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50 Fastest Growing Private Companies 2017: Geolinks Building Broadband Access for Rural America

Original article by Helen Floersh

No. 2: GEOLINKS
Camarillo

CEO: Skyler Ditchfield

Growth Rate: 335%

It has been a big year for GeoLinks, the No. 2 firm on the Business Journal’s 2017 list of the Valley area’s Fastest Growing Private Companies.

Besides updating its moniker to reflect its long-term ambitions – the business-to-business internet service provider changed its name in June from California Internet to GeoLinks, which it described as being better aligned with its goal of expanding its services nationwide – the company also settled into its new, 38,000 square-foot Camarillo headquarters and hired its 50th employee. Finally, GeoLinks made the 2017 Inc. 5000, ranking No. 5 in the telecommunications category and coming in No. 604 overall.

“For a lot of people, what sets us apart is how we’re different from the big guys,” Ryan Adams, GeoLinks president, said. “We decided that we’re going to do what we thought was in the best interest of our clients, first and foremost.”

So far, that mindset appears to be working. Geolinks has managed to more than double its revenue year over year since 2014, when it saw $2.2 million in revenue. It generated $8.8 million last year, according to the firm, and is on track to outperform itself yet again in 2017.

“Telecommunications doesn’t necessarily have to be an ugly word,” Adams said. “For us, it’s really about enhancing the customer experience and evolving with our clients as well. That’s where the big guys have a hard time.”

GeoLinks envisions itself as one day being the premiere provider of high-speed internet to rural communities throughout California and beyond. While just 10 percent of all U.S. citizens lacked access to high-speed internet in 2016, the figure climbed to roughly 40 percent for those living in rural areas, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

“It’s not just a buzz-term that we use, it’s our passion: Bridging the digital divide, which means bringing high-speed internet to everybody no matter what geography,” Adams said. “Studies have shown that people who have access to high-speed internet are more inclined to make more money and better education. These things are very important to us.”

Rural boom

New state legislation that establishes funds for the deployment of broadband projects in rural areas puts GeoLinks on track to expand its California business substantially. Chief Executive Skyler Ditchfield, who founded GeoLinks in 2011 with his cousin and Chief Techonology Officer Ryan Hauf, was one of the lobbyists behind the September passage of AB1665, or the “Internet for All Act.” Ditchfield has been working with the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives and other organizations to establish contracts with public institutions.

The company was awarded more construction grants than any other internet service provider for California public schools and libraries for 2016 and 2017. Earlier this year, it received a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the California Public Utilities Commission, enabling it to form strategic partnerships with federal agencies such the Department of Education.

“Right now we’re working with all different types of organizations – private and public – to spread the GeoLinks name,” Adams said.

GeoLinks’ rapid growth is linked to three components, Adams added: an exceptional primary product, strong customer relations and a knack for recruiting and retaining top talent. From land procurement to equipment installation, GeoLinks performs every step of the process behind setting up a broadband network in-house, affording finer control over timetables as well as its relationships with clients. The company is able to send workers to sites more quickly than companies that contract with third-party suppliers for equipment-related services.

“People are used to a certain kind of relationship with their internet or telecommunications provider,” Adams said. “Whatever the big guys were doing, we were going to do the exact opposite, starting with our speed of deployment.”

To catch and keep exceptional employees who are fully invested in the company’s progress, GeoLinks has outfitted its headquarters with Silicon Valley-style amenities, such as an in-house gym, basketball court and full-service kitchen. Workers also have access to a personal chef and a wellness expert, he added.

“There’s not a day that goes by where I’m not absolutely delighted with the workforce we have here at GeoLinks,” he said. “We are all about not only the client experience, but also the employee experience.”

But material benefits are only one part of the firm’s strategy for building a standout team. GeoLinks’ managers take a “hands off” approach to employee oversight, minimizing micromanagement so that workers have the intellectual freedom to come up with new ideas that can move the company forward, Adams explained.

“We went out of our way to make sure this is a company that creates a culture of respect, without the ego,” Adams said. “We want all of our employees to feel like they have just as much of a stake in the company as anybody else.”

Uncovering Little Gems Among Us — Fastest Growing Private Companies.

Original post By Charles Crumpley – Monday, November 13, 2017

One of my favorite Special Reports of the year is in this issue. It’s the Fastest Growing Private Companies.

Why is it a favorite? For one thing, fast-growing private companies tend to be new and, in a way, undiscovered. If you go down our list of Valley area fast-growing businesses that begins on page 18, you’ll see many names that are probably unfamiliar to you.

Even the top three companies on the list – USA Link System, GeoLinks and Payscout Inc. – are probably new to most Valley area folks, including those who follow local business news.

It’s not simply that we’re uncovering little-known names. That wouldn’t be difficult; there are thousands of small, private companies all around us. But the companies on our list also are growing quickly. The three companies mentioned above had two-year growth rates of 425 percent, 335 percent and 329 percent, respectively.

In short, these are little gems that hold big promise. And it’s exciting to bring those high-performing but little-known companies to the surface. Today’s GeoLinks may be tomorrow’s BlackLine Inc. or Avery Dennison – or even Amgen Inc. And you saw it here first.

Most business news outlets focus not on small private companies but on big public companies. That makes sense because public companies generally are bigger, and since they attract investment from the public, they should get scrutiny and coverage.

But public companies tend to be bigger and slower growing. A 10 percent growth in revenue is considered breakneck speed. So an article about how a company is coping with triple-digit growth – such as some in the Special Report in this issue – is fresh and interesting.

I’m always somewhat amused by the hand-wringing that occurs whenever a big local public company gets bought out. When that happens, civic leaders invariably ask what they believe is an important question: What can we do to stop losing “our headquarters”?

Nobody enjoys losing big public companies, to be sure. But in a philosophical sense, the loss of a big public company is simply part of the life cycle. Companies are born, they grow, they get old and they go off, perhaps in a merger. A community has no more right to keep any company in town than it has a right to retain individual residents.

A more important question is this: Are we replacing them? Do we have a bounty of thriving small private companies coming up to replace the big businesses that leave us? Do we have the next BlackLine and Avery Dennison and, yes, Amgen coming up?

If the answer is yes, that means a pillar of the local economy is sturdy. If the answer is yes, than at least some of the fastest-growing and most successful of the smaller private companies will become our next generation of big public companies. If the answer is yes, then the civic minded can get back to fretting about high taxes and slow traffic.

If you look over this special section, you can’t help but see the mounting strength of our fast-growing private companies. And I’m confident you’ll see that the answer to that more important question is yes.

Charles Crumpley is editor and publisher of the Business Journal. He can be reached at [email protected]