Local Boy Makes Good… Again
Worldwide Supply a successful return for New Jersey’s VanOrden
Jay VanOrden was living the dream.
He founded his own telecom/network solutions business a few years out of college, quickly became successful with it, and, just 12 years after its founding, sold it to a public company and retired by age 39.
All seemed ideal for the Sussex County, N.J. native. But it wasn’t until he was left to a life of golf, sailing and fishing that he realized just how much he enjoyed the other rewards he got from being involved.
“The first few months were great, but six months later I was crawling out of my skin,” he says. “To be honest, it was one of the worst times of my life. I was bored to death. I realized I needed a challenge in my life on the professional side. That’s what led me to get back into the industry.
“What I found out about myself is what excites me and what I’m passionate about is building and growing an organization.”
Armed with that sudden self-awareness, that’s precisely what he did.
VanOrden and an old colleague – the former chief financial officer from his first start-up business – set out to start another company in the telecom/network solutions space, with the idea that they’d incorporate the lessons learned about internal corporate culture and external sales and marketing focus.
And with that intent, Worldwide Supply was born.
“I’m a people person and being around people is important to me, and I don’t think I really realized that until after the first company was acquired and I got to step back from it,” VanOrden says. “That’s what really led to what we’re doing now.”
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
The new organization officially got off the ground 10 years ago this month, in January 2004, and VanOrden was again able to take advantage of his position in an industry that had both undergone great growth – and was poised for a whole lot more going forward.
Because of VanOrden’s 20 years of prior experience in the space, Worldwide Supply is able to brand itself as among the most knowledgeable providers, and its commitment to having certified engineers on staff and a state-of-the-art testing facility in its arsenal are similarly defining qualities.
He’s also quick to note that timing played a role as well.
“I was fortunate coming out of college that I got into the data networking industry before there was an Internet,” VanOrden says. “Today, the products and services that we’re a provider of are geared around interconnectivity. It’s exploding with all the hand-held devices and we’re sitting smack in the middle of all that technology – helping clients to build and service networks. So, yes, I was very fortunate to wind up in the right industry, even before I knew it was going to be an industry.”
The company’s website bills it as a leader in the secondary hardware marketplace, with an aim to provide networking and telecommunication equipment to – and purchase it from – companies around the world, while also offering services to maximize technology resources.
Eighty-five percent of the company’s business comes from the resale of used equipment that’s come into the Worldwide Supply system and been extensively refurbished and tested before being re-offered in the marketplace, oftentimes in direct competition with an original manufacturer’s new products.
Its customer focus includes three distinct areas – tier one and tier two cable operators throughout North and South America; traditional telecom carriers; and traditional enterprise markets, which include banks, financial institutions, manufacturing entities and business services.
“People ask who is a good client for us,” VanOrden says, “and I tell them it’s anyone who is building a network to support high-speed voice, data and video. The products that we’re supplying are supplying technology to those markets.”
SETTING THEMSELVES APART
Still, even with a defined commitment to testing and providing quality products, VanOrden knew something else was necessary to set Worldwide Supply apart from its competition and add another level of assurance to customers teetering on whether to buy used equipment over new.
That something else became a lifetime warranty.
“We know that there are people who question secondary products, so we thought about what we could do that would speak louder than anything we could say, a way that we could best demonstrate a commitment to quality – and that was a lifetime warranty,” he says. “From the manufacturer, you’re only getting 90 days to a year, max. And in a lot of cases, the secondary market products are more reliable because everything is tested before it ships.
“With the manufacturer, it comes off the line and is put in a box.”
The recently completed calendar year was one of significant recognition for the company.
Worldwide Supply was included on Inc. magazine’s annual listing of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies for the fourth consecutive year. It earned an award for outstanding website in the telecommunications category from the Web Marketing Association. And, in an honor that was especially rewarding for a lifelong Garden State resident, it was named one of the best places to work in New Jersey as part of a survey of businesses coordinated by the Best Companies Group.
VALIDATING THE PRINCIPLES
More so than the bottom-line success, VanOrden says, he gets more satisfaction from validation of the internal approaches he’s gleaned along the way. The company now boasts a staff of 60 employees and operates from its home office in Franklin, N.J., as well as out-of-state locales in Boston, New Hampshire, California, New York, Colorado, Texas, North Carolina and Hawaii, as well as locations in Mexico, Columbia and Chile.
“What we did from the very beginning, we wanted to govern and operate the business from a set of core values,” he says. “It wasn’t just something you saw in the hallway or hung on a wall. As an entire team, we talked about what our values were, what they mean to us and how we might apply them going forward into business and in everything we do.
“We laid a foundation to create a very unique workplace.”
All employees are rewarded monthly as part of a corporate profit-sharing initiative, all employees are empowered to “take care of our customers, no matter what the cost,” when there is a specific concern with a product or service, and a single employee is recognized each month with the “LOV Award,” which stands for Living Our Values – accountability, dedication, flexibility, integrity and teamwork.
Additionally, assuming the company reaches its yearly goals, the entire staff is taken on an expenses-paid trip – recent destinations have been Cancun and Las Vegas – to celebrate victories and promote bonding between employees.
“We spend more time with each other than we do with our families, so we might as well have fun along the way,” VanOrden says. “A real conviction of mine and the company’s is having a real purpose. It’s not about corporate profits. That’s a byproduct, but the real purpose is to see how many lives we can impact. The growth of the company affords people so many opportunities to grow into leadership roles, both professionally and personally, and it’s wonderful to me to see how much people have grown.
“The success is nice. But it’s not what gets you out of bed every morning. There’s got to be something greater than that. Most people are lucky if it happens once. For me, to have the opportunity to do it a second time and correct the mistakes I made the first time, I don’t think it gets better than that.”