By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Trent Harvey is one of those entrepreneurs who doesn’t let adversity or some seemingly insurmountable roadblock get in his way.
Perhaps it is something he learned during eight years in the U.S. Air Force, or maybe it was the great recession of 2008 that proved fatal for a home improvement company Harvey and his brother started two years earlier. Regardless, CXN, the company that he grew out of the economic challenges of the last decade, currently has about 3,700 “1099” contractors doing its work across the country. A second sibling – Service Connection – has just been added to the family.
“We can do anything anywhere,” Harvey says in describing the two companies. “We have this army of people across the country including Alaska, Hawaii and even Canada.”
Basically, Service Connection is an Angie’s List that connects customers needing work performed with professionals in their area who have been vetted by CXN before being deemed qualified to perform the services.
“When people are looking for home services or need help with underserved tasks, we want them to come to Service Connection rather than Google,” he explains.
Service Connection draws on that existing cadre of qualified technicians, but is a business-to-business (B2B) service for corporations, particularly those needing warranty work performed. The companies don’t need their own staff; they draw on the CXN team.
“Service Connection is the front of the store, CXN is the back office,” Harvey says in describing the businesses that resulted from his response to the demise of the home improvement start-up. He decided to take advantage of the G.I. Bill and enrolled at the University of Tennessee.
“I got a call from an old friend who asked me to do equipment assembly for the Dick’s Sporting Goods Store in Maryville,” Harvey says. The friend was working for a company that managed the work for the Pennsylvania-based retailer.
Serving the one store quickly grew to three within two months as Knoxville and Kingsport were added. Then, a fourth store in Asheville came on board shortly thereafter. Harvey could not perform all of the assembly work himself, so he had to recruit competent subs to work for him in those markets. Fortunately, he had been a recruiter in the Air Force.
“I’m good at finding and vetting people,” he told us during our recent interview.
By 2010 his fledgling company had grown to serving nearly a combined 90 Dick’s and Sports Authority stores with about 400 contract employees. That reliance on two customers caused Harvey some concerns, but he also thought he could be more successful if he became a prime contract assembler to large companies rather than relying on a middleman to send him work.
So, he struck out on his own, adding a number of accounts to his direct service portfolio. “That work enabled us to grow exponentially,” Harvey says.
By 2015, the resident of the Fourth and Gill neighborhood decided the business had grown to the size that it needed to become less virtual; Harvey was working out of his home as were the few non-1099 employees he had. Today, both Service Connection and CXN are located at 748 North Fourth Avenue.
Harvey has also moved somewhat into software development to create the enterprise system that he needs to manage the far-flung and ever-growing operation.
“We’re at another plateau in our development,” the Florida native says. “With our new back office software system, we’re giving our clients the ability to manage their businesses better while at the same time helping our service providers grow their business in that local market.”
How that system will help Service Connection and CXN is simple. “I can be as much of a one-stop shop as we need to be,” Harvey says.
With thousands of transactions being handled daily, the future for Service Connection and CXN seems bright.