During the past three years, most businesses in BC have taken their lumps. Not Crusade Security. During that time, Crusade aggressively grew by 40 percent annually to become the Fraser Valley’s largest security company – and one of the top 10 in the province.
Started in 2005 by Seth Fruson, Crusade today has 150 employees, and offices in Vancouver and Abbotsford. And Fruson says that, in 2012, Crusade is positioned to grow by 100 percent.
“When I started the company, I thought I would have it made in the shade if we could do a million a year in revenue. We’ve dwarfed that number,” says Fruson, who began his crusade when he was only 22.
With 1,000 customers across Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, Crusade has two streams of business: security guard services and security systems to both residential and commercial customers.
What is Fruson’s secret to success? Undoubtedly, he is the key. As an individual he stands out – literally. He’s a big guy (6’1”, 230 pounds). His voice booms. He exudes confidence, a positive outlook, and loves to socialize. Everything about him is big except his age: he is only 29.
And, oh yes, there’s the wrestling.
“Wrestling was the backbone to me having the work ethic to build my business,” says Fruson, winner of the Canadian national title (light heavyweight category) in 2000.
Wrestling has also honed his winning attitude: “You’re competing through adversity, so you never consider yourself down and out. You learn to push through anything, even an injury.”
As a student at Douglas College for two years, Fruson balanced his studies with training twice a day, six times a week, plus travelling to tournaments throughout North America on weekends.
“It was horrendously challenging. So, when I finished school, everything was a breeze.”
He was 20 at the time. Like many young kids, he didn’t know what to do next. “But I knew I wanted to get out of wrestling. There were no financial incentives there.”
Financial success was important, especially since it hadn’t been part of his childhood. As early as grade five, Fruson had worked full-time in the summers on a flower-bulb farm in Abbotsford to earn his pocket money.
In 2002, Fruson landed a job as a security guard. Within three weeks the owner asked him to run the business – which he did for almost two years. Managing, he discovered, came naturally.
In 2005, Fruson started his own security business. Initially he simply hoped to get a modest contract that would support his return to school. But he surprised himself. He discovered that sales came naturally, too.
“I just started closing deals. One of the first stores I closed was Staples, then Trinity Western University and Joey Tomato’s Restaurant.”
The company’s growth was tremendous. So were the challenges.
“Growing my business for the first four years: that’s the hardest thing I’ve done, bar none!” How did he manage?
“You’ve got to be creative when you’re trying to figure out how to finance your business. For a long time I didn’t pay myself. You take small draws and you retain your earnings. Retain, retain, retain! And then, when your business can afford it, you start drawing wages.”
Fruson received some funds from the Business Development Bank of Canada. He also opted to turn over the accounts receivables as quickly as possible. “We billed more frequently: twice a month to help with cash flow.”
As well, his company asked first-time customers to prepay on their credit cards. “We still do that, and then we don’t have to worry about being paid at the end of the day.”
As noted earlier, Crusade didn’t lack business in the recession. But the company faced a different challenge: “Our customers extended us.”
A majority of Crusade’s customers stretched their payments beyond 30 days to 60, and sometimes even 90. Crusade was plunged into a cash-flow crisis.
In wrestling terms, the company might have been down for the three-count. But Fruson had the foresight to put in cash in the bank before the full force of the recession hit. As an added measure, his strong relationship with his principal bank, BMO, ensured Crusade weathered the storm.
“The reason we survived the recession was 100 percent thanks to our financial institution assisting us. During those tough months when our customers drew us out 60 to 90 days, we had to come up with a lot more money in a very short amount of time,” he said.
“They [BMO] were able to increase our line of credit by 50 percent to help us cope. That was huge for us.”
Fruson had done his homework. He’d brought in a consultant to help prepare the lending proposal for the bank. It was money well spent.
“Be prepared when you’re asking for money from the bank, so that you’re not just in a position where you say, ‘I need a 100 grand; give me 100 grand.’ If you put a formal presentation together with the right information they’re looking for, it’s a different game.”
He advises fostering a continuing good relationship with your bank. “You have to meet certain criteria, but some of the lending is discretionary. It comes down to the relationship you have with your banker and what they’re willing to do for you.
“As important as customers are, vendors are also important. The bank is a vendor to us.”