Southland firms among country’s fastest-growing
By Mike Nolan email@example.com September 28, 2012 4:28PM
Andy Crim, president of Carousel Checks in Bridgeview, stands next to pinball machines available for employees to play. The company was included in this year's Inc. magazine list of the 5,000 fastest-growing businesses. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media.
Inc. 5,000 List
Five Southland companies made Inc. magazine’s list this year, which ranks companies based on their revenue growth from 2008 through 2011:
◆ Carousel Checks, a check-printing company in Bridgeview — No. 595, revenue growth of 612 percent.
◆ R.W. Advertising, a Lemont-based direct response advertising agency specializing in infomercial production — No. 950, revenue growth of 339 percent.
◆ Intercon Solutions, a recycler of electronics in Chicago Heights — No. 3246, revenue growth of 62 percent.
◆ SPi Healthcare, a Tinley Park company that provides billing and other financial management services for health care providers — No. 3382, revenue growth of 57 percent.
◆ Intelligent Solutions, an information technology firm in Mokena — No. 4802, revenue growth of 12 percent.
Updated: November 1, 2012 6:02AM
An amusement park junkie, Andy Crim wondered why — in a world filled with checks bearing images of puppies and flowers — nobody ever bothered to print checks with roller coasters and other amusement park rides on them.
He decided to do it himself, and the idea promptly bombed.
But that seems to be one of the rare miscues for his Bridgeview company, Carousel Checks, which in a typical month ships out 80,000 boxes of custom-printed checks and anticipates revenue of more than $16 million this year.
It’s among the Southland firms that were included in this year’s list, compiled by Inc. magazine, of the nation’s 5,000 fastest-growing businesses. A health care billing company in Tinley Park, an information technology firm in Mokena, an electronics recycler in Chicago Heights and an advertising agency in Lemont are also among local companies on the list. The rankings are based on a company’s revenue growth from 2008 through 2011.
Of local companies on the list, Carousel placed the highest, at No. 595, with a three-year revenue growth of 612 percent. Carousel was founded in 2004, but Crim learned the check-printing business at Parker Machines, a Frankfort company that made machines that assembled books of checks and was started by his grandfather, Elmo Parker Crim.
“He hated the name Elmo,” his grandson said.
Today, Carousel, 8906 S. Harlem Ave., has 85 employees, including Crim’s father, wife and brother. Crim’s dog, Cinder, a 10-month-old Labrador mix, is also a fixture in the company’s offices. Crim is president and owner.
Crim said he strongly believes in fostering a fun work environment, including making pinball machines — Roller Coaster Tycoon among them — and a pool table available for employees’ use.
“If you make the work environment fun, people are going to do a good job,” the 43-year-old Midlothian resident said.
Apart from checks, Carousel produces other financial products, such as mortgage payment and car payment books. Crim said the company is on track to reach $30 million in sales next year, and within five years should hit $75 million.
“We’ve been really lucky,” he said.
Trying to repair a reputation
While Intercon Solutions’ inclusion on the list might suggest prosperous times for the Chicago Heights-based electronics recycler, the exact opposite is the case.
Allegations that Intercon shipped hazardous electronic waste to China and Hong Kong have decimated the business and scared off customers, said Brian Brundage, Intercon’s chief executive.
“We are in the middle of some hard times for our business,” he said.
Revenue is down about 70 percent, and Intercon had to close several recycling centers it operated in other states and has cut jobs at its Chicago Heights headquarters, 1001 Washington Ave., Brundage said.
Intercon claims that its own shipping documents support its claim the allegations are false, and in July filed a defamation lawsuit against Basel Action Network, a nonprofit organization based in Seattle that made the allegations, as well as its executive director, Jim Puckett. The network certifies businesses that provide electronics recycling under an “e-Stewards” program.
At the end of August, the network filed its own complaint against Intercon, alleging the company, by filing the defamation case, was attempting to “intimidate” it. The nonprofit has hired the high-powered law firm Winston & Strawn to press its case, and the matter is now before a federal judge in Chicago.
The network contends it has evidence Intercon sent the material, specifically cathode ray tubes containing leaded glass, overseas. Brundage said the claims are baseless.
“We don’t do that,” he insists.
At the time the allegations were raised, Intercon was the nation’s third-biggest electronics recycler, employing 100 people in Chicago Heights. That number has since been trimmed to 35.
Major customers, including government agencies such as the Department of Defense and Department of Energy, have taken their business elsewhere. Brundage said even if he is ultimately victorious in court, he’s concerned the damage cannot be undone.
“I am trying to do the best I can to repair my reputation,” he said.