StreamKey has adjusted to booms in the commercial construction industry.
By Alan Dorich
StreamKey’s employees focus on people, founder Mike Felton says. “They really do care about our customers and they care about each other,” he says. “They’re also proud of where they work.”
Based in Cincinnati, StreamKey represents 14 manufacturers of engineered water and wastewater products and systems. Felton explains that the history of the company goes back to 1992 when he met Bob Bickart, the owner of a representative agency in the plumbing industry.
Felton, who has an engineering degree and had technical sales experience, wanted to start his own company. When he learned that Bickart wanted to move his own firm, Bob Bickart Associates Inc., into engineered products and systems, he bought the company.
Under the name Bickart-Felton Associates Inc., the firm serviced the residential and commercial markets. “I also started a separate company called StreamKey in 2000,” Felton recalls, noting that the firm served the on-site wastewater treatment industry.
Felton combined both companies in 2007. Today, StreamKey serves distributors, contractors and engineers. “We provide a service that’s unique to each one of them,” he says.
StreamKey also offers technical expertise and background support, including training at its facility in Cincinnati. Clients can learn how to use their products in its 2,000-square-foot training room.
“That investment in the training facility has been well worth it [in terms of] how well it’s been received,” Felton reports. “We have a lot of customers asking to come in for training sessions on our products and systems.”
Now is a good time for StreamKey to be in business. “We have experienced annual growth of 15 percent over the last three years,” Felton says.
“We’ve certainly seen a good uptick in our market in Ohio and Kentucky in the commercial construction industry,” he says, noting that the company adjusted by adding more engineered products and systems. “Certainly bringing on more people has helped as well.” The company added another engineer and field technician within the past six months.
StreamKey also has adjusted to faster construction schedules. “A lot of what’s coming out of the ground in terms of building is coming out without too much in the way of completed plans or specifications,” he says.
This has required the company to provide more technical support to its contractors and engineers. “We’re working closely with them to make sure they’re keeping up with the project time schedules,” he says.
StreamKey accomplishes this by participating more in the early stages of the project to make sure its systems and products are given full design and technical support. This support occurs with both the engineers and contractors. But when it comes to delivering products and services, “We’re notifying our manufacturers ahead of time in terms of what to anticipate [with] expected delivery dates,” he adds.
StreamKey provides many benefits that help draw employees to the company, as well as promote retention. When the company finds a candidate that is a good fit, “We get them to see that if they come onboard with StreamKey, they’ll be challenged, recognized and satisfied with being a member of a growing company,” Felton says.
When they join, “We have a thorough onboarding process,” he continues, adding that fellow employees take turns during the first week having lunch with the new employees. In addition, they are partnered with company veterans who act as mentors.
StreamKey also thinks outside of the box when it comes to benefits. “Every five years, we give the employees a two-week sabbatical in addition to their regular personal time off,” he adds. “You can literally go away for two weeks and leave the job behind to recoup and rebuild.”
After 25 years of leading StreamKey, Felton credits his success to closely watching the company culture as well as strategic planning. “It is as critical to create the plan as it is to execute the plan,” he says.
“That makes a big difference: when someone can put it down on paper, review it and then execute the plan,” he says, noting that he also finds peer groups beneficial.
“For too many of my 25 years, I didn’t really have a sounding board for the many issues I faced as an owner. Except for my wife; who was often right,” he says. “Since I joined a peer group in the last four years, I found that to be very helpful.”
He plans for StreamKey to keep growing. Today, “We’re bringing on several more young people,” he says. “I see that we’re also going to continue to expand with more opportunities with our engineered water and wastewater systems.”