Couple mix skills, discover area of interest constructing cell towers all through Southeast
Oken and Kellie Cooley made the right match for all times – and for enterprise.
Earlier than they met, Kellie had spent most of her profession within the communications enterprise, as an worker and a enterprise proprietor. Ken had labored within the building aspect of the business, constructing cell towers and different communications infrastructure.
In 2007, they fashioned Ok-Co Enterprises in Piedmont, South Carolina. Beginning with three staff, the corporate has grown to a median of 35 staff, serving the communications tower business all through the nation, in addition to different industries that want specialty concrete work.
With Ken’s engineering and building data, and Kellie’s enterprise acumen and gross sales abilities, they discovered their area of interest, offering companies few firms can. They not solely assemble cell tower foundations, however construct the entry roads to them and proceed to service them after they’ve been constructed.
“Ok-Co is without doubt one of the few firms that does a lot of the work in-house,” Kellie says. “We’re one of many few full-service, turnkey firms that’s nonetheless on this business.”
He does building; she does enterprise
Ken has spent most of his life working in building. His father was a homebuilder. He labored for him through the summers and went full-time with the corporate after highschool.
His dad needed him to get an actual property license, and he did. He wasn’t blissful.
“I’m not an actual property salesman,” he says.
He later branched out into operating his personal homebuilding enterprise, however once more, it wasn’t for him.
“I actually don’t like coping with most of the people,” he says. He discovered that he preferred business building a lot better.
He labored for a wide range of building firms and rose by way of the ranks. Then in the future, a neighbor stopped him. He had been supplied work erecting a cell tower however didn’t know something about building. Ken and the neighbor, together with one other accomplice, went into enterprise collectively. After 15 years, they parted methods, and Ken went off on his personal.
Kellie additionally acquired her profession begin whereas working for her father. He owned a two-way radio store in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She earned an accounting diploma at Excessive Level College and stayed together with her father’s enterprise till his retirement. She then managed her brother’s tower building enterprise. In 1992, she began a retail paging companies enterprise and advanced with the business to turn into a mobile and wi-fi reseller.
Ken and Kellie met in 2003. They married in 2005 and began Ok-Co Enterprises in 2007.
“It’s a match made in heaven, I let you know,” says Ken.
“She is aware of what she’s doing in relation to enterprise, and I belief her. And he or she trusts me with building.”
“We each knew lots of people within the business,” Kellie provides. “As an skilled normal contractor, we had been capable of get permitted by a variety of the foremost carriers and tower house owners.”
Discovering their area of interest
The corporate began small and steadily grew. They began as a subcontractor and moved as much as being employed instantly by nationwide tower firms and mobile-phone carriers.
They carved out their area of interest within the business by having the ability to do all their work in-house. Their specialty is concrete work for footings, tower foundations, utility substations, in addition to different areas, akin to retaining partitions and web site entry.
“We concentrate on a lot of what we do,” Ken says. “No person else does it.”
A lot of the different contractors rent subcontractors for his or her work after they win a contract. Ok-Co is licensed and licensed to work in a lot of the Southeastern United States. They’ve labored as far west as New Mexico.
“We get requested to do work all around the nation,” Ken says. “We’re one of many few normal contractors that has the manpower and tools needed to finish the work on schedule, with out counting on subcontractors or rental tools.”
They can deal with the hardest jobs, together with erecting towers on mountainsides and different websites with troublesome entry.
“We’ve performed jobs they are saying couldn’t be performed,” Ken says.
“We’ve performed a variety of arduous websites,” agrees Kellie.
Kellie says Ken usually helps with designing tower compounds and entry, drawing on his many years of building expertise. “He works with engineers a variety of the time to attempt to determine how we’re going to make it work,” she says. “They depend on him. It’s wonderful how a lot design he really does.”
“You’ll be able to draw something,” Ken provides, “however making it work is the arduous half.”
Evan Sowell of Langston Development, who has labored with Ken for the previous 20 years, agrees with that evaluation of Ken’s skills.
“There are a variety of skilled engineers that may draw it on paper, however it might not work within the discipline,” Sowell says. “And Ken appears to at all times be capable of work out an answer to an issue.”
Ok-Co owns all its tools, value about $2.5 million. It has a upkeep store and a mechanic to maintain it operating. That may be a problem in relation to preventive upkeep, as a lot of the firm’s tools and work groups are touring from job to job.
“We is likely to be on one job for 3 weeks after which on to a different job for 3 weeks, and swiftly it’s been out for 3 months and it’s good to get it in to get serviced,” Ken says.
To assist sustain with the upkeep, the corporate put in software program to trace its tools and upkeep schedules. Superintendents within the discipline can use an app to place in work orders for tools coming again to the store for upkeep.
Ken believes proudly owning tools helps the corporate keep robust, and he hardly ever rents. “You get two weeks of rain, and also you’ve acquired tools you’re paying for sitting within the rain,” he says.
The corporate buys new tools annually and takes benefit of the bonus depreciation, which is allowed at 100 % for the primary 12 months of buy below tax laws handed in 2017.
About three years in the past, Ken additionally determined the corporate ought to make its personal rebar.
“We had been utilizing 800,000 kilos of rebar a 12 months and to me that’s a variety of rebar, however to the native producer that wasn’t a lot,” he says. Deliveries had been usually delayed, and there have been fabrication errors, making it troublesome to stay on schedule.
The enterprise has gone so effectively that the rebar store has turn into a separate enterprise entity referred to as 4 C’s Rebar LLC that additionally sells to the general public. It’s additionally given Ken’s son, Devan, a chance to get in on a enterprise on the floor ground. Devan oversees the rebar store, together with serving as a challenge supervisor and as a climbing coach for Ok-Co.
Devan is amongst different kin Ken and Kellie have introduced on board at Ok-Co.
Ken’s oldest son, Jason Ellis, works as a discipline superintendent. And Kellie’s uncle, Ron Prescott, is the security director.
The Cooleys have now reached some extent the place they need to spend extra time with their eight grandchildren and need to the subsequent era to in the future take the reins.
However they’re not able to retire simply but, particularly not Ken.
“I like to be on the market,” he says of working within the discipline.
He’s been making an attempt to loosen the reins and go away day-to-day duties to the challenge managers.
“Regardless of Ken’s hands-on method, just lately he’s been capable of restrict the telephone calls within the evenings by delegating the development administration tasks to the challenge managers,” Kellie says, “and he’s been capable of flip free and depend on the expertise of the superintendents he has spent little bit of time coaching.”
It hasn’t been a straightforward transition, Ken says. “However you sort of should allow them to develop up.”