Jason, Christine, and Gabe are exceptionally gifted multimedia designers, who would be the first to admit that they are new to business; fortunately, they are extremely fast learners, observes Dianne Fuller Doherty, Director of MSBDCs Western Massachusetts Office. Doherty has counseled the partners during much of the two years that theyve been in business. In that role, she has critiqued their business plan, introduced them to their accountant, and helped them rethink their marketing strategy. Dianne is a fantastic listener. She has consistently generated wonderful ideas that have made a difference for us, explains Henriques, the firms artistic director.
Rethinking the firms marketing strategy was a case in point. Dianne helped us identify clients that made the most sense for us to target, notes Henriques. She also helped us to appreciate that we were anything but a small-town business. Our multimedia products, she emphasized, are competitive anywhere, world markets included. Doherty underscored the importance of establishing ongoing customer relationships that yield repeat business. That meant staying away from onetime jobs based on awards to the lowest bidder. Dianne, in fact, advised us to look for clients that might make bigger up-front investments; clients who were committed to doing the technology right, recalls Henriques.
Some of those clients, Merriam Webster and two collegesMt. Holyoke and Bay Pathwere Doherty referrals. The individual partners themselves brought others with them into the businessclients, notes Henriques, that have spawned subsequent waves of referrals. Weve even made some new client connections over the net, including work in France and Belgium, she adds. In all, the Gravity Switch client roster numbers over 75college professors at UMass and Mt. Holyoke, a museum in Arizona, large corporations, advertising agencies, publishers, video artists, and other multimedia designers.
All that rapid growth has raised a magnifying lens at the firms financial game plan. To propel further growth, the partners have been regularly reinvesting their cash flow into hardware and software that Henriques characterizes as high-end of middle-of-the-line equipment. To meet growing demand, the firm has just hired a full-time Web/CD ROM programmer. And, with advice from the firms accountant, Rick Kristek, Gravity Switch will soon legally incorporate, and perhaps take on another business partner/project manager. The firms business plan is a good in-house document, notes Doherty. Because of the partners talent and the growing market for their services, cash flow has been sufficient. We do, however, encourage them and all our clients to earmark expenses to cover their own roles in management and in Gravity Switchs case, in design and production as well. One way to safeguard those cost centers is to secure outside funding. That is an option that Christine and her partners understand. If and when they decide to spin their business plan toward external financing, the MSBDC Network will be there to help them grow.