Tom Phillips never wanted to expand his business and become a millionaire. He’s happy owning and operating his “down home” family operation.
Phillips started one of Langley’s newer and more niche businesses, Phillips Enterprises. The company, which in August established an office in Langley Village after relocating from Bellevue, has carved a success story out of the particular field of grocery store design. The company handles every single aspect of the design process such as mapping out blueprints, designing 3-D models, product placement, equipment and hashing out minute decorative details. Being one of the few businesses of it’s kind, Phillips acknowledges there’s plenty of room for the company to expand. But that isn’t something he’s interested in, as he wants to continue the hands-on work that comes with the job.
“I’ve never been interested in losing touch by expanding the business,” Phillips said. “We want to be able to put our personal touch on all aspects of our work.”
The business has stayed within the family — strictly. Phillips Enterprises is composed of four people: Phillips, his wife and co-owner Cheryl Phillips and sons Dan and Tim Phillips. The company started in 2005 when Tom left the corporate world to start his own firm with his wife. As the work became too much for two to handle, he went to his sons with a job opportunity.
Each member of the family brings something to the table. Tom and Dan Phillips are the faces of the company and deal directly with customers and manage projects. Cheryl Phillips balances the books, while the youngest sibling Tim Phillips handles the tech side with designing and drafting. The Langley office is run by Whidbey residents Dan and and his brother Tim, while their parents chiefly work out of Leavenworth.
“It’s great because we all bring something different and form a team,” Tim Phillips said. “Sometimes we get close to killing each other, but it works. Having the ability to be candid with your colleagues is key.”
Despite the small team, the business’ good reputation has landed the Phillips family clients from Puget Sound to the other side of the world. The computer-centric nature of the company’s work allows it to handle clients from afar. Dan Phillips says they have clients from Kazakhstan, Paraguay, China and Haiti. In Washington, the company has designed the Uwajimaya Asian food markets in Seattle and Bellevue and Metropolitan Markets in Seattle, Tacoma and Kirkland. Other than the construction contractors Phillips Enterprises works with, the team of four do all the work, from top to bottom.
For Tom Phillips, keeping the company within the family circle comes down to keeping the Phillips personality on their work rather than minimizing the wage bill. The small staff isn’t a conscious business decision to maximize profits; he’s aware he could have larger annual profits if he wanted. It leads the company to be highly selective with potential projects, and the family would be content with only two large projects a year, Dan Phillips said.
They’re happy with the roughly $10 million a year in revenue, Tom Phillips said.
“We’re always busy considering we have a small team, so we never have to do any marketing,” Dan Phillips said. “In fact, we have to turn business away.”
However, the company is much less likely to turn away jobs on Whidbey. Tim Phillips said working on-island would be a no-brainer, and the company would love to be a part of Whidbey Island’s growth in the future. The company has already jumped on its first local job with supplying and designing the kitchen at Saltwater in Langley, which is slated to open this summer. For South Whidbey restaurants and grocery stores, the company’s new office brings convenience.
“For future equipment needs, we’ll definitely go to them because they were a pleasure to work with,” Prima Bistro owner Jenn Jurriaans said. “As far as kitchen and grocery store design goes, they’re clearly at the top of the game. Plus, it’s convenient they’re across the street.”