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Columbia Business Monthly

#6 - Innovative Vehicle Solutions International Inc.

Jan 03, 2019 12:34PM ● By Kathleen Maris
Year Founded: 2012
Founders: Lisa and Matt Kuhn
Headquarters location: Ladson
Number of other locations: 4
Number of employees (start): 5
Number of employees (present): 145

Innovative Vehicle Solutions launched in 2012 as a commercial truck body builder and upfitter. Since then, it has grown organically and through strategic acquisitions and alliances to five locations throughout the U.S. that are home to more than 140 employees. 

IVS’s headquarters in Ladson, just three miles from the Mercedes-Benz Vans plant specializes in commercial van and truck upfitting and houses our exceptional R&D team. 

Its other facilities — located in California, Louisiana, and Texas — not only upfit vehicles but also specialize in recreational vehicles, luxury van conversions, and ambulance/paratransit vehicles. IVS’s unique approach has led it to partner with some of Europe’s premiere body builders, such as the Libner Group, Hartmann, VFS, and Scattolini to offer lighter, more efficient solutions that are years ahead of the competition. 

IVS’s extended service network includes 18 locations in 12 states.

What are the keys to your company’s rapid growth?
Matt Kuhn (Chairman and CEO): We build the customer the product they want to buy.  Most of our competitors build and sell a set product line, whether it’s optimal for their customers’ needs or not. We are, by our nature, about customization and optimization. Everything we build solves a specific business problem for a specific customer.

What’s in store for your company?
Next year is looking exciting. Several products we’ve developed over the years are refined enough to start making a real splash in the marketplace. We’re building our refrigerated vans and tire service vans in quantity. We’ve also got interesting stuff in the works that will get IVS into the electric vehicle space, as well as the physical security sector.

What are your firm’s biggest challenges and how do you plan to overcome them?
Our biggest challenge has always been controlling the logistics of an ever-expanding company.  We’ve made huge strides towards perfecting our business processes, but our rapid growth keeps bringing new challenges to the table. We’ve added two new locations this year, each with its own unique challenges. The only solution is to work really hard and to never stop learning. When trying something new, we inevitably make some mistakes. As long as we never make the same mistake twice, things get easier every day until we expand again and take on a whole new set of challenges.

Do plan to add any employees in the coming year? If so, how many?
Yes, we’re planning to add as many as 100 new employees as we ramp up our existing projects and expand into new areas.  The sky’s the limit for us.

What trends and innovations do you see down the line for your industry?
The growth of last-mile delivery continues to drive our industry.  Consumers want not only products, but also services, delivered right to their doorstep.  We expect to see huge growth of home delivery of sensitive materials such as refrigerated goods and prescription drugs.  We also expect to see more service businesses traveling to their customers to perform work.

What word of advice, if any, has shaped your career and who gave it or where did you read it?
I learned from my former boss and mentor Jim Kennedy to always put integrity first. Nothing else matters without it. I try to do right by my customers, my vendors, my staff, and everyone else we do business with. Integrity has never failed to pay dividends.

How important is continued learning to your success and if so, what do you do to ensure that you are always learning about your industry, your company, and yourself?
Continued learning is absolutely crucial to this company. We’re all about innovation, and that means coming up with creative applications for the latest advances in technology. The best way we’ve found to keep learning is through networking. Our team keeps in touch with the best and brightest people we’ve met throughout our careers in a variety of fields. That way, we’re constantly in contact with people who are on the cutting edge of their respective areas of expertise.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started your professional career?
How to think like a banker.  Fundraising is the hardest part of my job because I think in terms of opportunity, but bankers think in terms of risk. We can’t do what we do without capital, so effectively communicating with the people who control the money is key.