Erin was 10 years old when Jackie started the company. Her friends probably were walking the malls when she was going to zoning hearings and cell site inspections with her mother, and hanging out in the company’s offices, which were located in the compound of a cell site. Today, she serves as vice president and chief marketing officer. Someday, when her mother retires, Erin will take over the reins as CEO.
Erin wasn’t thinking about her mother’s business when she attended St. Mary’s College in South Bend, Indiana, earning a degree in political science and communications (which just happens to be her mother’s education). Upon graduating in 2010, she went to work for Horvath as business development manager. It was supposed to be a transitional job. But, nine years later, she would not think about leaving.
“When I went to college, it wasn’t my intent to come back and join the company,” Erin said. “I’m so happy that I am in the industry. I don’t plan on being anyplace else, ever.”
Initially, Erin did mostly sales work and business development, requiring a lot of travel and attendance at industry events. During that time, she developed many relationships in the industry — the types of bonds she began to cherish.
“The relationships are a big part of it,” she said. “Many people I have met since I began working for the company remember me from when I was 10 years old, and now we are colleagues. It goes to show the relationships that mom established in the industry and nurtured through the years. That is a big part of the success of the company.”
During that time, Erin focused on her clients, learning their needs and how to meet their expectations. After she had twins in 2014, her travel slowed, giving her an opportunity to dive into the operations side of the business, which provided additional valuable experience.
“The experience in development and operations was invaluable as I transitioned to a management role five years ago,” Erin said. “As I have grown in the company, I have taken on more management roles concerning operations, personnel and day-to-day decision-making — whatever it takes to get a site built.”
But she has never forgotten her relationships with Horvath’s clients. “I still spend a good deal of my time developing and nurturing client relationships,” she said. “I think that is very important. In a small company, we wear many different hats.”
Erin said one of her goals is to maintain those relationships by continuing Horvath Communications’ reputation for great customer service, and building a strong brand for the company. “Maintaining and growing the company. Making it better. That is definitely an on-going thought in my mind,” she said.
The mainstay of Horvath’s business has always been macro towers, but with onset of 5G, Jackie saw opportunities in the densification of cellular networks. Last year, she launched a neutral-host small cell and DAS division and hired 20-year telecom veteran Alex Novak to head up the new division, identifying and securing venues for neutral-host site development.
Erin appreciates her mother’s knowledge of the industry and willingness to head in new directions.
“The main challenge for every company is to remain competitive,” Erin said. “Mom has always been good at spotting trends. Beginning the neutral host division is a good example of our evolution to meet the new opportunities highlighted by the 5G rollout. It has been a total learning process for everyone in the company. It has forced us to grow.”
Operating a business demands more than expertise in industry trends. There are human resources issues to be dealt with. Horvath Communications employs a number of working mothers and maintains a culture that is friendly to their needs. Erin herself is a working mom with five-year-old twins and a two-year-old. The company strives to provide a positive work atmosphere.
Horvath Communications provides flexible work hours for the times when employees need to go their children’s school events. If the need arises, any day can be bring-your-child-to-work day.
“We try to be accommodating to young working moms, because we have some really awesome employees and we don’t want to lose their talent,” Erin said. “I am proud of the culture we have created. We work hard, and our clients are our priority, but we also have fun. Our employees are hard-working problem-solvers, engaging and committed, and we have a unique vibe — an energy — at our company.”
The relationship between Jackie and Erin is also unique. The wireless infrastructure industry has provided them a bond that goes beyond the mother-daughter relationship. They get on more like sisters.
“We love the industry,” Erin said. “Even when we are together during off-hours, we still talk business. I am almost a carbon copy of her. We get each other. It’s a special thing.”
Jackie doesn’t have specific plans to retire, but she will, at some point, hand over the company to her daughter. “She does a remarkable job,” Jackie said. “I am amazed each day at how well she is doing, not only on the development side, but with the operations, the construction, A&E and the financials. She can handle all of it. Growing up in the industry, she has viewed all aspects of it. She is very well versed in all of it. I’ve got nothing to worry about as far as moving on.”