptional experiences by developing our unique operational method — the CSE way. This approach ensures that, as we expand, we can replicate our success in new areas not by seeking talent with specific skills but [rather] by training individuals in our proven methods.” 

Josh Lester Pull quoteThe CSE way focuses on the employee lifecycle and ensuring project success,” Lester adds. “We believe, by fostering positive experiences and systems for our employees, they are motivated to deliver exceptional work. This, in turn, will lead to a great customer experience, fostering long-term partnerships.” 

“Our goal is to stand out, not blend in,” Richards emphasizes. “We want our clients to recognize our unique approach — insightful, proactive and simple. Success for us is when a client acknowledges these traits and truly believes in our core values: people matter, forward planning and exceptional experiences. If they can attest to these principles or simply affirm that their experience was validated, we’ve achieved our objective.” 

Nationwide Expansion 

We’ve already noted that CS Erickson is growing fast. In fact, it’s in the middle of completing a $30 million project with a single client. “That’s a significant amount of scope to manage,” Lester acknowledges. “It gives me the confidence that our team has the ability to do anything, of any size, across the country. It’s a matter of when do we want to do it [and] how much risk do we want to take? One thing’s for certain: We definitely have the passion and energy for it.” 

“We have a very strong leadership and technical team,” Lester adds, “and great partnerships to lean on. We’d like to expand our serviceability nationwide.” But expansion isn’t everything. He concludes, “It’s not as important as building our culture and building the system — the processes in place where we know we can execute at the very highest level and [that] we have the precise system in place that attracts the best talent and allows them the ability to do their best work. Once these foundations are solid, I think our appetite for expanding nationally will increase.” 

As CS Erickson continues its remarkable growth course, Commercial Integrator will be there, chronicling the ongoing journey. 

Click ‘View Gallery’ to see additional project photos. All photos courtesy of CS Erickson.

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