David Baron, CEO of Riverdale-based Safari Solutions, knows — rather than just believes — that his life as a tech entrepreneur has been a fulfilling journey.
The company he founded is projected to have its 2020 revenue in the $13 million to $15 million range, and he has built great relationships along the way. It wasn’t always like this, however. There were challenges in the beginning, and there continue to be challenges.
Baron explained his path: “When you’re small, the challenge is ‘How do I meet customers?’ Then, when you meet the customers, it’s ‘How do I keep them happy? How do we serve them the best way possible? How do we grow that?’ And then you start to have new challenges. ‘Well, I have employees now.’ And that brings on a whole new perspective, with understanding the differences between people, getting them motivated, being consistent. It just continues. As you grow, there are new things that are presented constantly.”
Early on, Baron’s business was a very small one, operating for a year prior to hiring its first employee. After a few years, the number had grown to roughly eight employees. “Being small, our unique value was always our service, that personal connection. That’s one of our core values today,” he said.
Building Client Relationships
“It really boiled down to trust. We built really good relationships with our clients. If we didn’t know an answer, we told them we didn’t know, we told them we’d find out for them, and that helped us grow. We never turned down opportunities to get better. I would say we’re still that way today; that’s still our core belief. We built a brand, and 20 years of excellent reputation has served us well.” According to Barron, a key challenge these days is how to educate the customers they’ve had for 10 or 20 years about what the company does now, in addition to its prior services.
For Safari Solutions, which now employs 23 people in Riverdale and has additional employees all over the United States, it all began with Baron selling telephone services. “Back in the early ‘90s, I was in the cellular business. It was a business-to-business telecom service that I was selling, so I sold for all the big providers,” he said. “We gave personal service — and I cold called a lot — and we sold to businesses only, which was kind of unique at the time. I was building my northern New Jersey business community relationship book of business. And as that industry changed, that’s how we continued to change with it.”
Slowly, over time, Baron added products from ancillary communications providers, and started to sell as an agent for carrier and data services for landlines. At that time, he was selling and servicing both cell and landlines services. This led to Safari’s keeping track of billing services and costs for its clients.
In 2002, Safari Solutions merged with a PBX system firm that sold phone systems, mostly Avaya, thereby enabling itself to provide a full-service telecommunications offering.
The company then entered the special and sporting-event market, starting another division, which has since grown into a national business that delivers technology to almost all the national golf tournaments. The sports business has been operating alongside the company’s traditional telecom business; and, as the world became data oriented and data driven (on the connectivity side and in the office environment), Baron and his team have also hopped into it, continuing to grow and add products.
Safari Solutions, according to Baron, was branded in 2017, when it started to get more involved in desktop and data networks. In 2018 the company started to offer more of a consulting approach, as well. “What we realized after all these years, and the experiences we had,” he said, was that the company’s “true value to the client — in addition to service because we’re very service oriented — was our knowledge, our experience, and our relationships. So, we made relationships with our clients, and at the same time we made relationships with all of these providers out there, and that brought the two worlds together. We’re like the trusted source to get the right answers from the right products to solve people’s technology problems.”
Baron’s advice to those who have a dream? “Don’t underestimate what it’s going to take,” he said. “When you start out, you’re optimistic, you’re bright eyed, you have this incredible energy and desire; and the toughest thing that everyone has to realize is that you have to maintain that. I mean, it’s constant. So, you really have to know going in that this isn’t something you’re [just] going to ‘do.’ It’s an incredible journey that doesn’t stop. It just doesn’t end. It’s good. Awesome.”