Keeping Small Business Local

FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS, ILL | Friday, March 17, 2006

A solution provider's answer to an area small business' antiquated inventory system.

Toby Griggs, a Computer Renaissance franchisee in Fairview Heights, Ill., believes it's the personal touch that has made his franchise successful working with local small businesses.

"We're local and we're here when you want us -- and the small business wants people to take care of them," Griggs said.

That sentiment, combined with the solution provider's installation expertise, service offerings and competitive pricing, is what attracted Beth Smith, owner and operator of Belleville, Ill.-based Ben's Crafts and Florals, just a six-mile drive from Computer Renaissance.

With 25 employees at four locations, Smith was looking for a way to upgrade the technology infrastructure at her four shops -- Ben's Crafts and Florals, Ben's Outlet, The Gallery of Gifts and Framing and Thomas Kinkade of Belleville.

"Because we're a small business, we wanted to use a small business. Something more friendly, more service-oriented," Smith said.

Ben's Crafts and Florals, a 30-year-old business started by Smith's father, had an antiquated method of inventory-keeping that was still being monitored through the use of yellow legal pads and a yearly audit by outside contractors. So Smith began shopping for a POS solution to streamline inventory control and wirelessly connect her four downtown business locations.

"We have 30,000 square feet and our inventory was out of hand. We didn't have the control that we needed, so we looked at several POS systems," she said. "I started with Dell, but wasn't satisfied. I wanted more options than they had to offer. And I preferred somebody locally, with better cost and service." Smith recalled seeing Griggs' store in the neighborhood, so she went in and liked what she heard.

"She came in one Saturday and showed me Dell's quote," Griggs said. "Their quote included two hard drives on a mirrored RAID setup, single Pentium 4, a gigabit RAM." Griggs knew he could do better while also being geographically close enough to "VPN in and fix any glitch in about 15 minutes," he said.

In addition to Dell's proposal of a server chassis, Intel Pentium 4 2.8GHz processor and an 80-Gbyte hard drive, Computer Renaissance expanded on Dell's bid, building its own server from channel-available components and creating eight intricate POS workstations that include Antec cases, Intel motherboards, Acer LCD screens and Windows XP Professional. A Linksys Wireless Access Point and Linksys Directional Antenna connect Smith's other businesses in the downtown area. The solution also includes Microsoft Small Business Server Premium Edition and Microsoft's Retail Management Services. Although currently in the process of becoming RMS-certified, at the time of the project Griggs enlisted Microsoft Certified Partner Frank Foster to implement the RMS.

The project took approximately four months to complete in addition to a few unforeseen roadblocks due to the vintage architecture in downtown Belleville. "Our biggest challenge was wiring. The walls were made out of 2-feet-thick concrete ... they weren't thinking wireless 150 years ago," Griggs said.

What was Smith's opinion of the project? "It went great," she said. "They were there when they said they'd be, and they've even given me their personal cell phone numbers for service emergencies. Toby found a way to make a project of this size work." Smith's satisfaction grew when her profitability increased due to constant inventory updates and awareness of customer buying patterns.

Since the installation, there have been two service calls. One was to remedy a hard-drive failure and one was to fix a network misconnect. "The system wasn't working properly one morning so I called Computer Renaissance and they told me to shut down and start up again. That's all it took ... and it worked," Smith said.

Added Griggs: "Our goal is to take care of these people over the long term. Most people buy a service contract. We fix everything, and they never [have to] call again." Unless, of course, the customer isn't making a service call, but instead is shopping for another Computer Renaissance solution.

What began with Smith's need for more service-oriented options at the local level has become an ongoing relationship with Computer Renaissance. "We just contacted them again, actually," Smith said. "We added in a manager station for receiving, and they're in the process of setting up wireless within the store to help us get inventory counts to the computer a whole lot easier."

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Computer Renaissance
500 S. Florida Ave., #400
Lakeland, FL

Phone: (863)669-1155
Fax: (800)665-6324

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