We hope you’ll enjoy this story about the company, its people and how it all came to be.
Cost Control Associates was established in October 1991 when Keith Laake, founder and president, opened doors for business. Having recently been downsized from his job as chief financial officer at a retail company, Keith saw the chance to fulfill his dream of owning his own business.
“In the beginning, we offered one service: now called our Cost Recovery and Reduction program. I did an intensive review of a client’s utility invoices, looking for potential refunds, mischarges, errors and rate opportunities. Because the work is done on a contingency basis, the client doesn’t pay anything unless we find something. With that value proposition, I thought even an accountant like me ought to be able to sell it!”
Cost Control’s first client was the Tall Pines Motel in Lake George, New York. Our first government client was the nearby Town of Moreau where Keith learned that more facilities led to greater findings for cost savings. When the firm contracted with a large department store chain, it was time to find official office space, add employees and begin in-house training.
“We have developed a comprehensive training program over time, but experience is still the best teacher. Even though our employees review utility bills full time, it takes a couple of years to become really proficient. That is one of the reasons it makes sense for organizations to outsource—an in-house employee who isn’t doing this type of work all day long will never get to the level of experience we can offer.”
In 2003 Cost Control Associates acquired its current office building in Queensbury, New York. “It’s a great location. We are at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains, midway between Saratoga Springs and Lake George, both well-known resort areas. We are also about a three-hour drive to New York City, Boston or Montreal.”
Stories Along the Way
Several Cost Control Associates employees have been with the company since its early days. There was the time when business required the team to go to Scotland for a fortnight. “We were invited to visit a similar company there,” recalled Allison Levin, analysis team director and 16-year employee. “At the time, they were more automated than we were, so it was interesting to see how their systems worked and how their program offerings were structured. We saw a lot of Scotland, too, and got to sip some of its most famous exports.”
“Speaking of computer systems,” laughed Dave Sadlocha, senior vice president and 20-year employee. “I remember when our systems were so antiquated, you had to know the DOS computer language. As part of the employment process, Allison came in to take a test on our computer, and she had no idea what DOS was. That’s when we realized keeping up with technology is critical to running the business properly.”
Analysis of street lighting for municipalities requires Cost Control personnel to go to the location and physically inspect every street light, taking a detailed inventory of location, voltage and other details. “One time two of us went to Port Jervis, New York,” remembered Sharon Laake, field operations manager and 17-year employee. “It was shortly after September 11th, and we needed to check lighting near the town’s water treatment plant, an area that most municipalities had put under close watch. There were people walking their dogs there, so we didn’t think anything about going up the road with our equipment. After all, the city had hired us to do just that. The next thing we knew, there was a policeman questioning us. We were detained and taken to the police precinct! They eventually let us go, with apologies, and even escorted us to finish our work. It was an experience I’ll never forget!”
“This is the kind of work that really pulls a group together,” said Valerie Paquin, senior analyst and 17-year employee. “Most of us have gone through good times and tough times with the company. When the work requires it, we find strength in numbers and get it done. During leaner times, we did what was necessary to protect our jobs, our clients and the company. It’s the people who make this a great place to work, and I think our clients get a sense of that.”
25 Years of Achievement
Cost Control Associates is a small business doing business with Fortune 500 companies. “We are one of the largest companies of this sort in the U.S.,” said Keith. “We do work in all 50 states and Canada. Our size allows us to serve Walgreens with 8,000 locations, Norfolk Southern Railroad with 20,000 utility accounts, Bank of America with 13,000 utility accounts and many more. These clients trust us to do the job, because we have billing and rate expertise that other companies lack.”
Keith is proud to have achieved 25 years in business. “That we are here and thriving 25 years later is a huge accomplishment! I am grateful for our employees who have stuck with me through thick and thin. In today’s workforce, I think that kind of loyalty is rare.”
When asked what he wants clients and prospects to know about Cost Control Associates, Keith exclaims, “I want them to know we love them! We really do! It’s great to work with our clients, and they appreciate the work we do. They call us when they have a problem, and we solve it for them. If you’re reading this and are not a client, I invite you to join us, so we can love you, too!”