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Business Observer Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 4 years ago

Business Shift

Successfully recognizing opportunities sometimes means shifting focus and letting some business go.
by: Jean Gruss Contributing Writer

Sometimes you have to let go of some business to get more and better business.

Consider Entech, an information technology company in Fort Myers. The company sold its residential computer-repair business in 2010 so it could focus on corporate accounts.

It wasn't easy because the recession was in full swing. Entech had built its business by driving to people's homes and fixing their personal computers. Jake Spanberger is blunt about those days: “2009 was our worst year,” says the president of the company.

Of the 23 employees that Entech had in 2008 and 2009, more than half were on the road fixing computers in residential homes even though that part of the business had shrunk to 20% of the firm's sales (Spanberger declines to share annual revenues).

But selling the residential computer repair business in 2010 turned out to be the right strategy for Entech. Executives created an efficient way to remotely manage corporate clients' computer systems with fewer people. The result is that the company is 13 times more profitable now than it was in 2009 with 18 employees, Spanberger says.

In 2001, Spanberger started working for his stepfather, Martin Haas, who founded the company at his home. “I was the No. 1 tech for three to four years,” he says. The company moved to its first office in August 2001. “We started taking over the house,” Spanberger chuckles.

At the time, the company was called Computer Tutor, even though most of its business was computer sales and repair, not teaching computer skills. The company changed its name to Entech in 2004 after running an ad on country radio promising a new Dell computer to anyone who could come up with a great name. The winning entry was Encompass Technology, which Spanberger shortened to Entech.

As Entech's residential computer repairs business grew, so did its business accounts. Some clients who needed help with personal computers also requested Entech's help with technology at work. By 2009, Entech had more corporate work and it was more profitable than the residential business.

That's when Spanberger decided to focus on business accounts exclusively, selling its residential computer-repair business to Alfa Networks in 2010. “We transformed our business,” he says.

Entech invested in systems that allow technicians to monitor and fix problems remotely. And it standardized all its processes so anyone on the staff can resolve issues, not just one or two people.

That's important because Entech is the outsourced information technology department for many of its clients, who can call as often as they need to for a single monthly fee. That monthly fee ranges from $300 to thousands of dollars depending on the complexity of their organization and number of users.

Further, Spanberger says Entech can help growing companies plan their technology strategies, much as a chief information officer might do at a large company. For example, if a customer plans to add another store, Entech can provide help with the expansion at no extra cost.

As part of that effort, Entech is developing its own cloud-based Web servers for clients who want this service starting in October or November. Many companies are choosing to move their data onto remote servers and only run applications in their offices.

Customers now include businesses such as Harley-Davidson dealer Scott Fischer Enterprises, Canterbury private school in Fort Myers and the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. “We are growing north and south,” Spanberger says, citing Naples, Punta Gorda and Naples. “We have the infrastructure.”

Follow Jean Gruss on Twitter @JeanGruss

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