By Briana Stewart, utahvalley360.com
Business owner rises from employee ‘No. 9’ to ‘No. 1’
Luis Carter is not your typical entrepreneur.
For starters, he isn’t the founder of BRG Research Services, the market research and data collection company in which he’s the president and majority owner. What’s more, he’s held eight different positions in his 16 years with the business. But Luis is the perfect example of working against type.
“The typical entrepreneur is you go out and start a company,” Luis says. “But I started what we see today. I’ve never focused on the ownership. I’ve simply built what we have without the formal structure.”
That formal structure in the Provo-based company eventually came, but Luis’ building blocks wouldn’t need the fancy title to gain ground. His push for expert technology along with exponential growth in sales proved you don’t have to start a business to create a business. And with his humble beginnings as a phone agent – sporting the employee ID “No. 9” – the uncharacteristic entrepreneur has shown his days are anything but numbered.
At age 33, Luis has worked for BRG Research Services nearly half his life, and his rise from phone agent to eventual president proved just as innate.
“I started acting like I was the decision maker even when I was only a manager,” Luis says. “The formality wasn’t there, but I decided to work with the philosophy that if you build (the business), people will come.”
And come they did. When Luis started at the company, it boasted $190,000 in annual sales. When he took over as vice president in 1997, it reached $800,000. The next year it reached $2 million and the following year $3 million. It’s been on an upward swing ever since.
“The brand we have today is bankable,” Luis says, “and it’s because of the way we respond to clients and the value we place in them. I have never been fired in my life from a client.”
The other benefit that “came” from Luis’ business philosophy was confidence from his employers (and now current partners) Jim Fazzio and Paul McClahan, who both work out of Boston.
“Every year since I took over the business it took on my personality and vision of what it should be,” Luis says. “In fact, in 2000 I told (Jim and Paul) I was going to resign and go out on my own. But they said, ‘Without you the company isn’t what it is. We supported it with money, but everything else is you.’”
As a result of that acknowledgement, Luis became the company’s president in 2001. His partners now act as consultants, but the day-to-day decisions belong to Luis.
“My role has been to create what we have,” Luis says. “Jim and Paul had to take a chance on me, and it’s worked out really well.”
For Luis, the idea of a predictable day invites skepticism.
“Is there such a thing as typical?” he asks with a laugh. “Every day is different, except that every day starts very early and goes very late.”
Luis’ constant companion during those long hours is his BlackBerry – or “crackberry,” as he likes to call it.
“I call it the ‘crackberry’ because I’m up at 2 a.m. sending e-mails,” he says. “We have suppliers in places like France, Germany and South Korea, so when I’m asleep they’re just getting started on the following day. I live 24/7.”
Luis answers a minimum of 100 e-mails a day that range from his clients to his staff to his mother, with the latter usually wondering why he hasn’t responded in a while.
“I’m very particular about my e-mails,” he says. “I keep them dating back to 2001, and I don’t delete them. They keep telling me I’m going to crash the system.”
Luis’ desire to document his correspondence comes from managing sizeable accounts like McDonald’s and Hewlett Packard who require detail-oriented service.
“We have big clients,” he says. “They are very well-known companies that are known for their research and diligence, and I support them all day long.”
A study of passion
Luis was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and spent most of his childhood in Trinidad and Tobago. He later returned to Venezuela to attend a military Catholic boarding school. While he’d never send his children there, he says the school gave him “a backbone for business.” That backbone has since set him straight for success, and Luis is apt to share his entrepreneurial keys.
“An entrepreneur has to have passion. Beyond passion you have to have the right people … And third, you have to have honesty in your business practices,” he says. “I don’t list a good product because … the service will be the reason people come back.”
In keeping with his tip for housing the “right people,” Luis is quick to give credit to his partners and employees for helping BRG Research Services stand on its own merits.
“(Clients) used to say, ‘If Luis isn’t involved I’m not selling this job,’” he says. “The younger Luis would say, ‘I achieved it!’ But the more mature Luis knows that is not a good thing. They should want to work with BRG because of what we do as a business.”
And with the company’s sales on an upward slope, it seems clients are doing just that – whether they work with Luis himself or the new employee No. 9. UV
LUIS CARTER AT A GLANCE
President and majority owner of BRG Research Services
Grew up in: Trinidad and Tobago
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business management from UVSC
Nick name: Wizzy Wig (“For my black and white personality. What you see is what you get with me.”)
Managerial style: “I don’t delegate the tough stuff. I’m the bad cop.”
Breakfast: In the car.
Lunch: “Does 7-Eleven count as lunch?”
Life outside the office: “I’m the life of the party – a goofball.”
Advice to 18-year-old self: “Take time to smell the roses. I spent my time building my company. I’m in my 30s now, and I’m trying to be a 20-year-old.”
Eclipse Entrepreneur is brought to you by Eclipse Marketing, Inc., a nationwide sales company specializing in providing summer jobs for college students since 1992. Eclipse, which is based in Provo, employs more than 300 each summer.