Headquarters: Sarasota, Florida
Core business: Wire & cable manufacturing
Employees: 85 full-time, 25 part-time in three Florida locations.
Revenue: $25 million (2012)
Like many independent entrepreneurs, John Swiatkowski didn’t have a board of directors offering sage advice on strategic business decisions. And, like many small but growing businesses, moving to the next level required technical expertise he did not have in-house and that can be pricey to buy.
Enter GrowFL, which delivered both a vital peer-counseling forum and consulting expertise that are helping Swiatkowski write an impressive turn-around story for his business, the Pacer Group.
“In fact, after surviving a crushing downturn during the Great Recession, Pacer Group’s revenues are on track to match our pre-recession peak,” Swiatkowski said. The company manufactures wire and cable; engineers and fabricates panels, harnesses and battery cables; and distributes electrical components.
“The recession forced us to look beyond the marine industry for customers, but we didn’t want to risk substantial capital on researching new markets. We also were trying to grow our e-commerce business and knew that we needed to compete better on Internet search engines,” he said.
The GrowFL team provided highly detailed research into new markets and guidance on optimizing the company’s web site for search engines to find its products – at no charge to Pacer. The research helped Pacer land at least one new client: a company that makes a mower with a tilting cabin so that mowing on an incline is safer and more efficient. Meantime, the SEO (search engine optimization) scheme has lifted Pacer Group to the first Google page for top keywords associated with the company’s e-commerce offerings.
“With this higher search ranking, we are seeing an uptick in the pace of e-commerce sales. We expect e-commerce to be one of the most dynamic aspects of our business growth moving forward,” Swiatkowski said.
Even beyond the technical expertise, however, Swiatkowski may value GrowFL’s “Peerspectives” CEO discussion group more. Although his time in the state-funded GrowFL program is over, he is paying out of his own pocket to continue in the roundtable discussions.
“You can get a myopic vision about solutions when you’re running a small, family-operated business,” he said. “The peer group helps you look at other solutions in a confidential setting. They can speak objectively – and sometimes bluntly – about a business decision we are considering. We may be surrounded by the trees, while the peer group sees the forest.”