For a complete list of this year's SBC 50 businesses, see 'The SBC 50,' December 2001 SBC.
Location: Providence, R.I.
Principal: Steve Rosa
Business: Advertising firm
Tech: Uses intranet and extranet to communicate with clients and collaborate with contractors all across the world.
When Steve Rosa started Advertising Ventures 12 years ago, he was a 25-year-old kid who had worked in the advertising department of a high-tech company with several large, well-known agencies. He was appalled by the customer service at the big firms and eventually helped create an in-house agency to take care of his company's business. He remembered those lessons when he set up his own Providence, R.I. firm.
The key, he believed, was to stay small. Fewer employees meant fewer layers of approval, less overhead, and faster response. 'I had this vision of a small agency that would work with some of the largest companies in the world, but would be more responsive because we wouldn't have to keep all those people on staff,' he says. 'I'd have a core group of people doing great things, but when there was overflow, I would bring in these other people. They could be in London, California, wherever.'
Since 1997, the Internet has helped him in ways he couldn't have imagined. During the dot-com boom, Web-site coders were in huge demand, but Rosa was able to meet clients' deadlines and keep costs down by collaborating with freelance coders - in Estonia, for instance. 'They'd dial in to the network, just like they were in the office down the hall,' he says. 'We still work with these people on a daily basis. With the time difference, we'll send them something at the end of the day, and then when we come in the next day, it's there waiting for us.'
Right now the company has 20 core employees, with contractors constantly coming and going. His clients include CVS/Pharmacy, Fleet Bank, Hasbro, and many other large corporations. The company first started building its intranet and extranet in 1997. Since that time, it has had 457 percent growth.
The company now uses its intranet for meetings, file exchanges, conversations, schedules, and other communication. Previously, it took five meetings to get a project started, Rosa explains. Now it takes one virtual conference, virtual chat, or e-mail. Staff employees also have laptops and are connected to a wireless network - all on an IT budget of about $30,000 a year.
It's all about working smarter, faster, and more creatively. That's essential in a business like advertising. 'We're still tweaking it, still trying to make it better. At every management meeting we put technology on the agenda and try to figure out how to do it better,' Rosa says. 'Bigger, better clients ask you how many employees you have, but I show them the results of our work and prove to them that we can perform as well as larger companies.'