When he was a teenager, Douglas W. Clark set three goals for himself: race in the Indianapolis 500, become president of a company and take a company public.
He achieved one and came close to the other. He is mum on the third.
Clark founded AmeriQuest Business Services in 1997 and serves as its president and CEO. The Cherry Hill-based company, which outsources business processes, uses technology to help middle-market businesses operate more efficiently — forming a niche that has helped it rise to No. 10 on this year’s NJBIZ Top 100 Privately Held Companies list.
AmeriQuest initially focused on the transportation industry, but has branched into other sectors, including retail and finance.
“We bring two things to the marketplace — domain expertise and good, solid technology,” Clark said. “We have technology that meets our customers’ needs, and we listen to their input. That brings a human element into it.”
The company’s revenue was up 65 percent in 2013, from $636 million to $1.05 billion, allowing it to jump from No. 16 on last year’s list. Clark said the company has never lost money in any given year.
“We don’t lose customers so all we need to do is add new ones,” he said. “There is less of a mountain to climb than if we were trying to fill what we lost and get what we need in order to grow.”
AmeriQuest started out with three employees, one of whom was Clark’s wife, Beatrice. Today there are 200, including Matt and Rob Clark, two of the couple’s five children.
“It’s exciting to watch them grow with the company,” Clark said.
Clark was raised in Elmer and received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Miami and an MBA in finance from Drexel University in Philadelphia. He began his career as an accountant before moving into the investment banking field.
“That opened a lot of doors for me,” he said.
What led him to start AmeriQuest was his distaste of all things paper.
“In the late 1960s, Wall Street was buried in paper, especially with stock certificates, and paper is so inefficient,” he said. “That’s why I focused on creating a company that helps businesses get rid of paper. Today everything is done digitally.”
As far as his goal of taking a company public, that hasn’t happened yet. But since Clark has no plans to retire anytime soon, one never can tell what the future holds.
“I enjoy what I do too much to retire,” he said. “It’s been an exciting ride, and there’s a lot left in the ride.”
Perhaps even on a track.
Clark’s father owned a gas station, so he grew up around cars. With his competitive spirit and love of excitement, it was natural that he should give race car driving a spin.
“I was a professional race car driver for 12 years,” he said. “I raced in the Indy Lights Series, which (is) one step below the Indy 500. It’s like Triple A baseball.”
Although he’s disappointed he didn’t make it to the Indianapolis 500, Clark has no regrets.
“The nice thing is that I didn’t sit there and lament that I didn’t try,” he said. “I gave it everything I had at the time.”
Twenty-five years have passed since his last race, but Clark hasn’t discounted the thought of getting back in the action.
“The thought of owning a race team has crossed my mind,” he said.
#10 AmeriQuest Business Services
Headquarters: Cherry Hill
Leader: Douglas W. Clark
Industry: Business processing 2013 revenue: $1.05 billion
Last year’s ranking: 16