Wesley Valverde figured out how to turn long hold times on phone calls into a multimillion dollar company.
As applications for the 2010 Inc. 500 | 5000 arrive, we thought it would be worthwhile to shine a spotlight on some of the companies that are vying to appear on our ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. (For more information and to apply, go to http://www.inc.com/inc5000apply/2010/.) One that caught our eye was New Orleans-based HoldCube.
Wesley Valverde has Hurricane Katrina to thank, in part, for his $3.2 million company.
During his tenure at Louisiana State University's School of Medicine in 2005, the storm pummeled the campus, sidelining Valverde from his career path to becoming a doctor. That's when his parents asked him to help run their hardware company, until he was able to resume classes at one of two colleges who had agreed to take him in after the disaster. After just a few months in his newfound position in sales, however, Valverde says everything else went out the window.
"I just fell in love with sales," he says. "Once I got a taste of it, I called the schools and said, 'Thanks, but no thanks.'"
But while working at his parents' company, he noticed that it wasn't so easy calling around to businesses trying to sell nuts and bolts, and was placed on hold for indefinite amounts of time. "I realized that every company I called, if I didn't know their direct number, someone had to pick up the phone, put me on hold, and transfer my call," he recalls. "And 80 percent of the time, I'd hear dead air or static radio."
That's when he decided to start HoldCube, which records customized greetings and hold messages for more than 4,000 establishments across the country, ranging from medical offices to automotive dealerships. For about $49 a month, customers get a full message script written for them, based on a questionnaire about their products and hours of operations, and can have the message tweaked at any time. Valverde says HoldCube also improves the sales of his customers by highlighting new products and deals in the hold message.
"For many of these companies, it's very expensive to hire salespeople and marketers to get your product out there," he says. "Everyday we're placing people on hold – why not take advantage of it?"
Drawing on his experience as a pianist and member of the LSU Tiger Marching Band, Valverde started out producing the music and voice recordings for the messages, but now he assigns each project to about 20 contracted individuals. He attributes part of HoldCube's considerable growth – it started out with $120,000 in revenue for 2006 – to his partnerships with salespeople in the telecommunications industry who help market the HoldCube service as a complementary product to phone devices.
Next on his plate is a franchising initiative that will allow companies and salespersons to purchase specific territories of HoldCube's customers, and obtain the proceeds of each sale in that area.
"There's a need out there for people to make themselves sound more professional," Valverde says. "If there's one thing you define my business as, it's 'easy.'"
J.J. MCCORVEY is a reporter at Inc. magazine, where he covers a wide range of topics, including technology and business research. He has covered metro news for The Detroit News, and his work has been featured in Men's Fitness. @jmccorvey