Seven years ago Toby Rush started a business that equips companies with radio frequency identification, or RFID, technology.
Today, the president of Lenexa-based Rush Tracking Systems oversees a company that has 20 employees and revenues in the millions of dollars.
Rush also was the first graduate of the Kansas Pipeline entrepreneur grooming program to successfully complete the entrepreneurial life cycle: creating a business, growing it to the point where it is an attractive acquisition candidate and selling it.
He sold the company in 2009 to Nashville, Tenn.-based Pharos Capital Group, a private equity firm. The 36-year-old mechanical engineer expects to stay on as the company’s president for the next few years and try to grow the business some more. “I’ve signed up to finish this leg of the race, which I plan on doing,” he said this week. After graduating from Kansas State University, Rush began his career at Andersen Consulting. His work there, and later at BSI Consulting and SAT Corp., led him into the mobile and wireless technology industry, which introduced him to the then relatively young RFID technology. “That’s where I cut my teeth,” Rush said.
1. What prompted you to start Rush Tracking Systems?
“My personality. I’ve always ended up in leadership positions. I’ve always known I would start my own company. I’ve always had that bent. One thing that attracted me about RFID was its simplicity. It gives a voice and a name to the objects around us.”
2. What has the acquisition by and additional investment from Pharos meant for your company?
“It’s allowed us to stay in Kansas. It’s allowed the management team to focus on what we do (which is growing the company). I’ve got a great financial partner behind me.”
3. What did it mean to you personally to reach that milestone of actually being able to grow and sell a company that you started?
“In a lot of ways it was the American dream, if you will. I also look back and think, ‘Man, am I lucky.’ ”
4. What are some of the things in Toby Rush’s — not Rush Tracking Systems’ — five-year business plan?
“I would like to do another startup, probably software-oriented, mobile and wireless. . . . That’s probably a 10- to 15-year vision, not a five-year vision.”
5. If you had the benefit of hindsight, is there anything different that you would have done in terms of developing, growing and selling your company? Why or why not?
“One is the first time you do anything you’re just not efficient. We probably took twice as long (to grow) and probably spent about twice as much money as we should have.”