By Inc. Magazine
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
A local business growing at a fast pace has garnered the attention of Inc. Magazine, the national private-business publication.
TEVET, whose headquarters is at Mosheim, was recently named number 777 on the prestigious magazine's 2013 list of the 5000 fastest-growing companies in the country.
Making the list is no easy task.
Inc. evaluates companies over a three-year period. For the newest list, the period considered was 2009-2012.
Companies must meet a minimum revenue threshold in both the first year of the three-year period and the third year.
According to the magazine, TEVET's growth rate during this period was 588 percent.
TEVET reported $65.3 million in revenues in 2012. The company reported $9.5 million in 2009.
TEVET, which Inc. categorized as a manufacturing company, not only made the list of 5,000 but also scored number 10 in the top 100 Tennessee companies on the list (including all business categories), and number 14 in the top 100 manufacturing companies on the national list.
Although classified as a manufacturer by Inc., TEVET is actually a value-added reseller (VAR) and distributor of electronic test and measurement equipment.
President and CEO Tracy Solomon describes the role of his business as connecting other companies with the best products to get their job done efficiently, as well as providing troubleshooting and on-site asset management and logistics solutions.
While satellite offices of TEVET are located in several major cities -- including Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles -- the main branch and the bulk of the company's operations are in Mosheim.
There, the company has 15 employees, half of them armed forces veterans. Solomon said he is looking to add three more employees for various local openings.
'WORK HARD, PLAY HARD'
Since the company was founded in 2004, growth hasn't felt so "fast" to Solomon himself, who described those years as a decade of "do or die" with a motto of "work hard, play hard."
He credits the company's most recent growth to a combination of adding more clients and expanded orders from current clients.
"Hard work" is no exaggeration. Solomon said he travels at least 28 weeks out of the year to stay in front of clients, developing personal relationships.
Also important to his success, Solomon added, has been transforming the company in the eyes of his clients so that it is seen as more than "just a supplier."
Instead, he explained, he wants TEVET's clients to view the company as a strategic partner.
Moreover, he said he has built the company on a belief that people (employees), processes, and technology put TEVET ahead of the competition.
That has certainly proven true, he said, when dealing with his current client base, 100 percent of whom are either government agencies or those agencies' prime contractors.
This client base is a good fit for Solomon because he served for six years in the U.S. Navy and is a third-generation service-disabled veteran.
His grandfather, Earl Ward, served in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946. He was shot while serving in the Philippines during World War II.
His father, James Solomon, was serving in the U.S. Army during 1968 in Vietnam when he was wounded as his tank was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. He was the lone survivor.
Both Ward and James Solomon received Purple Heart decorations for their military service.
Tracy Solomon served in the Navy between 1990 and 1996. He was also injured in service during the Gulf War, although it was not a combat-related injury.
WORK ETHIC FROM PARENTS
His parents, James Solomon and JoAnn Ward, taught him his work ethic, he said.
His family has long lived in Greene County. Family members once worked at the huge local Magnavox Company plant, a major television manufacturer here for decades, and also farmed tobacco.
The big plant, which once employed thousands, closed years ago, and there is also relatively little locally-grown tobacco now.
Solomon watched both the electronics company and the local tobacco industry die away in his youth, and watching it caused him to decide that success in life would only be found outside Greene County.
Desiring to carry on his father and grandfather's armed forces legacies, Solomon left for Navy boot camp four days before he turned 19.
During and after his Navy years, he went to college, and later entered the world of corporate telecommunications in Dallas, where he worked for several years for such giants as Hewlett-Packard and Alcatel-Lucent.
As the telecommunications industry began to change, however, and his wife, Patty Solomon, desired to follow a new career opportunity in Georgia, Solomon said he decided it was time to take the jump and begin his own company.
He founded TEVET (inspired by a combination of "technology" and "veteran") in 2004, operating out of his basement.
His wife was the breadwinner at that time in their lives, and there was a second mortgage on his house. They took a risk, but the risk proved worth it, he said.
Today, his wife works for TEVET out of the Solomons' West Main Street home. It's a success story he said would never have happened without Patty's support.
"It's a team. There are sacrifices that have to be made, which we did," Solomon said. "Luckily, we were able to get through those times."
With time, he found that his real success was not in the telecommunications business, but with defense contractors.
He added two employees -- both from Greeneville -- but was still operating with ties in Dallas and living in Georgia and working from his home there.
This tri-state connection proved confusing for some clients, however, and Solomon said he came to realize that he needed a stronger story.
The time had come, too, he said, for the company to move out of his basement and into a building where he could greet clients.
BACK TO GREENE COUNTY
He decided that that building should be in Greene County.
He also made another leap and officially located the TEVET headquarters in Mosheim.
The day he returned to the county to purchase a building was 20 years to the day after he had left for the Navy, vowing he wouldn't return here to live.
"To come back -- to me at that time -- meant failure," he explained.
However, as Greeneville/Greene County has changed and the business has grown, the Solomons have come to love the community, and find satisfaction in being here.
Today, he is involved with the local school systems' ROTC programs, uses local contractors, and serves as a corporate sponsor for several community groups.
He attributes a lot of his success to the South Greene community in which he grew up.
For more information about the company, please visit tevetllc.com