Making Sure the Company Doesn’t Drop the Ball—or a Call

with Richard Miletic of ZK Celltest

Anyone who has ever experienced a dropped cellular connection understands what Sunnyvale, California-based ZK Celltest does. “You know that Verizon Wireless commercial in which a guy on a cell phone keeps repeating, ‘Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?’ We help prevent that from happening,” says Richard Miletic, president of ZK Celltest. Although ZK Celltest’s product lineup may sound complicated, its work is fairly simple: It makes the wireless testing equipment that it sells to all major US wireless providers, including Verizon and AT&T. “Engineers install our equipment in their vehicles, then drive around using it to simulate phone calls, testing the network,” Miletic says. “We capture that information, tagging it with a GPS location, so the engineers can conduct troubleshooting in real time or bring data back to the office, download it into a mapping program, and
determine why problems occurred where they did.”
Miletic says his company’s success can be attributed
to four key strategies shared here.

1.  Have a Dedicated Product

According to Miletic, small companies with large competitors must use a “guerilla-like” strategy as discussed in the book, Marketing Warfare. “If you’re the small kid on the block, you can’t dominate the market, so you have to differentiate yourself,” he says. To do so, ZK Celltest develops products that do only one thing: wireless testing. “Our competitors use general-purpose devices, like laptop computers, as front-end interfaces,” Miletic says. “We use a dedicated device. It’s a light, durable product with a small display. There are advantages to that: It’s a lot easier to walk or drive around with our device than it is to do so with a laptop.”

2. Use Independent Sales Reps

Most of its competitors have a direct sales force, but ZK Celltest uses independent sales reps. The benefit: “We can get more feet on the street, and we only pay sales reps when they sell something,” Miletic says. “As a result, they’re motivated to sell, and because we only pay them when we get paid, our cash flow works well.”

3. Make Technical Support a Priority

When it comes to technical support, it’s easy to compete with large companies, which generally offer myriad menu items and little access to an actual person, but ZK Celltest goes the extra mile. “People call us and we answer the phone; sometimes I even answer the phone,” Miletic says. “Likewise, e-mail goes not just to the support staff, but to our chief engineer, our product manager, and me. We make technical support a priority, and we get a lot of kudos for that.”

some of ZK Celltest's customers use motorcycles for drive tests because they can weave in and out of traffic. The company sells wireless-testing equipment to wireless providers such as Verizon and AT&T.

4. Be Innovative

According to Miletic, ZK Celltest is more innovative than its competitors. That’s not to say it doesn’t have some basic products; there are certain things any company in the industry must do, such as offer 4G testing capability. Beyond that, however, ZK Celltest carves out ways to do things differently—and that’s a direct result of Miletic’s philosophy. “Our main bottleneck is engineering development,” he says. “If I had the money to hire 20 more engineers, I would because I’d have more than enough projects to fill their plates—but, I don’t. So, we pay attention to where we put our engineering resources and we apply them to innovation. I’ve never looked at the competition to create development projects; my philosophy is, why develop something someone else has already developed? Once it gets to the marketplace, you can’t capture a high margin if the other guy has it too. So, we spend our resources finding something no one has developed. Then we can generate interest, create a buzz, and command the price [we] want.”

Though the company’s future outlook is very promising, Miletic says he’s happy where ZK Celltest is at the moment. “We have a great team of people and a nice atmosphere, so we like what we do,” he says. “We don’t need to grow leaps and bounds.”