By Sheila Watson
Bintelli LLC is not your typical company. In fact, one could argue that the company’s owner likes to turn typical business notions on their head.
Take the corporate culture craze, for instance. At a time when a focus on culture is all the rage in the corporate world – including company websites, pre-employment questionnaires, and company meetings devoted to it – Bintelli’s president, Justin Jackrel, is already light-years beyond it.
“We’re all about productivity first around here,” he said. “Oh sure, we do some things, like closing up the office and going paint-balling. That’s a culture kind of thing. But we’re not a culture-driven company. We’re focused on being productive and profitable first. Because if you’re not making sure you’re profitable, whatever your culture is won’t matter for long.”
Bintelli manufacturing gas scooters for 15 years in Gainesville, Fla., until Jackrel scooted his company and his out-of-the-box philosophy into Charleston in 2015. He said the move to Charleston was based primarily on the need to expand.
“We needed to grow, and Gainesville is a college town,” he said. “There were no large buildings, and we couldn’t grow.”
He wanted to move to a port city and looked at Tampa, Charleston, and Savannah.
“Charleston has the most efficient port in the country,” he said. “That’s what won us over. Well, plus you can’t beat the southern hospitality.”
He went from a 15,000-square-foot building in Florida to a 60,000-square-foot facility in West Ashley that houses its headquarters, along with a warehouse, production lines, research and development, and a sales office. It took 23 semis to move his inventory.
“Last year we were getting settled,” he said. “Now we have our feet underneath us.”
Half of his staff made the move up with him, and he has hired several more people in the two years since the relocation. He’s now looking to move again, but not far.
“I’m looking for seven to 10 acres to build a facility about a 100 to 200 thousand square feet,” he said, “but I want to stay in Charleston County. They have done a phenomenal job helping us, and it’s important that we stay here.”
He said he’s narrowed down to Johns Island, Ravenel, Hollywood, or North Charleston.
In addition to the Bintelli Scooters, Adly Scotters, and citEcar Electric Vehicles, the company offers a variety of customizable electric vehicles, including electric shuttles, electric and street-legal golf carts, low-speed vehicles and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compatible shuttles, plus all the parts and accessories for its line.
When he introduced his latest lines – electric bicycles and electric ATVs – the couple hundred he had in stock sold out in one day.
Hence the need for some serious expansion and additional staff.
At the end of last year, he had nine employees. He has 14 now and is hiring two more this month. By year’s end he’ll hire several more. Staffing is another area where Jackrel’s thinking is a bit unorthodox.
“I used to hire skills-based,” he said. “But then I realized a few years ago that everything we do here, I can train someone to do. We can train to do the paperwork, to sell, to put together every part of the vehicles. So we shifted to hiring good people no matter what their experience has been.”
Case in point: he hired a man who worked at McDonalds because he saw potential in the man.
“This guy had never worked anywhere else,” he said. “He probably thought he would be doing nothing but flipping burgers, but now he’s here doing something productive. It’s really good to see people grow into their capabilities.”
The company’s wild ride of success so far – 20 to 30 percent growth year-over-year and sales doubling in the last three years – landed them on the Inc. 5000 list, coming in at number 2807 and the only powersports company on the list.
All this, and the company has yet to market its products.
“It’s all word of mouth. They come to us,” Jackrel said. “We don’t want to start advertising and then run out of products too quickly. Having customers interested and us not able to deliver would be a bad move. So we’re focused on growing smartly and increasing efficiency first.”
One of his “growing smartly” ideas took the form of a cruise to the Bahamas in January. He took his entire staff (who were allowed to bring a “plus-one”) and all the dealership executives – 61 people in all – on a five-day cruise out of Charleston.
“First we did a product unveiling of our new lines,” he said. “Then we went to the port, got on the ship, and spent three hours per day training.”
The entire trip became a networking event, with dealerships sharing tips and ideas for selling the products. After the cruise, Jackrel began to host a coffee talk (an online/phone meeting) every few weeks for the dealers, where they share ideas. Jackrel was pleased to note that rather than competing, they have been bonding.
Which is not unexpected, given the philosophy they’re working under.
“We don’t look at the dealers or customers that way – as dealers or customers,” he said. “They’re family to us.”
He related the story of a dealer who called one day and mentioned a problem he had selling dirt bikes. Bintelli is not in the dirt bike business, but Jackrel offered advice anyway, which ended up helping the dealer’s sales.
“He told me it seems that we care more about their success than we do about our own, and that’s probably true,” he said. “But it’s also good business. If they succeed, we succeed.”