It may sound like mere background chatter to most people, but to Andrew Faulkner, “beep-boop-beep” ringing down a supermarket aisle or echoing through a lobby is music to the ears.
Faulkner is CEO of Staley Technologies, a mid-sized national purveyor of comprehensive technology solutions whose stock and trade are those chirping, blinking point-of-sale terminals, as well as many other services including cabling and fiber optics, digital signage, wi-fi, VOIP and security. Not to mention the installation, retrofitting and service expertise for all of the above, and for clients in the retail, banking, health care, hospitality and manufacturing spaces.
These five industries represent the major areas in which Staley Technologies has competed for market share since 2018 when Faulkner, who’d served as company attorney, bought the company. And they present massive opportunity for the Little Rock-based firm, which also operates offices in Northwest Arkansas, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Idaho, Atlanta and Los Angeles, employing 250.
“Staley Technologies has had a footprint in all five [market areas] to some degree,” Faulkner said. “When I took over in April of 2018, [Staley] was mainly a service organization that did a little bit of technology. I wanted it to be a technology provider that also provided outstanding service.”
The company’s roots go back 70 years as Staley Electric, an electrical contractor that would grow a rock-solid national reputation for expertise and customer service. In time, low voltage and some technology would be added to the mix but for the most part, the company hung its hat on connecting the technology, not leading with it.
Faulkner, a self-described recovering attorney who spent a decade as Staley’s in-house counsel, left the company in 2012 to buy and grow Advanced POS Solutions, specializing in point-of-sale technology and tools that were beginning to multiply in stores, restaurants and casinos. In 2018, the Staley family divested itself of the technology portion of the company to Faulkner, who merged it with Advanced POS Solutions, rebranded as Staley Technologies.
Faulkner said merging the two enterprises happened more quickly than expected overall, due to the companies operating in broadly concentric circles, though he admitted that getting everyone rowing together took some doing.
“The hardest part was, from an education standpoint, getting our sales teams and our project management teams educated on actually selling and being able to speak to the technology. Staley Technologies had not been in that position in the past,” he said. “Let’s say a large retailer with 1,600 locations across the U.S. had gone out and bought some type of self-checkout kiosk. In the past, Staley Technologies got a call from that customer saying, ‘We need you guys to come in and run the low voltage for us, install the kiosk and get it up and going and live. Can you do that?’
“We never had to have the capability to speak to the actual kiosk itself, differentiate technologies, talk return on investment, all that stuff. We just had to be able to deploy it. When I came in, I wanted to offer more turnkey solutions. I said, ‘Guys, we’re completing the full circle for our customers.’”
Once that education piece was in place, Staley Technologies quickly began to gain traction in all five of its target markets.
“After the merger happened, hospitality and retail really started growing the quickest, mainly because Advanced POS Solutions had its expertise in hospitality and retail. It was just natural therefore that those sectors started quickly,” Staley said. “Banking, manufacturing and health care took a little bit longer, but they have come along nicely.”
The company’s momentum got a dose of rocket fuel in the form of the COVID pandemic. Overnight, every customer segment was looking for technology to reduce face-to-face interactions, especially hospitality, where restaurants with no previous interest in offering takeout had to devise curbside options just to survive. Point-of-sale systems, beefed-up technology backbones for remote work setups and other tools that managed these operational pivots were in high demand, Staley Technologies’ among them.
“It’s been an interesting last couple of years,” said Faulkner, in the mother of all understatements. “I think one of our biggest challenges through all this was picking the right technologies to partner with. We’re not looking for Band-Aids, and I think there were a lot of Band-Aids during COVID in all of these different verticals, things that were very COVID-specific that ultimately would not be relevant technology once COVID subsided. We really did not want to have that as part of our stack.
“We could have easily picked up two or three different pieces of technology that were just COVID-specific and had our customers spend a ton of money with us just to throw it out after things subsided. That was not our goal. Our goal was to future-proof our customers in all these sectors long-term.”
Staley Technologies doubled down on its meticulous vetting of potential technology solutions and demanded more of existing partners in the way of improved functionality, reliability of software and stretching the lifespan of hardware.
“That’s been really important, because technology is so quick to change; we are inundated with vendors that want us to partner with them,” Faulkner said. “The last thing we want to do is take a flier on a new piece of technology that promises it’s going to be the next ‘best thing’, just to install it in a customer site and it fails. If it harms our customers, it’s not the next best thing as far as we’re concerned.”
Faulkner described Staley Technologies as, “a mid-sized player that’s aggressively growing,” and said the company’s target clientele offers the same corporate profile.
“Our target is the type of companies that have strategies for growth. They might only have five sites today, but they’ve got a strategy to get to 50 or 100,” he said. “Where we’re most valuable to our customers is getting in and really consulting with them around their technology at an early stage in their growth. That’s really our best situation.
“To do that, we’ve got to continue to be proactive for our customers. It’s easy to just sit back and do what you do and kind of pat yourself on the back. The biggest killer in our industry is complacency. We have a duty to our customers to go out and continue to look for that next piece of technology that’s going to be a huge help to our customer base. If we continue to do that, we will continue to grow and succeed. If we fail at that and become complacent, we won’t.”