Bennie Warshaw has built his Web company by focusing on two things: clients and control.
Warshaw, who founded WEBPRO International Inc. in 1994, declined offers of venture capital during the dot-com boom. The Savannah, Ga., native kept the company small and agile and maintained decision-making power.
Warshaw cites a 90% failure rate among venture-controlled dot-coms. "Money doesn't make it right," the 37-year-old says.
His strategy is proving wise. Despite the technology downturn, WEBPRO expects a banner 2002, after bringing in $1.8 million in revenue last year. Buoyed by a new information security system and a loyal list of clients, Warshaw predicts steady growth for his eight-person company off Sardis Road.
He plans to open a satellite office in Savannah and add three employees this year.
WEBPRO offers Web development to clients, as well as finding ways for those companies to increase their hits via online search engines. Other services include online security systems, network design and database integration. The company also helps clients move to the Web from older computer systems.
Among its strategies, WEBPRO works to understand a client's culture and business practices before beginning its technology work and design.
Warshaw's team crafted its Secure 2020 program over the past several years, well before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Now, with information security a top priority for clients, Warshaw finds high demand for the product. The Internet-based system allows corporations to monitor a network and offer users different levels of security access.
The company says it can get customers up and running on the system within 36 hours. WEBPRO can do that because it doesn't have to send an employee to the client's office to install Secure 2020. The program can be installed remotely by the technicians in Charlotte, making it possible to sign up customers across the country quickly and easily.
Matt Mazer, WEBPRO senior database administrator, developed the product, as well as new e-commerce modules WEBPRO will add during the next several weeks.
Warshaw views Secure 2020 as a key component of WEBPRO's future growth. The program allows clients to control their growing networks without adding staff, he says. "As the economics get a little tighter and the work force becomes more culled, any business is going to come up with smarter ways."
`Extension of our business'
Chip Pryor, national brand manager at client Pictorico USA Inc., says WEBPRO gave his company the personal attention lacking from larger, national competitors. Pryor hired WEBPRO in 1999, after a New York Web development company unexpectedly shut down his company's Web site for two weeks.
Pryor says he has since seen his company's online sales of specialized paper for ink jet printers rise by 50% to 75% per year. Pryor says WEBPRO runs the company's site more effectively than the other provider and also cares about his business success. "The personal relationship we have with them makes all the difference in the world."
Warshaw says he's personally involved with every customer. "Their business is an extension of our business," he says.
Warshaw keeps his clients' servers at the WEBPRO offices to maintain top security. "Co-location is really not an option for us."
John Amen, who edits the online literary journal ThePedestalMagazine.com, says WEBPRO offered his startup a good mix of talents -- from design sense to technical abilities. "I value their professionalism and have enjoyed their collective personality."
Finding a better way
Warsaw imbues the company with his own unique sense of style. He started the business in late 1994, after selling his first company, DOS Doctor Computer Labs in Savannah two years earlier. He moved to Charlotte for a job as a Microsoft Corp. consultant. Warsaw independently developed speech synthesis software for the blind in the mid-1980s and created medical systems at WEBPRO.
He started WEBPRO because he wanted to be his own boss and thought he could come up with a better way of providing online services to various companies.
During the economic downturn, Warshaw has worked to keep the company firmly in his control and provide a stable work environment for his clients. To date, the company has avoided layoffs.
Yet he's taking advantage of the slowing economy to cull a stack of high-quality resumes as he looks to add employees this year.
He's as choosy about his clients as he is about his employees. "Money is not the key with me," says Warshaw, who has turned down the likes of The Procter & Gamble Co. "It's the project and it's the people."