Spokane Journal of Business

Telect in growth mode as founders exit its board

Company expects revenue to rise 17 percent this year

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-—LeAnn Bjerken
Telect Inc. CEO Wayne Williams, right, and his son, Spencer, are the only two members of the family directly involved in the company now that Wayne’s parents have left its board.

As Telect Inc.’s co-founders leave its board, the Liberty Lake-based communications networking equipment manufacturing company is looking to continue its recent growth. 

“We definitely consider this period to be one of growth,” says company President and CEO Wayne Williams. “Last year we saw a 24 percent increase in revenues, and this year, we’re expecting an increase of at least 17 percent.”

As a telecommunications manu-  facturer, Williams says Telect designs and engineers what are called passive layer network infrastructure products, which are the physical elements required to build fiber networks. He says such products can include optical fiber, trenches, ducts and poles, fiber enclosures, optical distribution frames, patch panels, and splicing shelves. 

Williams says this past year, the company’s fiber product sales doubled, and its shipped units grew by 40 percent. 

“We’re in the midst of an expansion right now,” he says. “Most connections in this industry are quickly moving from copper to fiber due to its capability for faster speeds and greater storage. It’s a constantly changing industry, so we’re always looking to expand our technologies and stay relevant.”

To keep up with demand, Williams says the company plans to add three to four new product offerings each year within its fiber, power, cable, and solutions management lines.

“We’re already using 3-D printers to create products, as well as exploring new technology that will aid us in product development,” he says. 

Although the company uses a subcontractor to manufacture product parts Williams says it now handles all final assembly, packaging, and shipping through its 80,000-square-foot corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility located within the Liberty Lake Business Park at 22425 E. Appleway.

“Back in 2004, we acquired Hendry Telephone Products, which had a manufacturing facility in Plano, Texas,” he says. “But by 2015, we’d decided to close that facility and relocate manufacturing, as well as our headquarters to this space.” 

According to Williams, Telect chose to close the Plano facility in part because it was taking up funds the company wanted to use to invest in expanding its fiber optic product lines. 

“We reduced the number of employees, but increased our efficiency and profitability,” he says. 

William’s son Spencer, who currently serves as Telect’s vice president of sales, marketing, and product strategy, describes the decision as a kind of shift in the company’s business model. 

 “It allowed us to become more focused and competitive in the market,” he says. “We’ll still be adding jobs, just not at the same rate as before.”

In addition to its Liberty Lake facility, Telect maintains manufacturing operations in Guadalajara, Mexico, and sells products worldwide through direct channels, distributors, and original equipment manufacturer partners. At one point the company also operated a manufacturing facility in Poland, but it closed that plant in 2010. 

Williams says employment at the company’s Liberty Lake headquarters currently fluctuates between 130 and 240 employees, a count that varies depending on its seasonal manufacturing needs.

He says following the closure of its Plano facility, Telect redistributed about 100 full-time employees to various locations within its supply chain, and is currently looking to hire more. 

“We’re particularly interested in hiring individuals who have experience working with sheet metals and plastics,” he says. 

Telect is a privately-owned company, founded in 1982 by Williams’ parents, Bill and Judi Williams, who worked side by side as president and vice president, respectively, until 2000. 

At that time, the couple transitioned to advisory roles as members of Telect’s board of directors. Williams says his parents, who will both turn 78 this year, only recently announced their full retirement, which became effective two months ago. 

 “With this being the company’s 35th year, we decided it was the perfect time to honor their vision, and give people the opportunity to thank them for all they’ve accomplished both here and within the community,” he says. 

Williams himself has been with the company since the age of 19, having become its president in 1994, and moving up to his current role as CEO just three years later.

 “I started working with the company almost the same day as my parents,” he says. “They planned for the succession of the company early, and always encouraged me to pursue leadership roles and experiences.”

Williams is a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management program, and is an active entrepreneur and developer with several patents to his name. 

He says prior to starting work with Telect, he had aspirations of joining the military, but was unable to serve due to childhood epilepsy. 

“I believe you grow where you’re planted,” he says. “I met my wife shortly after starting with Telect, and I think that was a turning point where I decided to really commit to the industry, and making the company the best it could be.”

Williams his wife, Terina, have three children. Along with Spencer, they include Mitch Williams, president and CEO of Telect spin-off company Weckey, a smart guestbook and visitor management system, and Shayla (Williams) McGhee, who owns and operates a branding and marketing company called Inland Design Co.

“In a lot of cases, the older generation has a tendency to hold onto things for too long,” Williams says. “But my parents recognized that sometimes in order to achieve greatness, you have to let go.”

Williams says as part of their succession planning, his parents created the company’s board of directors in 1998. 

“At the time, it was kind of an unusual move,” he says. “Most family-owned businesses seem to prefer not to give outside board members too much influence or decision-making power.”

While the company’s leadership team reports to the board quarterly, Williams says board members serve mostly in advisory roles. 

“Good board members are essentially invisible,” he says. “They do have some influence, but mostly they’re there to provide additional wisdom and counsel.”

Williams says now that his parents have retired, the company’s current board of directors consists of himself, his wife, and Tom Simpson, a Spokane entrepreneur and angel-investing fund adviser and organizer.

He says the company likely will begin the process of looking for new board members within the coming months.

“We’ll be looking for individuals outside the company who have skills that will help us augment areas of weakness, while also focusing on how we can grow, and evolve,” he says. 

Besides himself, Williams says his son Spencer currently is the only other Williams family member employed with the company full time. 

“Over the years, all of my kids have worked with us as interns or independent contractors,” he says. “Spencer started out as an intern, and has been in his current position for about five years now.” 

Williams says Spencer’s current position as vice president of sales, marketing, and product strategy is one that he himself occupied at a similar age. 

“At Telect, our focus is always on the next generation,” he says. “We want them to gain experience as soon as possible. If that means they occasionally burn their fingers a bit, that’s OK because it helps them gauge how much risk to take in the future.”

LeAnn Bjerken
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Reporter LeAnn Bjerken is the most recent addition to the Journal's news team. A poet, cat lover and antique enthusiast, LeAnn is also an Eastern Washington University alum.

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