At a time when many New Jersey companies have been buffeted by tough economic winds, some executives at privately held firms have used strategic acquisitions, a focus on creating value for customers and factors unique to their industry to surge ahead.
AmeriQuest Transportation Services President and CEO Douglas W. Clark launched his fleet management services company in 1996. After years of steady growth, Cherry Hill-based AmeriQuest grew 20 percent in 2011.
Clark said the growth was organic, driven by the value offered to customers and the ability of AmeriQuest to execute.
"We offer a value proposition to our customers that is quantifiable," Clark said. "And we have a team that executes what we say we're going to do."
AmeriQuest met a need since it was started, offering to provide business process outsourcing to fleet management companies.
"From the day that the company was formed, we've had tremendous growth," Clark said. "We've really used a recipe and a mixture of technology and good, old-fashioned business principles. A lot of companies have the philosophy of build it and they will come, and we've taken the philosophy of working with our customers and building what they want."
The company made two major acquisitions in the third quarter of 2010, one of which — the acquisition of Atlanta-based Cure Leasing — helped to fuel the growth. Over the next two years, AmeriQuest plans to expand its accounts payable workflow services, both for transportation and automotive after-parts businesses. Clark said it helps to be located in the Garden State.
"New Jersey is the epicenter of the northeastern business community and, obviously, truck transportation," Clark said. "If you look at New Jersey, it's actually a great platform for us to reach out to many businesses."
Clark said AmeriQuest also laid the groundwork for growth during its only serious period of retrenchment in its history, the 2008 to 2009 recession.
"Strategically, most companies went into a bunker mentality, laid off people and reduced salaries," Clark said. "We didn't lay off one person. We didn't receive our bonuses for two years, but we never laid off one person."
This has paid off by helping cultivate an experienced 150-person work force. In a company that started with only three employees 16 years ago, the average worker now has more than six years of experience with the company.
"I have a basic philosophy that says there's a growth track here, that people can grow with the company," Clark said. "We don't go out and hire Superman; we do it with our people, who are great. We promote from within."
Don Duford, president and CEO of Parsippany-based One Call Medical Inc., said a combination of "delivering the best-in-class services" to customers and acquisitions drove his company's growth.
One Call Medical supports workers' compensation claims managers by connecting them with radiology and other medical providers.
Duford said his customers require a wide range of services.
"The biggest challenges are building networks of service providers that our customers use," including transportation, imaging and dentistry providers, Duford said.
With workers' comp managers handling as many as 150 claims at a time, One Call Medical works to anticipate what their needs will be.
"We're in an industry that's very flat," Duford said. "If you provide the best service and create a lot of value for your customer, you can grow the business and that's what we really focus on and it's been working very well for us for several years."
One Call Medical, which has 300 of its 950 workers located in New Jersey, made four acquisitions that contributed to the 33 percent growth in 2011, including transportation, interpretation and dental businesses.
"We've had consistent growth since day 1," Duford said.
Sometimes growth is based less on conscious strategy and more on the dynamics of an individual industry.
That is the case for Riggins Inc., of Vineland.
President Paul Riggins said there was a simple reason for the company's 44 percent growth in 2011: the rise in oil prices.
"Our business is petroleum," Riggins said. "If crude goes from $80 to more than $100," as it did in 2011, Riggins' revenue goes up.
Riggins said any oil business is fundamentally driven by trends in its industry.
"We steadily grow our business, but we have these upswings and downswings based on the price of crude," Riggins said.