Home > Blog > July 2020 > ClarkTel Telecommunications: Q&A with Terry Clark

ClarkTel Telecommunications: Q&A with Terry Clark

Monday, July 27, 2020 by [email protected]

What is the background story of your business? When/how was it created?
I started the business back in 1996 at that point it was just called Clarktel communications corp. I joined the Army in 1977 to get an education as a telecommunications engineer. I served until 1981. After I was discharged from the army, I tried to find work as a telecommunications engineer specialist. Sadly, at the time there was still racism present in the workplace. Even though I was qualified I could not find work anywhere as a telecommunication engineer. Eventually a company called telecommunications Inc hired me as a cable installer for 5 dollars an hour. I worked as a cable installer until one day I was in downtown Cleveland when a law firms phone line went down. I fixed their line in under 10 minutes while I was waiting for a “field engineer” from the company to come down. This quickly led to me getting promoted to a field engineer. 1 year later I was promoted again to service manager. Eventually I left after 4 or 5 years because there was no availability left for job promotion. So, I left and joined another company as their vice president of operations. Then in 1996 I started Clarktel as a subcontractor for other telecommunications companies including telecommunications Inc. My first break as a business owner was when another company was shut down and I acquired their 300 customers. Over the next 20 years I acquired 5 other telecommunications companies. One of them happened to be my former employer telecommunications Inc. which had over 3,000 customers at the time. 

How has your business experienced growth in terms of staff?
When I started it was just me as the sole owner and operator of the business. By the second or third year I added another technician to help service clients. Eventually I outgrew the basement of my house and moved into an office building 15 years ago right on Copley road. I was thankful that my veteran’s benefits helped me purchase the building. When we moved in, I had 5 other employees with me. Before the pandemic we were up to 15 employees at the company. 

What struggles have you faced/overcome in the scale-up of your company or just as an entrepreneur? 
I would say the main challenges that I had are the same that most business owners have. I feel as if I am proficient in understanding the technological side of my businesses and how to actually operate it. The challenges for me came with hiring, firing, cash management, raising capital, etc. 

What resources have you taken advantage of?
The Akron Urban League was always a client of mine and a great help in the growth of my business. Kim Lee specifically was a huge help to me in understanding how to run a business. I have also been through Leadership Akron which is an amazing way to not only learn about your own business, and others but to also network. One of the things I have learned in running my own business is a lot of times its about who you know and not what you know. 

How are you getting through this pandemic?
First when things started to change, I became concerned because one of our main revenue streams started to dry up.  Which is selling new phone and security systems we have seen about a decrease of 30% in our overall revenue since the pandemic has started. Luckily, we have a customer base of over 3,000 customers which has helped support us during this time. We still have regular repair and expansion calls. Many of our customers have requested remote worker configurations during this time so their employees can work from home. The timing of this pandemic has almost coincided perfectly with new telecommunications tech from NEC. So, as NEC dealers this was great because we now have time to train our staff and roll out this new technology to clients that we are already visiting. This new platform is all about remote capabilities so the timing could not have been any better.     

How has the Greater Akron region played a role in the evolution of your company/career? 
There are a number of agencies here that I have leaned on for years I already have mentioned the urban league but there are others. P-tech is another company that has assisted us as well. Lastly SBA (Small business administration) has helped me for over 13 years with their 8A program. They help me find and compete for government contracts. Locally I am regularly in touch with council members and the deputy mayor. These are all people I call on for support and help as I try and navigate the business world.

Words of advice to other entrepreneurs
The first thing is to be aware of the resources made available to you by local and federal government agencies. Knowing that small businesses is what keeps the economy going they are more than happy to help support you. Agencies like P-tech or Urban league. These groups will help guide you in the right direction if they are not able to directly help you themselves. I once won a bid for a new school project that was worth around 400,000 dollars. When I sat down to get started on the project, I realized I did not have the capital or resources required to finish the job. So, I reached out to SBA for a loan and they helped me. 

Posted: Monday, July 27, 2020 by [email protected] | with 14 comments
Filed under: #ChooseGrowth

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