Hiring C-level Executives for Growth – Part I

In Part I of our interview of Todd Meeks, CEO of Spartan Armor Systems, a Tucson-based company manufacturing body armor, ballistic plates and tactical gear, we will take a 10,000-foot view of the history of the company, its rapid growth in the past couple years, and the unique challenges they had to face that led them to higher C-level executives.  

 
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Hi Todd.

Todd

Hi Phil. How you doing today?

DSC

Good, good. So, this is an interview for Dynamic Search Consulting, an executive search firm in the Bay Area, San Jose, in the Silicon Valley. And I have a few questions to ask and I thank you for hosting this interview and being a cool host.

Todd

Not a problem anytime.

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You’re the CEO, the owner of Spartan Armor Systems and you have been growing in a super hyper, fast pace these last few years and that’s why we are discussing in the context of your hiring. Okay, so tell us a little bit more about your company.

Todd

So Spartan Armor Systems has been around since 2012. Which was…. it’s been around for about eight and a half years. I purchased it along with my ex-partner about five and a half years ago and we took it out of a garage in Vail, Arizona and then initially moved it into a 1200-square foot facility that shared space with a truck lining business that sprayed on truck bedliners. And the goal was to scale the business to see how big we can get it. And at the time, it was me and another employee and now we have 39 employees currently working here, at Spartan Armor Systems.

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Fantastic growth.

Todd

Yeah.

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So, my first question to you is: From your perspective as the CEO of this company and the big picture standpoint, what have been the top major challenges your business has faced to date, and how have you handled them?

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The biggest challenges are employee-related… Finding the right employees, and then finding the right people to manage those employees, especially in Tucson, Arizona… The hiring pool of people in Tucson is low-level jobs. It’s fine but for high-level jobs, it’s really hard to find good qualified people with experience within our industry — manufacturing and e-commerce.

So, it’s been quite a struggle finding those people. A lot of people I’ve hired have been smart people and been able to learn as they go along in the positions we have.

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Got it. So, when you added a C-level executive like a COO or CFO to Spartan Armor, what skills or relationship did you see the business was missing to take it to the next level?

Todd

The biggest concern of mine initially was my financials. As you grow, you know, you need to learn to borrow money from banks and things of that nature. SoI I needed to find somebody who understood the financials and could set up my systems so my financials were clean.

So about two-and-a-half, three years ago, I did a search for CFO. And the way that I initially did that, was through LinkedIn and through INDEED. In the long run I ended up going through just kind of a referral-type network for a company that outsourced CFO services.

They had just brought on a person and they were going to outsource work to him, and she [our account manager] thought he would be a good fit for a full time position with us.

So we came up to an agreement to bring him on full-time, and I compensated the staffing company a finder’s fee to bring him on board. He was tasked with making our systems all work together. Making our e-commerce sites work together, our b2b deal, e-commerce website work and then bringing those all into QuickBooks — which we currently still use — and making sure that those numbers are correct.

We had problems with double entries from different outside sources, and so he was able to create systems to get that all cleaned up and make things work pretty seamlessly.

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I see. So that was for your CFO… You recently, or more recently, hired another C-level executive, a COO.

Todd

Yes. So, the next stage of our growth was, you know, we have grown dramatically. We’ve grown three times this past year compared to 2019. We had three times our revenue from 2019 to 2020.

So my problem became finding somebody who could manage the manufacturing team, and bring on a second and third shift if needed… And looking at the way we do things as far as our processes for manufacturing, and figuring out a better way to do that.

So I felt, what a better way to do that than to bring somebody in from outside the industry that could take a holistic approach, and look at things a little differently, and make recommendations on how to do that.

So currently, we run a second shift to keep up with the volume and that worked out well. So, it has allowed us to keep lower lead times than everybody else in our industry, and get ahead of what we need as far as raw materials and things that we get from overseas.

[Continued in Part II]

Hiring C-Level Executives For Growth - Todd Meeks - Part 2

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