ABC Computers Inc., started in Wisconsin in 1984, opened in South Bend about five years ago with staff working from home until the company grew large enough to buy a building on Mishawaka Avenue.
Tom Doran, who had known ABC owner Donovan Lane through industry associations and opened the local office, says the trend is toward larger organizations rather than single shops. ABC has four main offices and numerous satellite locations.
"There's been a lot of consolidation in our industry," Doran says. "There's increasing complexity. Businesses are demanding a higher level of expertise. It's hard for a two- or three-person shop to have the variety of skill sets and keep their skills current.
"Over the years, as these systems have grown and become more complicated, it's really not practical for a small firm to support a company's growing needs."
Microsoft, which has encouraged firms to merge or sell to increase customer service, has increased certification standards in the past two years to ensure quality, he says.
"Now you're not just 'Gold' -- you're gold for ERP (enterprise resource planning) servers or something very specific so customers get a better feel for what this means," Doran says. "We're gold-certified for servers, networking, workstations, licensing, also ERP."
The gold licensing certification, for example, means the firm is expert at helping customers navigate the complicated system of buying Microsoft licensing to meet the company's needs and achieve compliance in the most economical way.
"We help businesses with all their computer needs," Doran says. "That might be servers, workstations, networking. We have the Microsoft Dynamics ERP solutions, which is the accounting, manufacturing, inventory control."
The South Bend office, which has seven employees and expects to grow, serves companies with computer networking within about 40 miles, and it provides ERP solutions from Chicago to Ohio.
"If you're implementing a new system, we'll be on-site with you and your users five or six times for three or four days at a shot," Doran says. "After that it's pretty much remote. It's still a people business. People want to buy from people they trust."
Businesses recently have increased their investment to improve productivity and reduce costs, he says.
"I think that when things went badly, for a year or two people were kind of holding their breath to see how it was going to turn out," Doran says. "The folks that have managed to survive are choosing to invest in their systems."
--Tribune Business Weekly