In 2006, Christopher Smith, Founder and Owner of Likwid Communications Inc., was searching for a phone system for his previous business. He owned a production company that provided entertainment for weddings along with staging and lighting services. He wanted a high-end automated phone system, but was shocked when he discovered the price. This discovery is what ultimately led Smith to launch Likwid Communications.
"The systems I was looking at were $15,000," Smith said. "I couldn't afford that. After doing some additional research, I found an open source software that allows you to build your own phone system. I bought some phones from eBay and built my own phone system run off Linux. A friend of mine, that owns a hair salon, found out about it and asked if I could build him one. I ended up building him a $10,000 phone system for $2,000. He loved it and told all of his clients about it."
One thing led to another and Smith started getting calls from business owners interested in a phone system. Before he knew it, he was in the phone business. Then came a decision to add additional services.
"We were building these phone systems, but pointing the traffic to other people," Smith said. "That's when we decided to install a server as an additional revenue stream. Once the phone system traffic was being sent to our server, we built our own fiber optic network in town. We also eventually migrated our servers to our own data center. From the data center, we were able to provide Internet services."
Smith has grown the business through a combination of knocking on doors, utilizing social media marketing and word-of-mouth referrals. He recently became a licensed master electrician and added alarm systems to his already impressive list of products and services that includes, underground construction, fiber optic splicing and utility construction, along with Internet and phone service. The extensive list of services allows Smith and his team to not only provide services for residential customers, but also businesses and other telephone companies. Their versatility is what makes them so unique.
"We don't really have competition that competes on all the levels we do," Smith said. "We compete against Spectrum, Century Link, electricians and alarm installers, but no one can provide all the services we do. We even have heavy equipment to do big jobs that normal electricians can’t touch. For example, we can shoot a pipe under an existing building. The old fashioned way is to dig it up, cut it open and then cover it back up. Our way is much quicker.”
Looking ahead, Smith, who loves solving seemingly unsolvable problems, would like to expand out his alarm and security offerings across Florida. Most customers are located in Citrus County, however, Smith has done major jobs throughout Florida including the installation of a two mile ground ring in Mariana, FL and access control systems work for a county jail.
What advice does Smith have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Never give up," he said. "There will always be adversity. When you think you're at the end of your rope, something will come along. Some big job will come your way. There's always some way to make it work. Also, find good people that will stick with you. Lastly, establish good credit before starting your business. Having a small business will tax your credit. When times are bad, you might need to sacrifice personally to keep the business alive.”