Electronics company: Small steps key to big goals
Greg Engstrom and James Brown have big goals — 10 percent annual sales growth — but their strategy at PCB Solutions depends on perfect execution of tiny steps.
The Reno-based company, a supplier of custom fabricated circuit boards and other electronics, posted sales of $1.6 million in its most recent fiscal year.
Brown, who co-founded the company with Engstrom a dozen years ago and now works as its vice president of sales and marketing, says PCB Solutions’ growth in the rough-and-tumble global marketplace depends on its ability to deliver for customers.
“It’s about executing on every single contract,” he says.
Customers of the 12-year-old company include big outfits such as Raytheon, Honeywell and Hewlett-Packard as well as a multitude of small manufacturers.
PCB Solutions serves as a middleman, taking the engineering files provided by its clients and working with domestic and international manufacturing houses to convert those engineering files into electronic components.
That work, Brown says, demands on-time deliveries and tight quality standards. And that, in turn, requires close relationships with a cadre of contract manufacturers, many of them in Asia.
At the same time, the segment demands tight cost-control.
“Every single year, we have to look at how we can reduce our fixed costs,” says Brown.
That accounts for PCB Solutions’ location in a distinctly unflashy industrial neighborhood of south Reno.
“Reno is a prime spot for distribution,” says Brown. “It’s close to the ports, and it’s close to our customers.”
The distribution operation, in which PCB holds stocks of manufactured circuit boards for its clients, is important to helping the company land sales from potential clients that don’t want to tie up working capital in inventories.
“I’m a banker,” says Engstrom, president of the company. He sees the company as a traditional electronics distributor that also offers contract-manufacturing services.
The company keeps a tight rein on marketing costs. It relies on its Web presence and a network of independent sales representatives to generate new customers, Brown says.
Printed circuit boards, the company’s flagship product, still account for the largest share of its revenues and profits.
But the company is cautiously moving upstream, handling more engineering work in-house rather than merely arranging manufacturing based on its clients’ engineering. It doubled its engineering project workload in 2013 compared with the previous year.
Engstrom spearheads the engineering operations at PCB Solutions’ four-person Reno headquarters.
Brett Davis, an electrical engineer who has overseen the development of more than 100 engineering projects, serves as the company’s engineering manager.
Engstrom says that in-house engineering services quickly became a major contributor to revenue growth at PCB Solutions after the company rolled out the service in 2013.
“Having another service become a core competency really sets the foundation for future growth,” he says. “The revenue growth is exciting to the team. However, the most exciting component is the higher level of development it brings to relationships with customers. We are just engaged more often.”
Engstrom and Brown, who’d worked together at an electronics manufacturer in Boise, used $60,000 in seed capital provided by Engstrom to launch PCB Solutions in early 2002.
The company repaid the loan within a year and has remained debt-free ever since.
PCB Solutions moved to Reno from Southern California in 2011.
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