Dial-up service

As the CEO and president of telecommunications firm LISN, Donald Vanke attributes much of the company’s success to listening to his team.

The team, Vanke says, has helped LISN grow at more than double the rate of the telecommunications industry, which typically grows at a 40 percent clip each year. And with more than 1,000 employees and an industry that changes almost daily, there hasn’t been a more important time for education.

Continuous education of our employees is one key to that growth,” Vanke says. “By keeping our people well-educated, it helps Amherst-based LISN outpace the competitors.”

Vanke ascribes part of LISN’s success to three main tenets he’s held since joining the company in 1984:

Hire the best people for the positions available. If there aren’t enough people, Vanke relies on training programs — in the form of LISN training centers — to develop individuals to fill those roles.

Ensure a steady flow of service and supplies during fast growth. This is done two ways — through well-placed distribution centers nationwide that help meet client demands in a timely manner, and by a subsidiary company, Arion.

Arion was founded three years ago to serve as a material supplier and reduce internal costs for LISN. Today, it provides installation equipment such as wire, nuts, bolts and racking to LISN. Impressively, Arion reached profitability within five months.

Put key people in place who can handle rapid growth when opportunity knocks. Vanke says with a national presence and a booming industry, this has become more difficult than ever. But, through lucrative incentive programs, including “gain sharing,” LISN has been able to attract and retain top people.

While LISN may not be a household name, Vanke says that’s never been his goal.

“Name recognition is not important to us,” he says. “Our business is about contacts, making sure you can convince people that you can do the job, then going out there and showing them you can do the job. You do that not through name recognition, but through personal contact and results.”

With an 80 percent growth rate over the past four years as the company has expanded to a nationwide service territory, Vanke’s shown that is exactly the case. So what’s really driving growth?

Explains Vanke, “General competition with new technology is making this industry faster and better.” How to reach: LISN, (440) 984-2511

Dustin Klein ([email protected]) is editor of SBN Cleveland.