Andy Birol Coaches Integrated Precision Systems Through Years of Rapid Growth

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The primary challenge of any business owner is to grow his company to the next level. The primary challenge of a new business owner is to grow his company while learning how to be a business owner! And for owners like Jim Butkovic, President of Integrated Precision Systems, and his partner Greg Ponchak, there's simply no time for trial and error. In 1998, Butkovic and Ponchak started IPS as a friendly “spin off” of their former employer, a provider of security systems. With decades of combined experience in the security industry, the partners, along with their five employees, were ready to deliver high-level solutions, such as employee badging and identification cards, network-based access control, and digital closed-circuit camera surveillance to clients. As the millennium approached, the security industry was booming, driven by corporations, schools, bureaucrats, and others seeking to protect their systems, data, employees and customers. Yet, rapid sales proved a mixed blessing. Butkovic and Ponchak were so busy handling customers and designing solutions they had little time to act like owners. Business development, administrative functions, and marketing plans were placed on the back burners and left to simmer… but Jim Butkovic knew they would need attention before boiling over.

Located in Twinsburg, Ohio, Integrated Precision Systems ( was founded in 1998 as a spin-off of NewMarket Solutions, a provider of security products and services. Jim Butkovic and Greg Ponchak's vision for the new company was to implement “total” solutions by integrating new technologies with their clients' existing systems. To provide a seamless interface, Butkovic and Ponchak pursued partnerships with others in the industry and began installing advanced security solutions for clients in manufacturing, government, education, healthcare, and property management. The potential of this market—even before 9-11—is hard to overstate, as employers, school administrators, and government officials sought safety and confidentiality in an increasingly connected and unstable world. Yet, despite the firm's elite technologies and industry ties, by 1999 it was suffering growing pains. Sales were strong, but the company seemed to be running too fast just to keep up. Butkovic and Ponchak had not implemented reliable processes for things like staffing, compensation and sales coordination. For one thing, they'd had little experience managing a company, but even more importantly they lacked something else: time.

What Jim Butkovic did have, because of a previous working relationship, was Andy Birol's phone number. Andy remembers their meeting. “When the company split off and became IPS,” he said, “Jim and Greg faced a series of real staircase problems. As soon as they struggled their way up to the next step of growth, they didn't even have time to catch their breath before another step appeared.” The company grew so rapidly that “long-term” solutions quickly became obsolete. “We needed help,” Butkovic noted. “We knew we didn't know everything, and we couldn't let opportunities slip by.”

When first hired, Andy's initial task was to design a direct marketing plan. He began by analyzing the number of leads Jim's first company could handle, the number of employees needed to manage the leads, and the type of marketing that would be most effective. Said Butkovic, “He worked the details we didn't even know were there.” Within 10 weeks, the campaign surpassed expectations, pulling in new business and simplifying the company's process for finding customers.

Pleased with these results, Butkovic went on to hire Andy in 2001 and again in 2003, each time dealing with new business challenges. Now a confident administrator able to manage the immediate and long-term challenges of running a still rapidly growing company, Butkovic credits Andy with helping him in many areas, including:

  • Sales management and coordination.
  • Compensation, recruitment and evaluation of the sales force.
  • Maximizing revenues from customers through warranties, service plans and upgrades.
  • Balancing the tasks of finding new customers and deepening relationships with existing ones.
  • New product launches.

“He's been my sounding board,” said Butkovic, “for a lot of crucial decisions … The value of what Andy brings is that he is another professional, an owner who has so much experience and knowledge of companies.”

Jim Butkovic says he has benefited from working with BGC, despite being a bit unsteadied by the process. “When you work with Andy,” he said, laughing, “There's a kind of hurricane effect. Lots of things are brought up early on in the relationship, things you need to know. He has the uncanny ability to distill the complex down to the simple and practical.” Then, said Butkovic, it is up to the “heart of the owner” to choose how to proceed. “Some of what we did was easy, but some things were tremendously difficult, such as personnel changes … Some changes took a week and [we saw] results almost immediately. Others may take years to fully implement, but we already see the pay-off.”

Six months after first hiring BGC in 1998, Butkovic noted that more one-third of the company's business had come from Andy's direct marketing plan. In fact, he said, “We had to shut it down for awhile because there were so many leads coming in, we couldn't handle them all at once.” Since that time, Integrated Precision Systems has grown to 19 employees, and sales have increased a staggering 500% in just five years. The company's innovations include iSolve™, an online knowledge base of more than 12,000 pieces of technical support information, and the web-based EnterpriseID™, which allows users to design, create and purchase ID cards and supplies directly over the Internet. “When we face challenges like new product releases—something we recently went through with our Enterprise ID system—Andy is the go-to guy,” said Butkovic. “I can have extensive discussions with him about what will and won't work and we get the kinks out before launching the product.” Butkovic remains convinced of the value of business consulting. “We look forward to hiring Andy again,” he stated, adding, “Business owners need a professional to view the business from a different perspective and spot potential problems, and think long-term. When you get a new point of view,” he mused, “you never know what you'll see.”

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