What began as a love for hiking has turned into a profitable business for southern Scottsdale residents Dave and Kim McClintic.
After 25 years hiking and exploring the Grand Canyon, Dave and Kim took their love for the National Park one step further: They became search-and-rescue volunteers eight years ago.
“I love working with the people there, working with Park Service and just helping maintain the people that are there,” Dave said. “It’s a very dangerous place to hike, but most people don’t know that.”
A typical day for them as volunteers includes counting the number of hikers they see, asking them if they have a plan and offering advice.
“We’ll see as many as 500 people on the trail – and that’s not just the people on the trail; those are the people we actually make eye contact with,” Dave said, adding:
“People who don’t have a clue or don’t have a plan, we’ll either offer directions or direct them and say, ‘No, there really isn’t a bus stop at the bottom of the Grand Canyon,’” he said with a laugh. “That’s actually happened to me.”
Three years into volunteering, Dave noticed search-and-rescue teams didn’t have enough law enforcement-level two-way radios.
“This was when we were fairly new, and we went to the radio closet to check out our radios and there was one. The rest of them were all in a pile waiting for a repair,” he recalled.
He approached his boss at the time and asked, jokingly, “Can the volunteers pitch in and buy you guys some radios?”
Little did he know, each radio cost $5,000.
“I couldn’t believe it. I can’t believe how expensive these radios are,” Dave said. “And that started me looking into that as a potential business.”
As fate would have it, Dave stumbled upon an ad from a business broker advertising a two-way radio company called HQ98.
“As a business, it met all the criteria: It’s business-to-business – because that’s our primary focus is selling to other businesses, and churches and schools – and it was a mile and a half from my house, which was certainly a plus,” he said.
HQ98 was founded in 2011, but Dave purchased the business in 2014.
Since, he has turned the company into an over $1 million-a-year business, increasing sales by 20 percent each year over the past five years.
HQ98 has over 500 communication items available online, not including the P25 radios that search-and-rescue teams use.
They also offer the top names in wireless communication, like Kenwood and Motorola.
All products are handpicked by the staff, which includes Kim, their son Stewart and other family members.
“I do marketing and bookkeeping. Stewart does marketing and sales; He’s our primary sales guy. My sister-in-law does returns for customers and customer service,” Dave said. “It’s wonderful. We really all get along very well.”
Selling products online has its pros and cons, however.
With a small staff and competitive prices, “selling an average product of around $800 to $1,000 makes it possible for us to have a very slim payroll. We don’t need that many people to do it. It’s not like we’re selling a thousand widgets to make a thousand sales,” Dave said.
However, this also means their competitors include heavyweights Amazon and eBay.
“Because we’re more or less a national, we’re competing on a national basis,” Dave said. “There are more people out there just in it for the quick buck.”
What sets HQ98 apart from its competitors, however, are its customer service and loyal customer base.
“We offer full service,” Dave said. “And [our customers] know we’ll take care of them. Amazon not so much; Who do you call?”
HQ98’s customer base is broken down as 60 percent first-time customers and 40 percent returning.
Because the radios HQ98 sells are durable and average a five- to seven-year life span, customers aren’t necessarily returning to replace radios, but are returning to purchase accessories, like batteries and headsets – “things that do tend to wear out a little faster,” Dave said.
The HQ98 team is also ramping up their marketing efforts and taking steps to increase their online presence.
“What we have to do now is be very vigilant on how we’re placing on Google AdWords and what we’re showing up for,” Dave said.
With products priced similarly to those found on Amazon, Dave said HQ98 offers store discounts, too, like quantity discounts.
HQ98 sells primarily to other businesses, churches and schools across the country.
And over the past couple of years, Dave has sold an increasing number of radios specifically to schools and churches.
“Unfortunately, a lot of the churches are using them for protection,” he said. “I hate the fact that we’re selling radios to schools and churches because of the violence out there.”
Not all schools and churches are purchasing radios from HQ98 for safety, however.
Schools, including a Christian school in Wisconsin, are seeking digital radios that allow them to quickly and easily toggle back and forth between communicating one-on-one and talking to everybody at the school at once.
“If the teacher needs to talk to head office without bothering all the other teachers, they press a button,” Dave explained. “If, on the other hand, they need to talk to everybody at once – a fire drill or an emergency – again, the press of a button and everybody is alerted.”
Dave and Kim continue to volunteer with SAR and hike the Grand Canyon, but mostly on major holidays; They still have a business to run, after all.