#23: CEC Communications Engineering Company

62.9% growth

City: Hiawatha

Founded: 1946


1st time on the list


Founded in Cedar Rapids as a small radio repair shop in 1946, CEC got its start by offering two-way radio repair services.

Now, 67 years later, CEC is a nationally-recognized systems technology integrator that provides technical design, installation and service. The company still offers two-way communications solutions, but also partners with some of the top technology manufacturers in the world to offer fire/security, healthcare communications, audio/video and information technology solutions.

To make sure customers’ best interests are always at the forefront, the company established a customer advisory board in Iowa and Wisconsin. These two groups of customers meet to discuss ideas, evaluate CEC processes and offer feedback on everything from invoicing to communication preferences with CEC employees. The company then takes that information and uses it to make decisions about how to best serve customers.

The focus on customer service extends beyond CEC customers, to employees, as well. Each quarter, all 235 employees are given the chance to rate each department on courtesy, managing expectations and handling requests with urgency. They can also identify employees who deserve extra recognition. These anonymous surveys give employees the opportunity to provide feedback on internal customer service; management uses the information to recognize teams and individuals who exceed expectations (and to keep an eye on potential challenges arising within a department).

CEC also believes in investing in employees so they know how to provide appropriate customer service. An onboarding process for new hires outlines service expectations and why those are crucial to business. The company also created a Leadership Development Program focused on CEC as a business and culture, developing leadership skills and impacting positive change. Each year, eight to 12 employees from different CEC departments and geographic locations are identified for participation. The program is managed by a member of CEC’s executive team and an outside consultant who is an associate professor from Wartburg College in Waverly. It also recently received an Excellence in Business award from the National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA) for being a best-in-class business strategy.

CEC CEO Matt Dlouhy says growth has never been the company’s top priority.

“Our goal isn’t to grow. Our goal is to be the best at what we do,” he said. “We focus on doing the right thing for our customers and our staff. CEC employees are our best resource when it comes to finding ways to improve efficiencies. The result of these actions is growth.”

-Leah Grout Garris