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Growing for the Gold

SMBs balance growth with close attention to customers.

Spyder Active Sports, maker of popular skiwear, is a small company that has benefited from careful IT planning and large market exposure. However, many small businesses make the mistake of not investing in the IT functionality that will enable their companies to thrive. Still others make the investment in IT only to have systems fail.

 

Industry experts contend that the key for successful IT operations for small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) is to concentrate on how IT can help companies succeed against competitors. It is also important to understand that some required IT spending will not pay off immediately. In addition, it is critical to begin by defining the objectives for technology investment as part of a business strategy.

And while it can be tempting to put off investing in IT, SMBs that wait too long miss out on the productivity benefits of new systems. Open source and modular systems are better options than the older closed IT systems, because companies can start small and easily expand IT operations in the future.

Winter Olympics watchers saw skiers rocketing down Sestriere's slopes wearing what looked like Spider-Man costumes. Superheroes? Perhaps, but their ski outfits were made by Spyder Active Sports, located in Boulder, Colorado. Spyder outfits the U.S., Canadian, and Austrian Olympic ski teams and dresses serious skiers—and those who look better than they ski—from the skin out to jackets, ski pants, and accessories.

Spyder's designers know that not all of these people shop in small ski shops in resort towns. Leading sports equipment retailer Dick's Sporting Goods, for example, expects all of its vendors, no matter how small or specialized, to have electronic data interchange (EDI) capabilities in place. Olympic skiers Bode Miller and Tommy Moe wear Spyder gear, but "at the end of the day, you are dealing with the retailers," says Kevin Smith, Spyder's director of information systems. "Those are our customers. We're a relatively small company with relatively large market exposure."

The Competitive Edge

"When we implemented [Oracle's] JD Edwards six years ago, we were a [US]$15 million company in revenues. We're now a $100 million company," Smith says. "It was a conscious management decision to put in a good system that would enable us to grow. Management buy-in was there from the very beginning." That investment decision supported Spyder through a world-record revenue growth pace, helping the company move its products to shoppers at Dick's Sporting Goods, Sports Chalet, Federated Stores, and Marshall Field's, as well as giving its traditional specialty shop buyers even better service.

 

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