When food and facilities management giant Sodexo was looking for software to manage its inventory at 400 hospital gift shops, it turned to Bonita Springs-based DataWorks.
How did a small Florida company like DataWorks with 19 employees beat out giants such as SAP and Oracle on such a huge contract? “It was our ability to be agile and think on our feet,” says Mark Cecil, 53, DataWorks' president and CEO.
But press Cecil for an explanation of his company's edge and you get to the heart of the matter. To wit: The inventory management data he collects can be used to forecast sales. “It's really about forecasting analytics,” Cecil says. “That's what I'm selling.”
Fact is, DataWorks' software collects volumes of store-sales data that can be assimilated and analyzed in a central location. Cecil says when customers correlate this data with opinions of polled experts in the field, companies can build accurate forecasting models that look out six weeks to two months.
Peering into the future is what gives DataWorks its edge. “We eat, drink and dream this stuff,” Cecil says.
Cecil declines to share DataWorks' sales performance. But once it has connected the 400 hospital shops and inks another deal to provide inventory management software to university campus stores, Sodexo will account for half his business.
Besides Sodexo, Cecil says he's working with hotel colossus Marriott to bring the same system to the chain's shops. Already, DataWorks manages retail inventory for Ritz-Carlton, as well as theme parks, airports and zoos. His firm recently embarked on a project to revamp the merchandising of the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota as a donation.
The new projects are certainly welcome news after a few lean years when business dropped 30%. “We lost more customers during the recessions than in 27 years we were in business,” Cecil says.
Developers stopped building hotels during the recession, the industry to which DataWorks catered. “The more stars behind the name, the harder they were hit,”
But Cecil realized that health care would continue to post growth during the downturn and knew Sodexo executives were expanding from cafeteria services to retail stores in hospitals.
“They'd seen us at trade shows 10 years ago,” Cecil says.
What's more, the downturn allowed Cecil and his staff time to develop new software. He shelved, at least temporarily, plans to open offices in Europe and Asia.
Cecil and business partner Guy Ardizoni control the majority of the business and have no plans to sell the company. “I'm still having fun,” Cecil says.
A father of seven, Cecil says he doesn't have much time for his other passions such as sculpting and painting. But he says software development is similarly fulfilling. “It does satisfy our creative urge,” he says.