Tomorrow’s voice/data/video convergence today

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The telecommunications industry, like a bucking bronco, has thrown a number of corporate “cowboys” out of the saddle over the past twenty years. Maybe the rough ride is due to the high cost of keeping up with technology – or the result of mergers that dilute corporate cultures and diminish good customer service.

Pat Galvin, CEO and founder of WTSC Communications, represents a special breed of buckaroo. The forty-something entrepreneur has not only stayed on the horse – he has tamed and grown his wild telecom mustang operation from $1.5 million in 1998 to more than four million dollars in revenues by year-end 2001.

Galvin’s secret lies in the belief that excellent customer service, teamed with “unparalleled expertise,” provide the key to success. The southern Colorado resident, who moved to Colorado in 1982 and went to work with Florissant, Colorado-based Interwest Communications, became the sales manager over a territory that included Pueblo and Colorado Springs. “By today’s standards, we handled pretty basic voice-centric work – setting up voice mail and phone systems,” he recalls.

In contrast, today his company employs 32 technicians, account executives and support staff who work on projects from Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) voice and data systems design to a complete voice, video and data systems network for the Broncos – linking the team’s Dove Valley headquarters in southwest Denver to Invesco Field. Hired to install voice/data/video electronic infrastructure, WTSC Communications was brought in as a subcontractor by lead contractors and communications giants, AT&T Broadband and Nortel. “We were talented enough to do the work, and small enough that Nortel and AT&T knew that we would make this contract a high priority,” Galvin said. Bronco coaches can now immediately review a game or practice film taped on the field or at Dove Valley – and a four-digit access code has been installed to facilitate staff and player voice communications throughout the Bronco organization.

WTSC Communications’ top-down philosophy that each customer is treated “as our largest and most important client” grew out of Galvin’s experience in the mid-1990s, when Interwest Communications was acquired by the Anschutz Corporation’s West Haz-Mat division. The company was then sold to Internet Communications, a publicly-traded Denver firm. At that point, the parent company grew to more than 300 employees, and according to Galvin, lost its focus on delivering good customer service. “Our Interwest crew went from being the top inter-connect company in the state, known for its entrepreneurial spirit and flexibility,” said Galvin, “to operating as small cogs in a very large corporate wheel. It was hard on the employees.”

Frustrated by the inefficiencies and politics of a large corporation, he decided to spin off on his own. In 1998, Galvin, opened West-Tech Communications (today known as WTSC Communications) and brought more than sixteen years of broad sales, operations and administrative experience, teamed with solid customer relationships to his new venture. One longtime colleague also left Internet Communications with Galvin. By the end of their first year, nine technicians and account representatives had migrated to the new firm, which banked more than one-and-a-half million dollars in revenue in its first year. “We opened our doors with more than 200 years combined technical experience,” Galvin notes. “That’s a real selling point to clients who know we have the depth to manage complex projects.”

Galvin knew that a number of his customers would follow. “I expected to post a loss for our first six months, but that never happened. Our business plan was based on sales goals of one million for the first year. We capitalized on our experience and were profitable from day one.”

In its first year, WTSC secured a half-million dollar contract with Pueblo Community College, installing cabling for voice and data. It also won other large jobs with the University of Southern Colorado for a new PBX and with CDOT. Since that time, the company also designed and installed a full-scale communications system for the new El Pomar media center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and has opened a Denver office.

Part of the credit for the firm’s early success, Galvin says, comes from attracting and keeping good employees. Of the nine employees who left the company to join Galvin, all but one remains at WTSC. The ninth went to work for one of the firm’s customers. “We offer competitive salaries, ongoing educational training and excellent benefits,” Galvin said. “It’s important that even though we’re a small business, we provide a work environment that’s on par with larger companies.”

The company, financed privately by its CEO, has enjoyed the benefits of several years of a boom economy, but Galvin predicts his soaring revenues may level off in 2002 and 2003. “That okay. We’ve been growing very fast. This will give us an opportunity to look at our business – to analyze where to put our resources. New technologies force change, and we want to make smart choices.”

One of those choices is to grow the company’s structured cabling business. While many corporations often have communications backbones in place, Galvin says, there will always be a need to re-equip new or remodeled offices or cubicles with full voice/data/video technology. “That’s really a growth area for us,” he adds, noting that this “horizontal” wiring is necessary whenever tenants move or companies relocate.

Another emerging opportunity lies in voice recognition technology, says Galvin, who is already working on networking his Colorado Springs and Pueblo offices with the necessary voice recognition software and equipment. The technology involves a separate server attached to a company’s telecommunications system. Individuals are queried, based on voice patterns. Though still expensive, many business owners will find the new technology offers an attractive return on investment – and Galvin includes spreadsheet projections with his proposals, showing how voice recognition will save money over time. The company relies on technology partners, Nortel Networks, Altigen, NEC America, and Comdial to provide technical training and project support.

WTSC Communications is located in a 4000-square-foot office/warehouse off Fillmore, near I-25. Galvin shares the office with his brother, Rich, who runs Valuecomm, a related communications equipment company. The firm recently expanded its southern Colorado headquarters in Pueblo West, doubling its office and warehouse space.

Focused on becoming a one-stop provider of voice, data and video hardware and service throughout southern Colorado and Denver, “communications cowboy” Pat Galvin understands the volatility of the telecom industry – and will likely ride into the sunset as a true local success story.