Arcom Technical Services Ltd. provides telecommunication networks (copper, fibre optic, P2P wireless and LAN wireless) solutions for healthcare, new construction, renovations, and tenant improvement projects. The telecommunications department is also complimented with Arcom’s growing full-service electrical department. Recently the company has also ventured into creating innovative technology and software solutions that increase performance, productivity and profitability.
Arcom’s motto is “happy to be of service,” and for Arthur (Archie) Smith, president, those are not just nice words to have on a business card. They are the very foundation of the company.
“In 1999 when I first started Arcom, it was by the seat of my pants trying to figure out how to run and operate a business. Believe me, with no formal schooling on business, accounting, etc., it was a steep learning curve that encompassed success and many failures,” reminisces Smith.
It was also the year Bicentennial Man, starring Robin Williams, was released. Smith found inspiration in William’s character, Andrew.
“Andrew learned, adapted and struggled, but never compromised his loyalties and devotion to those he served,” says Smith.
In fact, Andrew, who was designed to be a menial robot, completely transcended his programing to become so much more – all the while saying, “it’s a pleasure to be of service to others.”
“This was my basic thought and realization for Arcom,” Smith continues.
“Why can’t a company and its people base its operations in growth, learning, service and loyalty, even though the results could be catastrophic?”
At the time Smith didn’t realize that his philosophy would be severely tested.
At first, things couldn’t be better. Arcom grew from one employee to 20+ in a short period of time. A commitment to quality work at fair prices and timely installations grew Arcom’s reputation in the industry. Recent notable projects included the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Warehouse, where Arcom installed a massive copper and fibre optic network in the 470,000 square foot building. The company also completed AHS’ Alberta Hospital’s CIS WiFi installation, working around the issues of aging infrastructure and installing in a patient-occupied building. The AHS project was completed on time and on budget despite the challenges, and Arcom was recognized for this significant achievement.
The rapid success meant Arcom needed more space; the company moved in 2009, then relocated again to a bigger office/shop in 2014.
And then disaster struck.
In 2014 a project Arcom was involved in went sideways. Several contractors from different companies were involved in the project. One of those contractors made crucial errors that affected every contractor involved. Smith was at a crossroads. He had the option to pull out of the project to protect Arcom from further fallout and financial damage. It was the expected move as the issues were not the fault of Arcom, but doing so would create further setbacks for the client. Smith thought back to his guiding principle – happy to be of service – and his path forward was clear. Despite great financial losses, Arcom finished the project.
In a perfect world, the sacrifice would have been met with industry accolades and everyone would rush to fill the coffers of the company with high-profile work; but in the real world, although the client was deeply appreciative of Arcom’s choice, the losses to the company were catastrophic. Smith remembers looking at 15 years of growing his business, only to see it slipping through his fingers like sand, and he was unsure of what to do.
In Bicentennial Man, Andrew had many opportunities to simply remain within his programming or to give up and let better technology serve his family; but he never did. Andrew always continued to grow and learn, even when it cost him personally. Remembering the influence Andrew’s actions had on him when he started the company, Smith decided to do the same. It was time to stop worrying and time to take action.
His actions, once again, were surprising.
Where many companies would immediately chase work to level the balance sheet, Smith went to work on the company culture instead. He reasoned that if he could fix what was going on internally, it would create a stronger, better foundation for regrowth.
“We invented our own performance system called Orbitis,” says Smith. “Previously, I scoured the market for a performance system for Arcom, but there are so many convoluted software systems that would not provide the information and data I required in a simple and straight forward way.”
Using Orbitis, Smith measured key indicators of his own performance (and was shocked to see the areas in which he was lacking). He then expanded the measures to the entire team.
“This system has enabled us to increase our operational performance tremendously. Our individual performance average (IPA) has increased 39 per cent since our 2014 measurement!”
After soft trials, Orbitis is nearing the beta testing stage and will be available in 2020 to the market place for every industry of any size. The Orbitis system has enormous potential to increase companies operational performance and culture. “I have contracted Devfacto to code the system into software with my input and design approvals. I would like to give Devfacto credit for this. They have been truly amazing to work with.”
“I didn’t want anyone to feel the way I did in 2014,” Smith says of why Arcom evolved in this direction. “I figured if I was able to get things back on track, I should be helping other companies do the same.”
Arcom kept reaching out into the technological space and has also successfully marketed Visitorlink, a virtual reception/greeting system that has saved them nearly $200,000 since 2014.
It’s been five years since the “hiccup” and Arcom is thriving once again. Now, the issue isn’t so much projects, it’s finding enough staff to fill the growing work demands! Again, Smith turns to internal corporate culture for the solution.
“There are times that our future expansion plans are capped by the availability of a skilled workforce. It is our plan that through utilizing Orbitis and our profit sharing program for all staff that we will attract and retain more staff.”
Entrepreneurship is never easy, and for Smith, his wife Shelley, and his dedicated team, it’s been an incredible ride.
“I think the most rewarding thing for me has been the evolution of Arcom. Looking at where we started in 1999 by myself to where we are now simply astonishes me. By no means can I take all the credit for our success and growth. We have a great team that has evolved over the last 20 years. We learned from the bad and embraced the good. I believe that we are all truly proud of Arcom and what we have become,” smiles Smith. “The unwavering ethics that we protect as the mainstay of Arcom keeps us on a straight course. The plan was, and always will be, to provide a service to clients based on complete integrity.
“If I could only tell my clients one thing it would be a sincere thank you. Thank you for the continued faith in Arcom and entrusting us to be a part of your plans, dreams and realities.”
Smith also extends thanks to his loyal and hardworking staff, along with his family and friends that stood by and supported his decisions through thick and thin, and Arcom’s banking partners (Bank of Montreal and BDC) that “identified our vision and our potentials in the present and into the future.”
Arcom’s model of service extends beyond the corporation and into the community. Just some of the charities and foundations Arcom supports includes Covenant Health, STARS Air Ambulance, the Royal Alexandrea Hospital Foundation, the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation, Wounded Warriors Canada, and the Canadian Cancer Society.
It’s been 20 years since Smith decided to tread the uncertain waters of entrepreneurship, but despite the waves that sometimes threatened to drown the operation, he never gave up. Smith and his team turned every challenge into an action, and every roadblock into a stepping stone.
“Arcom’s goal is to keep providing the same high standards of quality and performance. Our immediate goal is to achieve an Orbitis IPA of 90 per cent or above in 2019. This will assist us in being more competitive, profitable and successful,” Smith concludes.
While the notion of a sentient robot named Andrew is the stuff of Hollywood, a very real company exists that espouses that unwavering dedication, loyalty and service. Arcom was founded on these principles and two decades later, remains committed to its dedication to always be “happy to be of service.”
Arcom Technical Services Ltd.
Learn more about Arcom