As the former chief executive officer of Hall & Partners, a multimillion-dollar agency for brand-and-communications research (acquired by Omnicom Group in 2003), Chris Hubble had a few tricks up his sleeve when he founded DB5, a market-research startup.
The firm, which works with brands and advertising agencies on market positioning and the effectiveness of various communications, celebrated its first birthday in November 2009 by welcoming just its fifth employee, but Hubble emphasizes the track record of the five: In addition to Hall & Partners, the CVs of DB5’s executives include experience at firms such as Yahoo!, Taylor Nelson Sofres, and Disney, and an impressive list of customers such as General Electric and Starbucks.
Experience can also supply valuable cautionary tales. Hubble recalls, for example, a technology-adoption approach at Hall & Partners that focused primarily on fighting fires and plugging holes. “We spent huge amounts on technology consulting [at Hall] and we weren’t really getting anything proactive or strategic,” he says. To add insult to injury, Hubble was signing huge checks for technology services he couldn’t verify, monthly $20,000 invoices that purported to cover 90 hours of work. “It was really hard to argue with them because it was time-based,” he says now.
But Hubble, in addition to having founded DB5, is also the company’s vice president of brand strategy, and what DB5 does for its clients, he must do for DB5—maintain a larger-than-life reputation. To that end, he made a priority of finding a technology partner that wouldn’t play he-said/she-said every month. “I went into [DB5] feeling, ‘I want technology that works as hard as we’ll work,’” he recalls. “I don’t want to have to work harder than technology.”
That’s why Hubble says he had InfoStreet already on board when DB5 launched. Hubble says he looked at two other solutions, and the deciding factor went beyond functionality. The other vendors, he says, kept calling—but only to offer deeper discounts. “InfoStreet was very much about customer support,” he says. “It was very much about setting up time with [its] account team to take me through the core functionality—much more ‘supportive’ than ‘sales-y.’”
This supportive relationship persists even now, Hubble says, citing 100 percent uptime aside from prescheduled downtimes during off hours. “It’s a compliment that [InfoStreet] can tell us exactly when [downtime] is,” he says, adding that, because the solution is on-demand, DB5 saves at least $20,000 annually on what technology maintenance would have cost. Moreover, InfoStreet assumes the responsibility of training new employees—a huge time savings, according to Hubble. “I could do it,” he notes, “but that’s time I could be doing revenue-generating work.”
The benefits are customer-facing, as well. “As a small business, there’s nothing more embarrassing, excruciating, or makes you look more amateurish than when [the client] emails you and they’re getting bouncebacks,” Hubble says. “The reliability of [InfoStreet] has helped us appear to be as professional as we are.” Hubble recalls past experiences with other providers in which email servers, for example, might go down and take hours to be restored—periods marked by client confusion and unanswered questions. Luckily, this is a fate DB5 has been spared. “Even one lost client due to lack of responsiveness or concern over our infrastructure,” he fears, “would cost DB5 upward of $50,000 per account.”
It certainly helped that InfoStreet provides all the necessary features at an affordable price. For just $170 per month, InfoStreet’s on-demand small-business solution StreetSmart manages DB5’s email, scheduling, maintenance, and data storage. Hubble estimates the price point has saved DB5 at least $10,000 on technology consulting and $8,500 on mail and storage servers.
In addition to the customer-facing applications, InfoStreet has also enabled DB5 to create an intranet that hosts each employee’s customized homepage featuring client-account information—particularly valuable considering all DB5 employees work remotely. For a nontechnology person, Hubble says creating a custom intranet would have cost upward of $100,000—and only after intense price negotiations. With InfoStreet, the intranet took only a few hours and now houses all of DB5’s corporate documents—policy manuals, healthcare information, retirement plans, and more.
Now that DB5’s connected internally, the next step is to increase client participation. Potentially, each client could have its own customized portal, provisioned with whatever level of access DB5 assigns. Right now, the accessibility is limited with various clients permitted restricted access. The challenge, Hubble says, isn’t in the technology or DB5’s vision. “I would like to use it as more of a collaborative tool with clients,” Hubble says, “but the issue [is] that not all clients are collaborative.”
By focusing exclusively on InfoStreet’s StreetSmart solution for small businesses, DB5 has:
- saved $10,000 annually on technology-consulting costs;
- saved $8,500 on estimated hardware costs;
- maintained 100 percent uptime and avoided the risk of losing what could amount to $50,000 per account;
- created a customized intranet for employees, saving $100,000 in alternative costs; and
- streamlined training time for employees.