After his first two employers went out of business, Clickstop Founder and CEO Tim Guenther decided it was time to take control of his future.
“I had started a family early when I was 20 and needed to work,” Guenther said. “I was working as a business representative selling building materials on commission for multiple manufacturers in the Midwest.
“That led to becoming a distributor and my first product was cargo tie-down straps.”
Clickstop was launched in 2004 in Cedar Falls with Guenther on the road selling and delivering the tie-down ratchet straps from his van while he was representing other products.
In August 2005, with his second child on the way, Guenther launched U.S. Cargo Control, moving Clickstop to the internet in the early days of e-commerce.
”We did about $14,000 in revenue in 2005,” he said. “We did $1 million in revenue in 2006 and we made the decision about midyear to move to a larger space in a smaller community because we could not afford anything in a large community.
“We initially moved into the BECCA Industrial Park in Urbana. We had about 45 people when we moved again in 2011 to a building (at 202 Blue Creek Dr.) along Interstate 380.”
Guenther recalled that Clickstop management realized that they needed to expand the company’s brands and products beyond U.S. Cargo Control.
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“We wanted to have more of an entrepreneurial company than that platform would allow us to have.” Guenther said. “We decided to create more of a holding company model, and Clickstop really began focusing on how we work in developing a great culture so we can have an entrepreneurial mind set and work with several brands.”
Clickstop fairly quickly picked up a diverse mixture of brands and products from organizing and storage solutions to body jewelry and belly button rings.
“For a period of time it was all e-commerce and we felt like the product didn’t matter as long as it was ethical and filled a need,” Guenther said. “We felt that we could sell about anything, track traffic and convert that traffic into customers — and we were wrong about that.
“We learned a lot along the way, and we have a few really great brands that continue to drive our growth throughout the year. Instead of our vision of dozens of brands, we narrowed it down to focus on a handful.”
U.S. Cargo Control continues to be the company’s “most successful brand,” he said.
Guenther credits Clickstop’s corporate culture for attracting key people over the years who have played a role in the company’s growth.
“I see us as a growth company and a great place to work for the right people and (that offers) the right opportunities,” he said. “Growth and culture go so well together, and that’s what we are trying to be.”
In August 2017, Clickstop announced the formation of a leadership team to work with Guenther to move the organization toward fulfilling its long-term objectives, values, mission and strategy.
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Guenther said he would tell anyone launching a new business to never quit regardless of how hard it becomes in the early days and years.
“I think they need to surround themselves with really great people and be ready to persevere through the hardest things that ever happen to them,” he said. “Business involves people and our emotions play into it. Whether it is illness in the workplace or celebrating a new child with one of your employees, the highs are really high and the lows are really low.
“You have to be ready for what is to come and don’t let it surprise you.”
Guenther said a lot of discipline is required to make owning a business into a 9-to-5 occupation.
“If you are planning to grow your business quickly and be entrepreneurial, you will need to do what it takes to make that happen,” he said.
Clickstop has grown from 45 employees in 2011 to 170 today.
“A big lesson that an entrepreneur needs to learn is a simple formula to be a successful business,” Guenther said. “Revenue and gross profit minus expenses equals net profit.
“You have to keep a strong gross profit line and growing, and you have to keep your largest expense really low. That is typically payroll for most businesses, either direct employees or contractors.
“Along with that is managing the debt that you incur. Eventually you need to be in a situation where you have little or no debt.”
Guenther will be interviewed Wednesday by Eric Engelmann, executive director of NewBoCo, at 1 Million Cups as part of the entrepreneurial event’s free Founder Fireside presentations.
Doors open at 8 a.m. for the event at the Geonetric Building, 415 12th Ave. SE, in Cedar Rapids, and the presentations begin at 8:30.