Bits & Bytes

Tech entrepreneur works to change the look of her company and outlook of her clients

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Phara McLachlan (seated) looks to take information technology to the next level. (Source: Steven P. Widoff)

“People are now starting to realize it isn’t just about hardware, networks, doing something with a server, or showing someone an application. It’s more than that,” says Phara McLachlan. “And especially in this economy, people are realizing they need to have certain programs in place to help the business save money and keep track of things.”

As president, CEO, and founder of Animus Solutions Inc. (www.animussolutions.com), a Tampa, Florida-based management and information technology consulting firm, McLachlan, 32, says IT goes beyond setting up servers and computer networks.

McLachlan’s firm provides best practices consulting and implementation services to accomplish IT asset management, software license compliance, information technology infrastructure library-based IT security and services management goals for mid-size to large companies such as ATK Launch Systems, the $4.6 billion aerospace and defense company and Quest Diagnostics Inc., the $7.25 billion leader in diagnostic laboratory testing, information, and services.

New this year is office-managed services, where consultants, targeting smaller organizations, will have the capacity to manage outsourced tasks.

The firm was launched in July 2004, and began as a one-woman certified Minority Women Business Enterprise. It has quickly grown into a 10-person firm, steadily building its client roster and services; 2008 revenues were $650,000. And McLachlan anticipates finishing the year near $1 million because of its recent expansion of services. New this year is office-manage services, where consultants, targeting smaller organizations, will have the capacity to manage outsourced tasks.

The New York City native was introduced to technology and computers by her mother, who founded a Haitian newspaper. After graduating from high school in 1995, she spent the summer writing a program to keep track of the school’s alumni. “They still use it today.”

McLachlan, a 1999 graduate of the University of South Florida who was working as an IT consultant, decided to launch Animus in 2004. She used the bulk of the roughly $50,000 in startup funds (a combination of her own funds and revenues earned from contracting) to develop a Web presence, get certification in best practices-IT asset management, and purchase a virtual office. That first year, the company earned revenues of $300,000. The company grew over the next two years, but with its growth came a backlash.

Unfamiliar with the name Animus, clients still reached out directly to McLachlan because they were comfortable and satisfied with her work. Many would request her personally for jobs, which was only sustainable for so long as the company grew in clients, size, and function. McLachlan had to prove to longstanding clients she’d worked with as an independent contractor that the company and team were a qualified reflection of her.

“Our goal was to have our clients confident in Animus Solutions consultants, in their capabilities and experiences as leading experts in their respective fields,” she says. McLachlan immediately focused on providing her already skilled staff with additional training to reinforce Animus’ relevance and reliability.

For Animus, the extra step continues to pay off with referrals for new clients. Between 2007 and 2008, revenues grew by 34%. And earlier this year, Animus was recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Tampa Bay by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

“IT really does affect how well an organization is running,” says McLachlan. “IT affects people. IT affects location. IT affects the bottom line.”

This article originally appeared in the September 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.

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