We turn our own wrenches because we want to modify our machines. If you want something done right, after all.
But how often do we apply that mentality to the rest of our lives? I love talking business and cars with gearheads like us.
[bd] You’re a Ford man. How bad do you have it? Introduce us to your stable?
[cm] I am a Ford guy at heart, and wouldn’t consider owning a GM or Mopar muscle car, but I do get made fun of a little bit for my “well-rounded” stable. My first “toy” purchase was a 1967 Mustang Coupe. It’s been more of a project than anything. It came to me with a pretty good body and a transplanted 302. I’ve spent the most time dressing up the 302, adding new manifold, Holley 4-barrel carb, MSD electronic ignition, new cooling system and a serpentine belt setup. It’s far from show quality, but it’s fun to drive.
My dream car, or some semblance thereof, sits in my garage, a 1965 Cobra. Sure, it’s a replica, but one can’t justify driving a real Cobra around with what they cost. And I wanted a driver. It’s got a 351-based block bored and stroked to 410 c.i., which puts out somewhere around 500 horses. With a gross weight of 2100lbs, it gets up and moves.
When my son was born in 2007, I was determined to get a Mustang that would become his when he reached driving age (and was deserving, of course). A few years later, I came across a 2007 GT500 that was at a price I could not pass up. That car now sits in storage waiting for him to come of age.
Having put about 10,000 miles on the 2007 GT500, I had to have my own I recently picked up a 2008 GT500 Convertible, with a Saleen supercharger. I have not owned it long enough to enjoy a summer of having a drop top, but I am really looking forward to it.
So this is where the “Ford Garage” label gets a little skewed.
Last summer, we bought a 2014 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. A kind of half-Mopar. We bought it to serve as a dinghy that we’d pull behind our RV. After joining a few Jeep forums and Facebook groups, I guess you could say that I’ve been bitten by the Jeep bug, spending tons of cash on suspension lifts, roof racks, aftermarket bumpers, wheels and tires, light bars, etc. We even attended our first Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, UT this year.
My wife’s daily driver is a 2014 Honda Pilot. Yep, I said it. She likes it because of all of the interior storage space, or “cubbies”, as she calls them. She had very few requirements when choosing a car, and cubbies were at the top of the list. Other needs of importance were AWD, automatic transmission, leather interior, touch screen entertainment, and enough room to haul two Dobermans and a kid. That said, it has everything on the list.
My daily driver is a 2011 Cadillac Escalade, mostly because of my work. I am always hauling materials to and from job sites, so needed a large SUV. Aside from aftermarket wheels, it is stock. As you would imagine, I get some looks when driving around town with ladders on top of the Escalade, or when I’m pulling a dump trailer with it.
[bd] Let’s talk business. What do you do for a living and for whom?
[cm] I own and operate Apexx Communications in Parker, Colorado. Apexx Communications does a myriad of things, from copper and fiber data network design and installation to IT project consulting and management. We also provide connectivity solutions for security systems, surveillance systems and audio/visual systems. We really provide IT and A/V connectivity solutions for both commercial and residential customers.
[bd] Tell us a little more about your company.
[cm] Apexx Communications also serves as a distribution partner to some clients, with the buying power we hold with several manufacturers. With the high volume purchasing of materials for both large and small projects, our price points are low enough to provide competitive pricing to end user customers on their day-to-day needs. What these customers receive at no additional cost to them is our 24×7 support on the logistics side. Every order is treated as priority one, regardless of its size. Being a business owner, I pride myself on always being available to customers. While we don’t typically schedule installations for weekends, I am always monitoring email, should a customer have a need. We work hard during the week, and play hard on the weekends.
[bd] Working with “connectivity solutions” at both the residential and enterprise level, I suspect you’re up to your eyeballs cabling projects and such all the time. And if you’re monitoring email essentially 24/7, there’s no escape. What is it about this stuff that keeps you interested?
[cm] It’s actually pretty challenging staying on top of technology that is constantly changing. I am able to stay engaged in all projects because I enjoy learning new technology. I am not limited to the cabling aspects of projects, while that is our primary business. Having a strong background in project management, I find myself working on the consulting side of IT. One of my customers is an area hospital, where I manage many projects from infrastructure efforts to application design and implementation projects. It is very cool to see things all come together at the end of a project.
And whoever said money is not a motivator… For me, it is the ultimate motivator. It’s not about “look what I have.” It’s about making a good living and being able to enjoy the family, the hobbies, the toys. We work hard, and we play hard.
[bd] How did you come to start the company? Is the Apexx of today the company you originally had in mind? How has the idea evolved over time?
[cm] Apexx was spawned from a need. The company I worked for prior to Apexx was similar in nature, and when the higher-ups started siphoning operating cash, it made sustaining the business very difficult. I left that company with every intention of working a “normal job.”
About a month into my new job, old customers started calling me, looking for someone to fill the void left by this company, which had gone out of business in the short time since I’d left. I saw the opportunity to hit the ground running, and made it happen. We started to grow, taking on larger and larger projects. Having worked on the distribution side of the industry, I knew how to play the game with vendors to finance large scale projects.
[bd] How have your experiences in this industry impacted your automotive situation beyond paying for it?
[cm] Paying for it helps, without a doubt. Running this company also provides me the flexibility to enjoy time with my family, going on the road trips, tinkering with the cars. I’ve always been guilty of trying to combine my interests. That is how the Jeep came to be – we needed a tow vehicle to pull behind our RV. We originally thought about getting a Mini or something small like that, but options can be limited based on what can or can’t be flat-towed. We thought a Jeep would be fun, and now that’s turned into a hobby of its own. Now we need a bigger RV to pull the monster Jeep…
[bd] How is building a business like building a vehicle?
[cm] I would suggest a comparison between having the right parts (for the car) and having the right connections (for the business). The parts also have to be installed correctly, much like a business should be leveraging resources based on their strengths. Not only do you need the right customer contacts, finding the right individuals to work for you is the much bigger challenge.
Much like you want your car to shine every time you take it out, you want your business name to continue to spread (in a good way) with every site visit, service call or project. I take care of my guys at better rates than industry standard to help reduce turnover, and motivate them to feel invested in the company. Like building a muscle car, you’ve got to know where to spend the money. Cheap parts might work for some things, but you usually get what you pay for. In order to pay better labor rates without pricing us out against competition, we strive at keeping overhead low and doing things right the first time.
[bd] What advice would you give a gearhead looking to be ready when opportunity knocks, business/career-wise?
[cm] Don’t burn bridges. You may not necessarily find yourself working for the vendor you tore into about an order mishap, but they may be in a position of power down the road, on a road that you need to cross! And be ready for long hours. If you can’t land the 6 figure CEO job, you need to be ready to work harder. And smarter.