In 1993, Da Streetz Inc., An Urban Marketing and advertising firm, was a typical small business, using two stand-alone IBM-compatible PCs to handle all aspects of the operation, from accounting to contract management. That worked just fine for a two-person operation but as the company added more employees and computers, the need to develop a local area network (LAN) became inevitable.
“If someone needed to print a document, they had to save it on a disk and take it to the only computer that was connected to the printer,” says Da Streetz’s 29-year-old president Chris Latimer. “There would always be a line at the computer with the printer and we were losing a lot of productivity.” Today, the business has seven employees and eight computers, including two laptops, multimedia PCs, communications and mail servers and a router with ISDN access to the Internet.
Despite its state-of-the-art technology, the glitz and glamour of a high- tech office isn’t what strikes you when you enter Da Streetz headquarters in New York City’s SoHo district. In fact, the only tangible difference between this company and many other small businesses is that by aggressively incorporating technology into its operating procedures, Da Streetz is now wired for success.
Started in 1992, grosses about $700,000 per year, provides product planning, promotions, advertising and point-of-sale ads for Da Da sportswear and Tanqueray Gin. The company has also worked with Reebok, Helly Hansen sportswear, CCM sportswear and Merrill footwear.
Despite a healthy bottom line, Latimer realized by late ’93, tightening up the company’s record-keeping procedures could yield additional savings. He had been having trouble accurately tracking expenses Da Streetz had incurred from its accounts. The solution: Adapt the computer system to track expenses that could be billed back to the client. “I didn’t just want to get technology for technology’s sake, but I needed to solve a business problem,” Latimer explains.
“We plan events for our clients that often require heavy mailings, phone calls, and overnight deliveries, and I needed to be able to forward those costs to the client–or, at least, account for it in my rates.”
Early in 1994, Latimer enlisted the help of Darryl James, CEO of KBL James and Co., a computer systems consulting firm based in Manhattan. KBL James has helped such companies as Black Expo, Smith Barney and AT&T solve computing problems. Notes James: “Chris’ problem concerning billing clients effectively is common among small businesses.”
The first step was for James to interview each member of the Da Streetz staff to find out what their job entailed and their computer requirements. “I have to understand the workflow procedures and priorities of a company before I present a total solution,” he explains.
He then presented Latimer with a detailed report recommending and explaining the type of system that would be best for Da Streetz, including operating system and applications to be stored on the server for centralized access. “He’s [Latimer] the best kind of client,” says James, “because he automatically wants to see the cost justification behind the upgrade I