BGC Helps Easy2 Technologies Chart a Path to Higher Growth Case Studies
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Forty years ago, NASA landed men on the moon using computers less powerful than today's average laptop. With that in mind, President Bush's recent challenge to send human beings to Mars highlights the need for building bigger, better spaceships to get beyond past accomplishments and reach for higher goals.
This is the kind of situation that confronted John Bukovnik, whose company, Easy2 Technologies, "landed on the moon" almost before he had a chance to aim for the sky. Bukovnik piloted Easy2 Technologies through the boom-to-bust dot-com universe, rocketing it from Internet upstart to partner of one of the country's premier home improvement retailers in less than three years. The problem he faced in the spring of 2003 was an enviable one: how does a hot young company, winner of the CAKI (Cleveland Area Knowledge Industry) award for “Most Promising New IT Company,” manage its growth and soar to the next level?
With co-founder Paul Schutt, John Bukovnik started Easy2 Technologies in January 2000. "Initially, the idea was to produce home improvement content on our own Web site," said Bukovnik, "but we were finding it hard to start from scratch with that business model." Problems included low traffic to the site, high advertising expenses, and a sudden scarcity of venture capital as the stock market turned bearish. In less than a year, Bukovnik began producing home improvement tutorials and computerized demonstrations for other vendors to host on their sites, and his innovative products attracted interest. Within months, Bukovnik took the giant leap of signing Lowe's, a national home improvement retailer, as both a customer and a partner.
As a customer, Lowe's depends on Easy2 to create product demonstrations, tutorials, and buying guides, produced in MacroMedia Flash with full animation and interactivity, that shoppers can access through Lowe's Web site and in some stores. As a partner, Lowe's encourages vendors such as Moen and ClosetMaid to hire Easy2 Technologies to develop product-specific demos. With dozens of potential customers through Lowe's alone, Bukovnik knew his company needed a strong structure to support its growth. "We needed to make sure we were prepared for the next phase," he recalled. "Did we have the right people? Were we focused on the right things? Nothing was terribly wrong with the company, but we had to get our compass settings." In April 2003, he called on Andy Birol to help navigate the way.
THE BGC SOLUTION:
Andy examined the company from inside and out. "He visited our customers," said Bukovnik, "and spent a lot of time talking with people at our company to see how things got done and what their perceptions were." Impressed by Easy2's product line, Andy identified client services as the company's soft spot. A single executive had been managing both business development and client relations, but the company's quick growth was stretching him thin. Andy advised Bukovnik to put more emphasis on growing existing customers. "Andy showed us how to 'farm' our clients," he said. "Once we had a client, we needed to take care of it and grow it into a long-term, great client." Andy convinced Bukovnik to hire a director of client services, a new function devoted to the cultivation of loyal customers. "It was a huge shot in the arm for us," Bukovnik said.
Andy made suggestions in four other areas:
- Restructure the sales process to streamline approval of new projects. Because Easy2 sells both to Lowe's and to many national consumer brands that supply Lowe's, the ability to manage large, complex orders deftly is critical.
- Sell bundles of products and services. Although Easy2 excelled at providing technical and feature functionality, its customers wanted more information about how their buyers adapted and used the products. By focusing on the products from the user's perspective, Andy pointed out that Easy2 could identify related needs and design new solutions, increasing profits.
- Package and position Easy2 Technologies to capitalize on its existing partnership with Lowe's. Since the home improvement retail market has consolidated into two major players, Easy2 has enormous power to reach new customers. Whether the product is fertilizer, faucets, or finials, vendors can profit from demonstrating their products through Lowe's Web site. Andy helped Bukovnik reach out to new clients by packaging "standardized" product that can be easily customized.
- Establish processes and tracking mechanisms to handle increasingly more complex orders. Easy2 was extraordinarily caring and particular about completing products already in the hopper, but the old small-firm way of doing things wasn't capable of handling a lot of new business. Andy recommended new processes, systems, and scheduling tools to handle ten-fold increases in orders.
"Working with Andy," Bukovnik recalled, "there's never a dull moment. He's a bundle of energy. He's dynamic, he challenges you, and he pushes you. Most importantly, he makes you think."
According to John Bukovnik, all of Andy's strategies have been achieved or are in progress. Less than a year after hiring BGC, he credits Andy with making a "definite impact on the [company's] bottom line." Not only is Easy2 Technologies prepared for the next phase of growth--it's in it! "We had a great year," Bukovnik said, "with 75 percent growth over the year before." Furthermore, the company is on target to double sales in 2004, and Bukovnik feels confident in its trajectory. "Andy pointed us in the right direction," he noted.
With smaller competitors entering a growing market, Easy2 Technologies is no longer the hot young upstart. "We are one of the most advanced companies in our field," said Bukovnik, adding that Easy2 now has "the most formalized program, in terms of our client services and how sophisticated our products are among similar companies." For Andy Birol, the success of Easy2 Technologies is a point of both personal and regional pride. "It's been a joy to watch a tech company founded in the dot-com heyday mature into a high-end services provider to some of America's most respected companies," he said. "And to think it happened right here in Cleveland!"
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