On his side, Latimer asserts, “as long as I can see where and why the money is being spent, and how it’s saving me money, I’m all for it. But I’m not the type to just throw money at technology.”
PRIORITIZE THEN IMPLEMENT
When adding technology to your operations, be sure that it’s based on business priorities. Since Latimer’s most pressing concern was the ability to get a handle on the calls being made on his clients’ behalf, the first thing to be implemented was not a computer system but a fairly low-tech, telephone code system so that client calls can be tracked and recorded. “Before anyone makes a long-distance call for a client, they have to dial that client’s code,” explains Latimer. “It allows me to obtain an accurate, detailed report of all calls that were made and bill clients accordingly.” The same system was also implemented for faxes.
Now, he can charge his clients to the exact cent rather than manually compute phone billings for a particular client by adding each call on the phone bill or “guess-timating” their total phone costs. Some of Da Streetz’s clients are billed on a flat-rate basis. In the past, a low estimate, or unexpected volume of phone calls, would often mean that Latimer’s firm would have to assume those costs as part of its overhead rather than bill the client. The client code system helps him to make better projections for calls in his flat-rate fees.
James is currently working on a system that will aggregate all of Da Streetz billable expenses, including phone and fax bills, American Express charges and next-day air charges on a per-client basis. The reports will then be imported directly into an accounting system that will allow Latimer to run a profit/ loss program to see if any expenses were incurred that weren’t billed to the client.
BUILDING A NETWORK
The next step of adding more computers and creating an effective LAN was a high priority. His computers needed to be upgraded or replaced since Latimer wanted to have access from his terminal to files stored on any PC in the office. He also wanted to be able to allow or deny access to certain centralized files and applications based on employees’ needs. However, when it came time to invest in new hardware, Latimer was somewhat reluctant to let go of the four 486 PCs he had amass by the time he called KBL James.
He relented, however, once he realized the cost of upgrading to suitable performance would be nearly as costly as buying new Pentium-equipped fully loaded multimedia PCs. Latimer did manage to hold on to one of the 486s to which he added four Dell PCs for about $1,600 each, including monitor, CD-ROM drive and 16 megs of RAM. James then installed a network for interoffice e-mail, security, and file, application and printer sharing.
Even though Latimer is more technosavvy than many small business owners, he still has to be convinced that he needs certain things. James tried to persuade