Cablefax The Magazine - July 2018 - 30

201 8 TOP OPS AWARDS
INDEPENDENT LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT
Tyrone Garrett
" We are basically entrepreneurs
at heart. We've done other
things through the years but the
cable industry has always been
our first love. "
Ty Garrett, president of Semo
Communications, is looking back
on the legacy he and his family
have created in the cable industry
at a particularly poignant
time. The company, which at one
time operated clusters around
the Midwest, was acquired
by Charter in December. The
transition to new ownership was
completed this June.
That means, as Garrett jokes, he'll now have the opportunity to find
out what he wants to do when he " grows up " for the first time in
his adult life. He began working part-time at Semo, founded in 1976
by his father, cable Pioneer Travis E. Garrett, while he was still in
high school and college. His tasks then mostly comprised knocking
on doors with sales and marketing calls. He went full-time upon
graduating in 1984 and has been an integral part of Semo's executive
team ever since.
The origins of the company are steeped in rural America. " We focused
on smaller rural communities, " he says. " The franchise wars
were going on at the time and most of the towns we ended up owning
in the early days, there was not a lot of attention to those towns,
but we felt like they needed to have the kind of services cable could
bring. "
An early jump on its franchises led to system build-outs and operations
of cable and communications systems primarily in Missouri
and parts of Kansas and Indiana. In the mid-'80s, prices reached a
point where the Garrett family thought it a good time to sell, which it
did for all businesses except the one around the family's home town
of Sikeston, MO.
" We kept a small cluster around our home base in Southwest Missouri
and expanded through the years, " he says. " We watched the
industry grow and evolve, and we expanded and transitioned over
the years from video to internet, phone and all the different possibilities
the cable industry has to offer. "
Jim Gleason, president/CEO of Vast Broadband and a neighbor of
Garrett's in Sikeston, was inspired by his colleague's work representing
smaller operators when he was a member of the NCTC
board, as well as his keen business sense and collaborative nature.
30
cablefaxmag.com
" Whether it be programming-related or technology, they've done a
really good job of recognizing when they needed to upgrade their
physical plant and launch new products, " Gleason says of Semo.
" For them being a small cable operator, they've always been a lot
more advanced than people in their same situation, and ran a really
good operation. "
At the time of the Charter bid, Semo counted 4,500-plus customers
in Missouri, the majority of them internet subs. The decision to sell
was part business, part personal, Garrett says. His father had retired
several years back, and as he and his brother considered next steps
for the company, a change in ownership, particularly to Charter,
made a lot of sense.
" We are a family-owned business... We were hoping we'd have
a succession plan where some of our family members wanted to
come along and take it to the next level, but they all had other callings, "
he says.
Additionally, the Semo-Charter relationship dated back to " before
Charter was Charter, " Garrett says. " They were pretty familiar with
us, and we interconnected so well with their existing network. It's
been a pretty seamless transition. "
Back to the Garrett family legacy, he says he learned many business
insights from his father but one stands above the rest. " The number
one thing is we always wanted to treat our customers the way we
wanted to be treated. In today's world, that gets a little lost, but
we've bent over backwards to give them the service we wanted
them to have even if it didn't necessarily make financial sense-we
always tried to go the extra mile. "
And when you focus on customers first, they take note. " We've had
a lot of people while the transition was going on who called in and
talked to our customer service representatives, and some of them
were crying that we weren't going to be their provider any more, "
Garrett says. " That made me feel like, 'Hey, we did the job we set
out to do.' " n
- Cathy Applefeld Olson
FAST FACTS
uTy's father, Cable Pioneer Travis E. Garrett, founded Semo
in 1976.
uSemo completed its sale to Charter Spectrum on December
1, 2017 and finished the transition period on June 15, 2018.
uAt the time of sale, Semo had 4,500 revenue generating units.
July 2018
Cablefax: The Magazine
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Cablefax The Magazine - July 2018

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