At least not in the presence of Dennis Abrahams or David Lowman, the company’s two highest executives.
Sure, SageQuest sells a GPS tracking system to local businesses and companies that have mobile fleets — be they plumbers or drywallers, cable installers or laundry deliverers — but Abrahams and Lowman insist they aren’t selling technology as much as the means to use that technology efficiently.
“The technology is very simple,” says Lowman, SageQuest executive vice president and CFO. “The real special sauce, the value we add, is that we take that data and present it in ways to the customer that really help them improve the performance of their mobile resources.
“There is lots of data out there but too little information,” he continues. “We think of ourselves as an information company.”
That information, culled from tens of thousands of data points collected by that GPS technology, allows companies with mobile fleets to track their drivers on a real-time basis.
Dispatchers can find out which drivers are closest to a new or emergency service call. Operations managers can identify where there are exceptions to regular activity (such as one specific vehicle staying at a location longer than it should). And CEOs can see whether the company is hitting goals for average number of stops per day, travel time and just about any other piece of information one can imagine.
With more than 20 million vehicles working in the local service market that SageQuest serves, there has been room for growth. Currently these GPS tracking systems penetrate between 10 to 15 percent of those vehicles. Lowman estimates that penetration should reach 30 percent.
That spells more room for growth, even in a down economy.
“We’re not completely immune,” Lowman says, “but we will grow this year.”
Lowman and Abrahams are no strangers to high-growth startups. They worked together three times before SageQuest, all at relatively new, high-growth companies.
The first time, Abrahams, president and CEO of SageQuest, hired Lowman to work in product management at Victoria Financial Corp., a small, private automobile insurance company competing against the likes of Progressive Insurance.
Lowman had just shut down the Cleveland Brewing Co., which he had started after graduating from the Kellogg School of Management in Chicago. “It didn’t work, probably for a number of reasons,” Lowman says. “But it was the best learning experience of my life.”
Abrahams liked Lowman’s background, especially the fact that he wasn’t an insurance guy. “I like people with eclectic backgrounds,” Abrahams says. “I just thought he was a cool guy. I hired him because I didn’t want to hire an insurance guy.”
Actually, there’s more to it than that.
“We’ve got very complementary skills and strengths,” Abrahams says. “Dave has tremendous visions; he’s financially astute. Dave has charisma and tact. With me, I’m a people person, an organization and development guy. I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know.”
Abrahams himself has quite an eclectic background. He admits he’s not your typical CEO.
President and CEO of SageQuest
“My first love was teaching and working with people,” he says. “I had a very altruistic view of the world. I wanted to join the Peace Corps. Everything about me was in some way anti-business.”
Abrahams’ academic degrees are in communications. He was a baseball coach at West Jefferson High School in central Ohio and a high school teacher for several years before going to grad school.
Then, at a conference in Chicago, he found himself talking with folks from Progressive Insurance. Before he knew it, he had a job offer. The company wanted him to work with people and process issues, he says, which was right down his alley.
Whatever their backgrounds, Abrahams and Lowman have made a great team at SageQuest.
The first thing Abrahams and Lowman did when they took leadership positions with the company that would become SageQuest was shut down sales.
The company had about 40 clients who were using early GPS technology to monitor mobile fleets, and the return on those clients’ investment had been met in mere months.
Still, they shut sales down, a move they credit much of the company’s success to today.
“We didn’t focus on the revenue side in those first 12 months,” Abrahams says. “We focused on creating a product that would sell and creating a foundation of staff and skills. And most of the team that we had at the beginning is still here.”
In 2005, SageQuest ramped up its marketing and sales machine.
“Since then, it has been a great ride,” Lowman says, noting that the company has grown 80 to 100 percent every year since 2005.
The core part of SageQuest’s business has long been small, local mobile fleets, but now the company is also exploring growth opportunities for its enterprise market, which is made up of large, household, name-brand companies (think big utilities and communication companies).
What started with a dozen employees now has about 80, and Lowman says they continue to bring on new people and will likely soon hit 100 employees.
“We’re bringing really good talent into this organization,” Lowman says. “There’s never been a better time to find real quality people for any position, and we’re taking advantage of that.”
To make sure those employees stick around, the company has started SageQuest University. Employees will be able to take classes focusing on SageQuest business and social issues, as well as health and wellness issues.
Aside from keeping employees educated, Lowman says SageQuest also shoots to keep them happy.
Since 2004, the company has always had a large break room with plenty of activities for employees, including pingpong and foosball. (It earned them recognition as a NorthCoast 99 winner this year.)
“When you’re growing, you are under the gun quite a bit,” Lowman says. “Just having the opportunity between those fires that you’re putting out, to run down there and beat someone up on the foosball table, is just great. It builds teamwork and camaraderie.”
Lowman says the nature of the job often requires extraordinary effort from employees.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled with our people,” he says.