It's been 31 years for me this month.
I first visited Ray in October of 1991 soon after he opened his new office. It was a rainy week in DFW. I had already read his business plan and I was glad to sit down and talk with him. I was newly married and my wife was lukewarm about the idea of moving to North Texas. When starting out on this journey, it was good to acknowledge (but ignore) that the average startup company does not make it past year five (at that time). There were four people in the company when I began in February of 1992. I made it employee #5.
Like many small companies, it was all hands on deck for a few years. Ray did sales management, visits with architects and engineers, financials, and network administration (Lantastic) among other things. I did service calls, purchasing, design, estimating, sales walk-throughs, installation, fabrication, and warehouse duties. By the summer and fall of 1992, it was good to have Dan Hiett and John Borden on board to help out. Our two service vehicles were 1992 Ford Aerostar vans. One future COO would find out the exact fuel range of a Ford Aerostar (add delivering roadside fuel to my duties). Maybe not too handsome a vehicle by today's standards, but they looked pretty streamlined back then. Saturday was a normal work day for me at that time. Justin and Ryan would spend Saturdays skateboarding in the warehouse (mom's break day).
While the main office is located in Grand Prairie, it is very close to the Arlington line. We usually hung out in Arlington. At that time, the population of Arlington was around 270K, Garth Brooks was topping the charts, and the Cowboys just started dominating the NFL. Now the population by territory boasts Houston (1), San Antonio (2), Dallas (3), Austin (4), Fort Worth (5), Arlington (7), and Corpus Christi (8). By metro area, it is Dallas #1, Houston #2, San Antonio #3, and Austin #4.
The business has changed throughout those years, but our commitment to our customers through excellent service has not changed. You might think we started scaling up in 2019. The truth is, we have been scaling ever since we sold our first projects in 1992 (Irving ISD and Fort Worth VA).
The original office occupied suite 200 at 1414 post and Paddock and the owner and landlord was VSL. By the close of the '90s, Ray had purchased the building and it was time for our tenant VSL to find a new building due to our expansion. Justin Bailey now occupies the space I originally had back then. The office has changed hands a few times and a relocated doorway at least one time in 31 years.
Thanks to Ray for giving me a shot. To the people that I hired and also managed along the way, thanks for coming along for continuous (mostly) growth. There were a lot of highlights along the way and we were always finding something new to deliver and mastering new technology. Just like today.
I have heard it said that the days are long but the years are short. I am proud of what we have accomplished throughout the years. We have always had our eyes on the goal line. Sometimes we called a pass play when it should have been a running play (with a few punts along the way), but we scored a lot. A lot.
Keep looking downfield.
- Ron Kruse, Houston