Marathon man sprints to business success
While Matt Telmanik is training to run a grueling 26.2-mile marathon this winter, his Charlotte, North Carolina-based business’ road to success has been more like an Olympic 400-meter sprint — and it’s on track to continue making appearances on the victory stand.
The 2001 Wilmington College graduate viewed the construction staffing industry as bounding with potential and he had ideas on how to improve it, so, in seven years, he went from creating an intricate business plan to establishing CCS Construction Staffing, which finished fiscal year 2014 with some $17.3 million in revenue.
His business’ success is being recognized on the national level as the highly regarded Inc. magazine placed CCS in its 500/5,000 list of the nation’s fastest growing private companies each of the past three years.
The 2014 rankings, which measured three-year growth, placed CCS 1,118th nationally on the list, reflecting an increase in revenues of 395 percent. The company ranked 800th and 558th in the previous two years’ listings. Furthermore, the Charlotte Business Journal placed Telmanik’s company in its “Fast 50” of burgeoning private enterprises for four consecutive years, including 4th and 12th place rankings.
“It’s been really exciting. Our growth is due to the team members, the people that work here,” Telmanik said, noting a goal from the start has been to attract and retain talent, and build a company culture in which everyone buys in and builds toward success.
“It boils down to pretty basic stuff,” he said. “Treat people the way you want to be treated and listen to your customers.”
Telmanik grew up in the Toledo suburb of Maumee. He was a three-sport athlete at a large high school, but knew a personal-size college would provide the best environment for him to learn and row.
“It was like starting over,” he said about coming to WC. ”Wilmington made me get out of my comfort zone. You definitely weren’t a number — you were a person there. I wanted that attention. If I needed something, I could reach out to my professor, adviser, coach, even the president.
Telmanik played baseball for the Quakers, joined Gamma Phi Gamma fraternity and majored in business administration with a minor in economics.
“My favorite professor was (economics faculty) Steve Szeghi,” he said. “I learned a lot in his classes. He had an interesting way of making points.”
Telmanik recently joined the President’s Advisory Council, a group of successful alumni and friends of the College that meets on campus semi-annually. The opportunity to return to campus last spring evoked a flood of good memories.
“Wilmington was a great experience for me,” he added. “I always felt welcomed. Walking across campus, you knew everybody and you mixed well with your professors. Wilmington provided a great, close-knit, family-type environment.
“It was a home away from home.”
Telmanik met friends at WC that encouraged him to join them during summer breaks waiting tables in Myrtle Beach, SC. Little did he know then how that experience would affect his future.
“It opened my eyes to another part of the country,” he said.
Following his graduation in 2001, Telmanik took a job with Wells Fargo in Columbus, but realized the position wasn’t right for him so he rejoined friends in Myrtle Beach and gave himself a year to “get back into the professional environment.”
As the summer tourist season waned at Myrtle Beach, he moved to Charleston, which offered greater year-round opportunities in the food and beverage service industry. There he met his future wife, Raven, a native North Carolinian that earned her undergraduate degree, somewhat ironically, from the University of North Carolina — Wilmington.
Telmanik took a sales representative position in Raleigh with a construction staffing company. Over the next three years, he carefully studied the company and the industry as he subsequently changed territories within the company from Raleigh to Greensboro and Charlotte. He noticed a high turnover rate among company representatives and saw flaws in customer relations and efficiency protocols.
Suddenly, he experienced what he described as an “a-ha moment” and the idea of starting his own business in construction staffing was born. He envisioned a business model that not only places an accent on great service but also one in which employees feel a sense of ownership and actually enjoy working there.
“I think we can do this better than they can. We can create a better culture for our employees and provide better customer service to our clients and just be more efficient,” he said.
He left the company, agreed to a non-compete contract for several years, worked on a business plan and set up shop in Charleston. He quickly realized the adage that necessity is the mother of invention.
“A week after we started the business, we became pregnant with our first child,” he said. “It’s amazing how hard you work when you realize there will be another mouth to feed.”
Telmanik started CCS in early 2008 and business was going fine for the initial months — then the economic recession became evident as the new housing market went into free fall.
“When October hit, it got a little scary,” he said. “Contractors weren’t hiring and they were reluctant to take our manpower. But, I knew we could make this work. Bit-by-bit, we gained more traction and, by 2010, contractors were willing to take on more people, but not permanently, so staffing companies became a good option.”
The concept behind construction staffing is, consider Acme Construction needs 40 electricians for a building project but has only 20 on staff. They have a choice of interviewing and hiring the positions for the expected, nine-month job run and then laying them off — or they can contract with CCS to handle the heavy lifting and all the details.
“We’ll find the electricians and put them on the job site,” he said, noting that, while Acme Construction manages and supervises them, CCS pays them and provides benefits — “with the idea that, when the job is finished, we’ll place them in their next job.”
CCS sells its services to both construction businesses and skilled construction employees.
“We’re fishing with a much larger net,” Telmanik said, noting CCS has some 250 business clients throughout the Southeast and numerous electricians, plumbers, carpenters and other ready-to-work skilled laborers in its system.
CCS has 25 employees in 15 states, as well as six outside sales representatives in the Southeast. Headquartered in a modest, reconfigured house in Charlotte, the company has a major presence in Telmanik’s old stomping grounds of Charleston, Raleigh and Greensboro, as well as Atlanta and Nashville. It is expanding into Tampa and Orlando in early 2015 and has plans for advances in New Orleans and Richmond in the near future. Additional expansion, he said, would likely go in the direction of Mississippi, Texas and other areas of the Southwest.
“We’ve been busy, really busy. There’s a ton of growth in Nashville, Charlotte, Atlanta and these other cities,” he said. “More people means more houses, more businesses, more construction — and more need for construction staffing.”
Telmanik said CCS had $500,000 in revenue its first year, 2008, and has grown exponentially ever since. He anticipates a climate for continued growth with CCS achieving its revenue goal of $25 million next year.
“We started with zero dollars. To build that in six years, it’s been great!” he said. “We believed from the start that, if we can do this and do it right, then we could really grow this. We haven’t lost an employee in six years.
“It’s a family.”
And speaking of family, Telmanik and Raven’s family has grown to three children: sons Mason, 6, and Maddox, 4, and three-year-old daughter Reece.
Telmanik fondly recalls his Wilmington College family and the role of that transforming experience in his success.
“It was a very influential time of my life. When you come out of high school, you’re trying to figure out who you are,” he said. “Wilmington College played a big part in teaching me to communicate and work with diverse groups of people, personalities, attitudes. Plus, you have to learn the material in those small, close-knit classes.
“I owe a lot of my success to Wilmington College — Wilmington and my parents.”
Remembering his roots, Telmanik recently presented the College with a generous, five-figure gift for The Center for Sport Sciences.
“I want to help people who want to leave Toledo, Ohio, and try new things by going to a school like Wilmington,” he said. “People who think, ‘Here’s my chance, I want to make the most of it.’ I’m happy to give back to that.”
He mentioned how he has enjoyed getting to know President Jim and Sue Reynolds, and Matt Wahrhaftig ’94, vice president for advancement, and seeing Reynolds’ vision for the College being realized more and more with two new buildings under construction, a record entering class enrollment, new academic programs, etc.
“Jim and others at the College bleed green,” he said. “It might be different if nothing were going on at Wilmington, but they’re pushing the envelope and I want to be part of that. I was honored that they asked for my support.”
These days, it’s not unusual for Telmanik to train for the upcoming marathon with a 16-mile run beginning at 4 a.m. His road racing experience already includes a full and seven half marathons. Pounding the pavement on a crisp, early morning run provides him with a chance to clear his head, look back at all he’s accomplished and consider his ambitious plans on the near horizon that are mapped out as clearly as his running paths.
“It’s cathartic for me,” he said about running. “I’m thinking of blue skies and windows of the future opening up.”