Up in a Down Economy
3 reasons why these Top 250 companies beat the odds
Photos by Olivier Koning
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No. 1 Reason for Big Gains: Strategic Growth
Many Top 250 companies are Hawaii institutions that have defined local business culture for decades and employ the most experienced and talented individuals in the state. It might seem like a fluke, then, that two of our top three biggest gains companies are less than 10 years old and the third was taken over by new management just six year ago.
Sean Mullen, president of Sunetric, formerly known as Suntech Hawaii, never imagined his four-year-old business would grow so fast. What started with a staff of four – him, his wife, an installer and a salesperson – has grown into one of Hawaii’s most trusted solar-energy contractors. Last year, Sunetric raked in $29.6 million – a whopping 855 percent jump over 2007.
“We didn’t have any real projections as far as a point when we thought business would pick up,” Mullen says. “We just did our best and kind of strategized slow growth throughout the years.”
Sean Mullen, President of Sunetric
Sunetric profited from a couple of things outside its control – high oil prices and solar tax credits – but its strategic plan allowed it to take full advantage of those factors. Unlike most businesses, Sunetric benefited when the local price of regular gasoline hovered around $5 a gallon last summer because consumers sought alternatives. “I hate to say it, but that made our business and what we do so much more attractive,” says Mullen.
A 30 percent federal tax credit for the purchase and installation of residential solar electric and solar water heating systems was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2008. “So anybody who was thinking about putting in a solar system was really motivated to put it in last year and get it done by the end of the year. That really drove a lot of business,” Mullen says. To his delight, the federal tax credit has been extended through the end of 2016.
SunetricNo. 215 (new to the list)
'07 gross sales: $3.1 million
'08 gross sales: $29.6 million
“You have to always plan for success and then do what you can to see that plan through. Sometimes things go as planned; sometimes they don’t, but without that initial strategy, you’ll be lost,” he says.
Robert Ozaki, president and CEO of the Queen Liliuokalani Trust, also attributes his organization’s success to forward thinking and strategic growth.
Robert Ozaki, President and CEO of the
“Our mission, which is to look after the welfare of orphan children, is perpetual, so we’re a perpetual trust, and that means we have the advantage of taking a long-term view of our assets,” Ozaki says. “We’re not hung up on year-over-year growth because we’re focusing on our future goals and we’re looking to build value long-term.”
Queen Liliokalani TrustNo. 117 (178 in 2008)
'07 gross sales: $45 million
'08 gross sales: $78 million
QLT has a 10-year strategic plan that it reviews annually and that Ozaki says provides trustees with clear goals and benchmarks to work toward. “We feel like we’re creating that platform to make the next jump to grow,” Ozaki says. “It’s all about planning and vision. We’re taking the necessary steps to build our assets over time and we believe that gives us value now. The more we make, the more we give. We actually increased budgets this year – and nothing makes us happier than to write those checks for programs in the community.”
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