FlagShooter’s Product Makes Placing Utility Flags Easier
GARRETSON, S.D. – In less than a decade, FlagShooter, Inc. has grown from a concept into a company that does business in 46 states.
Paul Carrette, the owner and CEO of FlagShooter, saw the need for a new tool in 2008 while watching a technician in his back yard locate and mark the path of a water line. Carrette figured there had to be a better way, and the success of FlagShooter, Inc. suggests that he was right.
Bob Bishop, FlagShooter’s marketing and sales manager, was the first employee hired by Carrette. Bishop joined the staff in 2010 to help develop the company’s namesake product: a handheld tool that inserts marking flags into the ground and also can be used to paint the surface of the ground.
The Flagshooter tool is light enough to be operated with one hand, which allows a technician to hold a receiver in the other hand to locate underground lines for marking. Client companies use the FlagShooter to mark the location of their water, electricity, gas or cable lines prior to construction so that companies or individuals who dig into the ground don’t damage lines and disrupt services.
FlagShooter, Inc.’s office and production operations are based in a building on Carrette’s farm near Garretson. The company now has seven full- and part-time employees.
2010 was a big year for the company. It developed 12 prototypes before settling on its initial model. It also began contacting utility companies and taking preorders for 2011. Sales grew steadily and jumped 100 percent from 2013 to 2014. But then sales slowed.
About that time, South Dakota Manufacturing & Technology Solutions helped by connecting the company with Richard Johnson, founder and CEO of 21st Century Marketing Systems Inc. Johnson and his Utah-based company work with MTS to help train businesses to sell products.
Johnson evaluated what Flagshooter, Inc. was doing – and some things it wasn’t doing – to help transition the company from product development to sales mode. For example, Johnson helped the company develop a positioning statement that presents in an impactful way who the company is and what it offers. The statement also outlines a central marketing message.
“He helped get us in a more consistent direction,” Bishop says. “It helped us improve our phone call conversion rate.”
Johnson does a lot of work for businesses as a vendor partnering with MTS, says Wes Kelly, center director at the office in Sioux Falls. “We want manufacturers to come to us whenever they have a problem. We’ll go out and find them a solution,” Kelly says. “We want to be a trusted source for them.”
MTS is among the state business-assistance offices affiliated with the South Dakota Small Business Development Center. In addition to connecting FlagShooter, Inc. with Johnson, MTS helped connect Bishop and Carrette with Lisa Te Slaa and the Precision Leadership Group, which provides productivity courses for businesses in the Sioux Falls area.
“It was very good training,” says Bishop, who had previously worked in sales but had no formal training in the field. Bishop credits Te Slaa, Johnson and the MTS for helping re-energize sales. For the first six months of 2016, sales were up 60 percent from the first half of 2015, Bishop says.
Midco, which provides internet and networking, cable TV, phone and other telecommunications services to homes and businesses in a three-state area, is among FlagShooter’s clients. The company locates thousands of miles of existing and planned infrastructure annually in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota.
Erin Hayes, Director of Corporate Construction for Midco in Sioux Falls, says technicians working in the field like using the FlagShooter. FlagShooter, Inc. also provides Midco with special flags that carry Midco’s logo.
Midco employees doing location work come across all sorts of weather and ground conditions, Hayes points out. “The FlagShooter shoots through ice, and the flags stand up well. The flags help ensure that our locate sites will remain visible, which helps protect our infrastructure,” she says.
“There are other tools on the market. But those who use the FlagShooter really enjoy using it and prefer not to use anything else,” Hayes says.
About the SBDC
For more information about the South Dakota SBDC and its affiliated offices see www.sdbusinesshelp.com.
The SBDC has regional offices in Aberdeen, Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Watertown and Yankton, and satellite offices in Brookings and Mitchell. Other programs in the SBDC network include South Dakota Manufacturing & Technology Solutions, South Dakota Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, South Dakota International Trade Center, Small Business Innovation Research programs and the Enterprise Institute. The SBDC network is an outreach program of the Beacom School of Business at the University of South Dakota.
The Small Business Development Center network is funded through the support of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Small Business Administration. Additional support comes from the Citi Foundation and Xcel Energy.