By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
The newly opened headquarters of a Knoxville technology company that is not a household name is a recently renovated century-old building that once served as a wagon wheel factory and had been vacant for two decades.
Now, the three-story building in the rapidly evolving North Central and North Broadway area houses operations for RCN Technologies, a telecommunications-focused company with a growing presence in the public safety sector.
Founded by Geoff and Jennifer Yearack in March 2013, the company does everything from building and managing its own proprietary VoIP (Voice over IP) product to providing managed services for clients and acting as a reseller of products from national brands.
“We’ve bulled our way through the China shop to more than 30 percent growth year over year in that period,” Geoff Yearack told us in a recent interview. He’s the President of the company, while his wife is Chief Executive Officer. RCN’s name comes from the first names of their three children – Ryan, C.J., and Nicholas.
“Managing customers’ technology is at the forefront of what we do,” Geoff says. “We have Fortune 100 and 500 customers and Suzy’s flower shops. We’ve installed in every state in the U.S. and in some countries in Europe.”
Much of the revenue comes from what Geoff described as “stable businesses.” They are retail and quick service establishments like coffee shops where 96 to 97 percent of their transactions are debit or credit card. RCN Technologies clients also include bank ATMs, vending machines, and other types of kiosks.
“They cannot be down or they lose business,” he explained.
More recently, the company has experienced significant growth from public sector clients like public safety departments and ambulance services. RCN Technologies even has a Dodge vehicle equipped like a police car where all of the technology it sells to public safety customers can be showcased.
“We’ve sold to 185 police departments in just 21 months,” Geoff explained. “It’s everything from chest cameras to a fully-equipped vehicle.”
RCN Technologies represents a number of well-known brands such as Brother, Elo, Lenovo, Microsoft Azure, Panasonic, and Cradlepoint. Geoff is proud of the fact that his company is both an elite partner and exclusive reseller for Cradlepoint. It also has more certified Cradlepoint experts than any other reseller in the country.
“We’re very particular about the products we resell,” he says. “You have to be number one in that segment of business.”
Geoff quotes Cradlepoint as believing that healthcare will be the sector most impacted by the emergence of 5G technology. That could be a growth opportunity for RCN Technologies going forward.
The RCN Technologies’ President is a native of the Los Angeles area who had a more than decade-long career in the retail furniture business. Later, he was in construction and then launched and sold a start-up in Las Vegas similar to his current venture.
How did the Yearacks get to Knoxville? They learned about the region from a young couple they were mentoring at their church who had decided to move back home. Geoff and Jennifer visited the region on different trips and moved here in July 2011. At the time, Geoff was commuting weekly to Chicago and subsequently thought about relocating closer to that work base.
“This is the first place you ever lived that you love,” Geoff recalls Jennifer telling him about Knoxville. So, instead of relocating, they started a new journey, founding RCN Technologies in the city they had come to love.
Much of that love is reflected in the layout of and attention to details in the space that was rehabbed by Conversion Properties. We had the opportunity to tour the building on the first day the 24-person RCN Technologies team had moved-in.
As Geoff took us on a tour, you could see the pride he had in the way the space was designed . . . from its openness and the “Red Zone” where project scopes of work are finalized, to the large kitchen, refreshment area and an outside patio that surrounds parts of two sides of the building.
“We’re big on work-life integration,” he says of the allocation of so much space to team member comfort. That philosophy translates into how the Yearacks are running their business.
“We invest in people,” Geoff says, adding, “We invest in our staff . . . from training to the business environment. We aren’t going to hire anyone we would not want to have over to our house for dinner. We can teach them what they need to know about technology.”
No doubt that philosophy and commitment to team is a reason he can say that talent recruitment to the region has not been a challenge for RCN Technologies.