Looking into the rearview mirror, what’s been your best IT investment?
The best IT investment we made over the years was hiring the right people for the right jobs. We began as a small company. As we grew, it became apparent that we needed more than hard work and good luck. We realized that unless we had systems controls, we could not grow to the level we wanted.
We needed the right equipment and the right people. We needed people who were experienced in hardware, software and inventory control, and accounting control.
Initially, when we were looking for people for the computer rental business, we had people who had book knowledge but who were not trained on systems. So we started hiring computer kids right out of college. Later, we found ourselves looking for college grads who also had three or four years in the lab, so they would have practical experience as well.
Because of the people we hired, we have been able to develop our own real-time inventory control system, which is the backbone of our business. In the rental business, you need a real-time system.
In hindsight, what would you say was your biggest IT mistake?
We did not embark on our in-house software program soon enough. [Another mistake was] how we built it. As a small-business owner, I had to wear many hats. And when you are thinly spread, you don’t put emphasis on everything you need to.
The biggest mistake we made was the manner in which we developed our All-In-One enterprise resource planning system (see story, here). We waited to hire programmers when we could have hired temps. We conserved cash, sure. But if I had to give someone else advice, it would be to hire programmers first. If you can’t afford to hire them full time, hire temps. We could have done that.
What is the best IT advice you’ve received?
FedEx is one of my favorite companies. The best advice I received was simply by watching the way FedEx placed emphasis on its IT department. If you look at FedEx’s growth and the customer satisfaction level, you’ll see that it comes from the ability to tell the customer where their package is at any time. You can send something by FedEx and be assured that the package will be there. Achieving customer satisfaction means having a solid inventory-tracking system in place. And it means having people who can upgrade your systems. FedEx was my inspiration.
If you want to make the best decisions, the facts need to be on your desk. These days, people don’t have an hour to wait. And once you give assurances in a service industry, you’d better be right. That’s the best advice I took from FedEx.
The best advice I would pass along is to emphasize training. We place a lot of emphasis on customer service. So, we do a lot of training. As a result, we have earned a very good name with our peers and have been recognized by the International Technology Rental Association as the best service company in the nation. Training is a big part of our business.