Brevard County, Florida
Anderson Connectivity designs, manufactures, and services antenna systems for satellite communication. Their primary focus is in the In-Flight Entertainment and Connectivity (IFEC) and SmallSat RF Payload markets.
163% increase from 2018 – 2021
168% increase from 2018 – 2021
Tell us a bit about your background. What led you to where you are today?
I started out as an antenna engineer at Harris Corporation. One of the jobs I was working on was putting airborne receivable television on Head of State aircraft. Harris eventually leveraged out into commercial transport aircraft in the late 90s and became a company called Live TV. I was employee number four there and was with them since their inception. We put television on JetBlue aircraft and several others around the world. Live TV formed the in-flight entertainment and communication industry. I separated from them in 2005 to start my own company, initially in a consulting role, given the experience that I had amassed in airborne connectivity. Once I found out that I was able to credibly support my family by doing this, I quickly realized that consulting was bandwidth limited. You get paid by the number of hours you work and there are only so many hours per week. I began to look into other areas in the industry and started doing some repairs and even developing new products. I brought on a good friend of mine from Harris and we ended up growing the company beyond consulting to service both the in-flight entertainment connectivity industries and the small-set RF payload industries.
Did you know you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
As a young child and even into my adulthood, I was always curious about how things worked and really interested in technology. My parents used to say, “I never colored inside the lines very well.” My experience in corporate America solidified that for me. It quickly became highly apparent to me that corporate America was not where I wanted to be. When I saw the opportunity to join Live TV, I absolutely lept at it because I knew I’d be miserable if I in the environment I was in. Then a few years later, I jumped off another cliff and decided to start Anderson Connectivity. Mainly because before I had left Live TV, we were at 600 employees when originally we started at 4. At that point, there was more process over purpose and I don’t function well in that environment. That was the catalyst that helped me decide to punch out and start on my own journey, and it’s been an amazing one.
Tell us about Anderson Connectivity and the value you bring to your customers.
We design, manufacture, and service antenna systems for satellite communication. We get in on the front end, do clean sheet designs, build those designs, and then we service them once they’ve been in the industry. The value that we bring is unlike a lot of other companies in this industry. We don’t have a solution just looking for the problem. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. We have a breadth of experience that is unparalleled from what I’ve seen during my time in this industry. We come into problem spaces, we understand what the right size solution is for that problem space, and then we deliver very crisp execution in terms of the correct size, design, and quality – everything at a low life cycle cost for our clients.
What is your competition like?
When we started, there wasn’t much of an industry, but now it’s enormous with some heavy hitters in there. Most companies in the in-flight entertainment and connectivity market have developed a product or a family of products and are busy prosecuting them into the space. Some of them are very good at it, but many don’t truly understand aviation and the process of getting products installed into the aircraft. There’s really no company that does it all. There are good design companies and good contract manufacturers, but I know of no company that also does 3rd party repairs. Because of that, I don’t think there’s any company that is a direct competitor to us considering the full scope of what we do. If you look at each facet of the industry individually, like product sales, that’d be a hard space to compete in. Where we differentiate ourselves is by having not just the product, but the design, the manufacturing, the subject matter expertise, and the service to be able to sustain them.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while growing your business?
I think the biggest challenge I faced was recognizing when my own limitations were keeping the company from growing. Some might consider me a control freak, and in the beginning, I was trying to do it all – and not very well. We were surviving but not really thriving. I very quickly came to realize that in order to grow and scale somebody else needed to run the day-to-day operations. My strengths are in the big picture – being out front, developing the business, and charting the course. I needed someone else internally to command the vessel and make sure that everything was functioning the way it needed to. That’s when I brought on my COO, who saw me practically my pulling hair out. He didn’t hesitate and jumped on the grenade. That’s the time when our growth started to take off. But that was the biggest hurdle to get over. I needed to get out of my own way for the sake of allowing the company to grow.
Talk to us about your company culture. What makes it unique?
Every single person that works here came out of corporate America in one form or another. We were all so disenfranchised and frustrated with having to be responsible for outcomes but not being empowered or watching the waste of resources and time that went into a process-over-purpose mentality. We had gotten to the point where we wanted to do something different for a reason. Because we spend so much time together and because what we do is highly stressful, it was crucial to have a strong culture at the foundation. Over the years, it was important to be to control our speed of growth instead of trying to amass bodies to make things work. A few years ago, I said, “I only hire rockstars.” In the same conversation, someone said they had no idea how I worked with my close friends. My response was that I didn’t understand how they couldn’t. At the end of the day, even if we vehemently disagree on a particular topic, there’s still abiding respect for each other and our close relationship outside of work.
Our retention is really high, we’ve only lost two employees over the last six years. I believe it’s because people enjoy working here. We try to listen to everyone and have created an open and inviting environment. Of course, to attract talent, we need to offer strong benefits and perks to get them in the door, but once they’re here, they see that it’s a company where everyone is empowered to make decisions and be creative. Additionally, everyone shares responsibility and accountability. Having all sides of the equation – creativity, ownership, and accountability – make people enjoy what they’re doing. It’s not just a job, it’s a career and they are working in a culture where they feel like they can thrive.
What goals do you have for your company?
I’ve been in this industry for decades. We incorporated in 2005 and this business is very much like a third child for me – it has gotten most, if not all, of my attention and money. I’m “of a certain age” and retirement doesn’t sound like a good fit for me. I think I’ll always be one of the people who work, just in a different capacity. Before then, what I really want for this company is to roll out an incredible piece of technology we’ve created into the market. We’ve worked so hard to make other people in this industry successful by standing behind them, helping to bring their products to life, and developing a market when it didn’t exist.
Along the way, there were a lot of failures, but failure is such a great teacher. We feel like we failed enough to be successful. We’ve started to turn that light inward and are ready to do what we’ve done for our customers, this time for ourselves. I want to see our flagship product dropped into the ring to see how well it does. I want to bring our products and our system into the market and have a seat at the table. Personally, to see how it does will determine my own success. Then, whether it continues under the Anderson Connectivity banner or maybe some natural form of M&A, we can entertain those conversations after we get there. At some point, my involvement in the company has to end naturally, and I’m going like hell right now to make sure it’s on a positive note.
What is your proudest moment so far as CEO?
It sounds like I’m pandering – but my proudest moment is receiving the GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch award. We’re the guys nobody has heard about and we’re always the behind-the-scenes guys. We’ve never really had our moment in the sun. To be recognized in a field of people that are highly credible in a community that we hold so dear has been the best moment of being President of this company. I tend to shy away from compliments and recognition, and to have us be recognized after a very objective assessment of what we’re doing was extremely validating.
Additionally, as a result of being an Honoree, we’re starting to get a bit more marketing out there and pay attention to what our message is. The problem we had was that I can’t be in every room, but I want to be. We hired a videographer who was absolutely phenomenal to tell our story. Over the course of a couple of days, we shot a video that showcased the essence of who we are. A couple of weeks later, he showed us the video he produced, and it absolutely took my breath away. To see everything that we have built be framed in that way was such a deeply gratifying moment. The pride that came along with that was really a once-in-a-lifetime kind of feeling.
Is there anyone special you’d like to thank?
First and foremost, Chris Snyder, my Chief Technical Officer, and my best friend. Additionally, Steve Meyer, our Chief Operating Officer, and another dear, dear friend. I would not be here if it were not for those two guys. There’s been a lot of other people along the way who have helped me keep perspective when times got tough. My father and my sister have been huge supporters as well. But in terms of the context of the business, Chris and Steve have been instrumental in growing the company and making it what it is. The running joke between us is that together, we make a whole person. Chris is literally the smartest person I’ve ever met, and Steve is detail oriented and so meticulous, and driven. I’m more of the business development and test & measurement guy. Between the three of us, we make an incredible organism. When they both came in, we made a pact to say friendship is friendship, business is business and at the end of the day, there will always be beer. Even if the business ended tomorrow, we still win with each other.
Believe in yourself and don’t ever give up. There will be days when you say, “What am I doing?” And the safety and comfort of going back to a clearly defined employment experience is so attractive sometimes, but the satisfaction and the reward is so worth it. Starting a business on my own is singularly the hardest thing I’ve ever done, aside from parenthood. But just like parenthood, it’s one of the most rewarding things.