Systems integrator on fire: Beacon Communications

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Mike-Hester-of-Beacon-CommunicationsA provider of communications and security systems to schools, government entities and healthcare facilities, Beacon Communications has grown steadily since its launch in 1998. Yet in the past couple of years, its expansion has intensified. In 2013 the Englewood, Colorado-based company hit the $10-million revenue mark for the first time and expects to exceed $13 million this year. It also plans to add at least 10 new jobs by this summer, giving it an employee headcount of 70.

Beacon competes in a crowded market, and founder Michael Hester estimates that some 10,000 companies across the country provide similar services. Yet Hester
chalks up Beacon’s recent growth to its prowess in information technology: “Most systems integrators have one IT specialist, while we have seven,” he says. “Our strength in IT has enabled us to move from a supplier of equipment to a partner who provides solutions — which is re-inventing us as a company.”

Among changes, Beacon is able to take on larger, more complex jobs and operate on a different level with customers, Hester explains: “In the past we might have dealt with a facility manager or an engineer, but today we go in at the C-level. We discuss their work flow and processes, and then design an entire system around what they’re looking for.”

In addition to augmenting products of the manufacturers it represents, Beacon has also developed its own proprietary solutions, such as:

A device that enhances nurse call systems: Patients who are unable to move can summon help by speaking a nurse’s name out loud.
A software application for smart phones that allows doctors to quickly identify what rooms their patients are in, which staff are assigned to them, and access their records.
An alert system that notifies Beacon of any problems with system wiring or grounding. “Instead of waiting for the client to notice a problem, this allows us to be proactive with service,” says Hester.
Leading Beacon’s IT team is CIO Brooks Wood, who also operates his own R&D company, Forward Thinking. Many of Beacon’s innovations have emerged from Forward Thinking, which Hester has helped fund in exchange for exclusive marketing rights.

Preparing for future growth, in late 2013 Beacon moved into a new 15,000-square-foot facility. The new digs increased elbowroom by 3,000 square feet, and the company has an option to add another 5,000 square feet. One reason for the additional space is to open a call center that could duplicate field issues and provide immediate support for Beacon’s communication and security solutions — an endeavor that would add 30 to 40 more jobs. “Originally I thought the call center was five to seven years down the road, but now I see it as early as 2017,” says Hester.

As Beacon expands, new jobs are more sophisticated and better paying. “We need employees to be familiar with both hardware and software and capable of installing and servicing all our systems,” Hester explains. “This is also true for our call center staff. When people experience any service issues, it creates anxiety. Our job is not only to respond with a real person, but someone who is trained in customer service as well as the actual system.”

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Second-Stage Rockstars

Because second-stage entrepreneurs are so focused on their businesses, their contributions often go unnoticed by the media, policymakers, economic developers and community stakeholders. With that in mind, celebrating growth entrepreneurs and communicating their value is part of the foundation’s entrepreneurship mission, which it carries out in a variety of ways.

Among these is Second-Stage Rockstars, a series of online articles that examines the ongoing impact of second-stage companies. These stories chronicle not only second-stagers’ economic growth, but also how they may be transforming their industry, creating empowering workplaces or excelling as corporate citizens. Below are some recent Rockstars; others can be found in our archives.