Polk County, Florida
A-C-T is a time-tested, respected state- and nationwide environmental and infrastructure services firm that fulfills the environmental regulatory compliance needs of their clients; exceeding their expectations of service, quality, and value, while maintaining the highest level of confidentiality and service. For nearly 35 years, they have successfully completed thousands of environmental assessments and remediation assignments.
Architectural, Engineering, & Related Services
40% increase from 2018 – 2021
34% increase from 2018 – 2021
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born in Youngstown, OH, and went to Ohio University and then to the University of Florida. I graduated with a degree in Chemistry and went to work as a Research Chemist in Jacksonville. I truly love research chemistry but soon realized that I could further my career if I took the business route, so I got into the business management track. I have truly enjoyed being a scientist and a businessman. I co-founded my first environmental services company, Resource Recovery of America in 1980, and sold it to a public company in 1987. I immediately started American Compliance Technologies, Inc. DBA A-C-T Environmental & Infrastructure, Inc. without a partner and we are celebrating our 35th year in business and the company that has received this GrowFL award. In 1996, I co-founded American Communications, a cellular telephone independent retailer, and we built it up to 15 locations in Florida.
When our national carrier said “Build it to 30 stores” we opted out and sold it to another retailer. I also founded The Kincart Group, Ltd., a real estate investment and development company that has grown and is still in operation today.
Was there an ah-ha moment that led you to your entrepreneurial journey or where did the idea for your company come from?
Early on in my career, my Manager at the Glidden Durkee Company gave me a tough assignment involving the extraction of citrus oils (d-limonene) from orange peels, and when I asked “Who’s going to help me with this project?” He replied, “ If you don’t do it, it won’t get done!” Those words stuck with me and they changed my life forever. I took his words very seriously and stepped up to the challenge. I gained a considerable amount of confidence in myself. I was then recruited by Kerr McGee Chemical Corporation in their agrichemical products division as their Laboratory Manager in Jacksonville FL. It was during one of our meetings with the Jacksonville Fire Department that they requested that I assist them with protecting their firefighters and the environment when fighting fires involving several different hazardous chemicals. Our work in the 1970s resulted in the very first Hazardous Materials (Haz-Mat) Team in the United States which made me the first Haz-Mat Chemist in the Country. I loved these assignments and knew I was helping our first responders. My next role as the Operations Manager for the Upjohn Company – Asgrow Florida Agrichemical Division gave me the responsibility for budgets, production schedules, personnel, and operations. It’s here that I gained a greater understanding of the business side of operating a company. At that time the new EPA regulations had just come out and were given to me to provide compliance for our company. The regulations were very difficult to understand so I thought to myself “If no one else wants to deal with regulatory compliance, maybe I can start a business providing these services to a multitude of other businesses.” So away I went.
Did you know you always wanted to be a CEO/entrepreneur?
I really didn’t think about it when I was growing up. My father worked for AT & T and I always thought that I would work for AT & T or a large company as well, however, at a young age I was involved with Junior Achievement and really attribute that as the catalyst to operate my own business.
Tell us about your business and the value it brings to your customers.
We have been in the environmental services industry for 35 years. We have the talent, resources, and experience to have seen just about everything. That means we provide just about every environmental compliance service that a private company or the public sector needs. We have more licenses and diversified resources than most companies. We’re basically a one-stop shop when a company or the government has an environmentally related problem such as environmental assessments for real estate transactions, remediation of contaminated sites, emergency response to incidents, waste disposal, industrial hygiene services, engineering services, health & safety consultation, and disaster response work. We employ nearly 100 people on an 8-acre campus setting in Bartow FL with additional offices in Orlando, Gainesville, Naples, Titusville, and Miami. A-C-T is a true “problem-solving” company on adrenaline! We have so many experts that most solutions facing any organization can be solved using our in-house staff and resources without the need to outsource many services.
What makes your company culture unique? How do you like to lead your team?
We empower our staff to take ownership of their work. Nearly 20 years ago, I recognized that we needed to do a better job of attracting, developing, and retaining our staff so we entered into a “Best Place to Work” mentality. Since then, we have witnessed significant improvements in our workforce and won multiple awards for Best Places to Work. One element is our philanthropic arm called A-C-T Cares! We have fostered a culture of getting our staff involved with giving back in the communities we serve. To celebrate our 35th anniversary, we have a program that requested all staff submit a non-profit agency that they wanted to support and then a small group whittled this number down to 20 agencies, and then our most senior staff formed a committee to select our Top 10 and we awarded $3500 to each of these charities. We then involved staff in site visits and check presentations. We have had an amazing response and encouraged staff to get involved with the charity they most like. It worked and now it’s a permanent part of our culture.
What makes your company different than others in your market?
Customer Service has always been our main focus. I stress that “if we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will.” Our goal has always been to deliver an incredible customer experience. We have a group of highly talented and passionate folks that have bought into that philosophy. Since our work can be challenging and demanding, we recognize and even advise candidates that A-C-T may not be for everyone. They get to work on something new and exciting on most days. This keeps them engaged and ready to solve our customers’ problems. We live by our A-C-T core values: Attitude – Contribution – Teamwork; by our CORE 4: (1) Provide an Incredible Customer Experience, (2) Deliver Quality Products & Services, (3) On Time Project Delivery, (4) On Budget; and by our slogan – “Leave it better than you found it!”
Since starting or while growing your business, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a business owner? How did you solve or overcome them?
Finding good people and then keeping them, has been a challenge so we entered into a “Best Place to Work” mentality. Since then, we have witnessed significant improvements in our workforce and won multiple significant awards for Best Places to Work.
The second is cash flow. We remained frugal and built-up cash reserves so we could present a great financial statement and then go to the banks for a line of credit. You can only go to the banks when they think you don’t need money because banks don’t want to lend money to desperate companies!
Don’t grow too fast. I have always managed our growth to a plateau and then allowed us to equilibrate and wait until ready to take the next step.
In addition, competition from larger, more established companies. We are nimble and very responsive. We provide a higher level of customer care. It only takes a few extra minutes to provide an incredible customer experience.
And lastly, how to actually run a business. Running a business is a whole lot more than just providing your services. Look at other companies that you respect and see how they operate. I picked Publix and Disney. I would always ask myself “What would Mr. George or Walt Disney do?” I would always put myself in my customers’ shoes and ask them what they were expecting from us. Then I would just outwork my competition.
What goals do you have for your company? How do you hope to see it grow in the coming years?
Working on a sustainable strategy, growth, higher level activities, and expansion of our office locations. Work on improving our average contract value, improving our Net Revenue per Full-Time Employee, our Equipment Utilization, and our profit margins. Mentoring my adult children to take over the business. They’re well-educated, motivated, talented, and fully capable of growing our business to another level.
What has been your proudest moment as president/CEO?
Celebrating 35 years in business and mentoring my adult children to take over our business. This has been a tremendous retention tool because our staff knows we’re not going to be sold. I love it when our customers brag about the work that we provide. When I realized that I didn’t have to be personally involved in every project and we still got great comments from our customers, it was a very proud accomplishment. Repeat customers. The majority of our customers have been with us for quite a while. When our customers say that they can count on us to take care of their reputation. Obviously winning awards and providing recognition for our staff goes a long way to demonstrate that their hard work, dedication and commitment are worth it.
What does it mean to you to be selected as a FLCTW honoree?
It’s quite an honor to be selected and to show our staff that the work we are doing is meaningful and recognized by our community. I believe that it gives our staff a deep sense of pride that they are making a difference and being recognized for it. It is truly a team effort. When they wear A-C-T logo apparel and folks comment positively on it, it gives them the satisfaction that they made the right decision to be at A-C-T.
Is there anyone special you’d like to thank?
I would like to thank my wife and my 3 kids and our entire family for their commitment to our business. Thank my parents for giving me a great work ethic and encouraging me from the beginning. Thank our wonderful staff along the way that has bought into our vision and continues to deliver solid results. Thank you to the banks and our vendors for supporting us over the years. And, last but not least, I want to thank our great customers for their confidence in us and for continuing to utilize our services.
Build a better, faster, stronger company. Don’t let your competitors outwork you. Always deliver an incredible customer experience. Have a Plan A, B, and C. Be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked before. You need to recognize that it’s a lifestyle – not a job. And that it’s with you 24 hours a day. You cannot shut it off. Find the right people who share your passion. It’s also important to separate yourself from the pack. Be able to explain why you’re different and why people should use you – and then prove it! Balance your work type just like a mutual fund of customers. Watch your numbers. Stay frugal and do not incur too much debt. Make sure you save enough money for a rainy day. Get involved in your community and give back -it’s worth every bit of effort. Take time to step back and evaluate how you’re perceived by your customers. What are you hearing from them? Ask yourself, would you be happy with the service you just received? Watch your collections – if you don’t get paid, it’s just a hobby! Do something no one else wants to do and you’ll always have a job!