Adam Kimmet's career requires him to be a bit of a technology junkie. Cellular Plus, a Billings-based cellular phone retailer that Kimmet owns, recently opened its 31st store in a territory that stretches from Kalispell to Cheyenne, Wyo.
When asked how he stays connected, Kimmet pulled out a flip phone, which he uses for talking, and a Blackberry, which gets a lot of use texting.
Kimmet sat down with Billings Business recently to talk about where his business has taken him and where the cellular industry is headed.
Q: Driving on Main Street in the Heights, it's hard to miss your store. What inspired the black-and-red design?
A: When we started this business we usually leased space in strip malls. But around 2005 we made the decision that we need to develop stand-alone stores. We wanted a high-tech concept with a unique color scheme to help give us a brand. Jeff Winkler at Harrison Fagg and Associates Architects came up with the design, and our new stores have that look.
The cellular industry is constantly evolving. What are the biggest changes that you have seen in the past 10 years?
When we started, the carriers said they were OK with mom-and-pop stores. But today they want the larger operations with agents that know what they're doing. This business changes way too fast, especially on the Internet side of things.
In this business you see a lot of companies get big by buying existing businesses. We've seen a lot of that in places like South Dakota and California. But, I haven't been buying anybody. I've been building stores.
How will your industry change over the next 10 years?
There's been quite a bit of consolidation, and there's probably going to be more. The carriers have been pushing for market share. AT&T and Verizon are pushing to be the No. 1 carrier. Those two are almost identical in size. They each have about 75 million subscribers. Verizon is in the middle of purchasing Alltel, and I think it's really going to get down to three or four major carriers or maybe down to two or three.
Are you happy with the carrier you're working with?
I can't tell you how glad I am that I'm with Verizon. I had many opportunities to work for the other side, but I've always liked Verizon. They have put a lot of money into their network, and they keep coming up with new concepts.
What kinds of technological changes will we see over the next decade?
The biggest thing we perceive happening is high-speed Internet for cell phones. We have pretty decent speed now, but when we get our speed up to where the cable companies are, I would guess that in the major markets, everything will be wireless. Who knows when that would happen? It could be in 10 years, or it could be in four years. But at some point there will be no need for wires anymore.
Another thing you'll see more of is that you can subscribe to marketing on your cell phone. Let's say you have marketing on your phone. While you're driving down the street, it might say, "There's McDonald's just to the right and they have Big Macs on sale." When that happens, you may see cell phones that are close to free in that the marketing companies will be paying for the service.
Do you do a lot of texting?,/b>
When text messaging first came out, I said, "Why would I want to type something on my phone when you can talk to somebody?" But after having it for a while, I understood why. For me, I'm able to communicate with three different district managers at the same time. It's great because I can save the information for later.
Do you ever shut off the phone and the Blackberry so that people can't contact you?
I have to admit I'm very addicted. My wife is from Winifred, and they don't have cell phone service there, so I have no choice when we go there. But there have been times when I take a satellite phone with me to Winifred if I need to communicate with somebody.
Interviewed by Tom Howard
Photographed by Larry Mayer