Ascendtech got its start in a location that was the initial home of many legendary start-ups: the business owner’s garage. But physical space wasn’t the only thing that the company quickly outgrew.
“In the beginning, we tried to do everything ourselves,” says company president Gary Lapinskiy. “My brother (who is my partner) and I pretty much managed the most critical processes: networking, finances, accounting, and purchasing. But in order to grow, we needed to be able to move past that. There’s no way for one person to singlehandedly drive the whole process. It has to be a team thing; the entire team has to be on board and aligned with you.”
Ascendtech repairs and re-markets electronics products to extend their lives and divert them from landfills. “We’re trying to do a good thing, and growth just comes with that,” Lapinskiy says. “As a company, first and foremost, we are innovators and engineers. We don’t really worry about immediate profitability. We invest in the future, and we invest in the quality of the work. Growth comes with that. So we’re not really trying to grow. We’re trying to create a quality product.”
Chasing Value Before Revenue
To achieve that goal, the company maintains a focus on process improvement. “Every single process is fine-tuned to be efficient,” Lapinskiy says. And to strengthen the team’s ability to contribute to those initiatives, the company subsidizes continued education opportunities for its engineers and technicians-;in line not only with company objectives, but also individual employees’ interests. The approach encourages employees to feel invested in and a part of Ascendtech’s process improvement.
The result: “We’ve grown to about $50 million in sales over the course of six years,” he says. “And during the last five years, we really started fine-tuning our processes. We stopped chasing revenue and started chasing quality and profits. Our revenue has actually declined significantly-;but our profitability has gone up, and we were able to use that profitability to reinvest in the company and drive further growth.”
Its emphasis on process quality has paid off in other ways, too. This summer, Ascendtech earned ISO 14001, 18001, and 9001 certification along with R2/Rios certification, which Lapinskiy notes is “extremely difficult to get and awarded to only the most reputable and responsible electronic recyclers.”
How does the company test the impact improvements have on processes and prospects for driving long-term growth? That’s a particular challenge because it can take months-;sometimes longer-;to see the results of changes. Testing, therefore, comes down to a mix of intuition and analytics. For example, when engineers make repairs, they’re required to log every step they take. “We do that not to come up with quotas, but to monitor the process, see emerging trends, and fine-tune our process accordingly,” Lapinskiy says. “Knowledge is power. The more information you have, the more informed decisions you can make. And that’s what we try to focus on.”