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CALIFORNIA | LEARNING CURVE: Nadek Computer Systems
Inc.

Esprit de Corps. : Companies Find Growth Through Alliance

March 18, 1997

Richard Sudek's business--computer networking and support--is in a highly competitive field made up of many small businesses. Sudek found after more than a decade that collaborating with two of his competitors to form a separate entity has allowed all three companies to win bigger contracts and deliver better value to their customers. Sudek was interviewed by Karen E. Klein.

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There are at least 1,000 computer integrators in Orange County and Los Angeles--maybe more. The technology has become so diverse that no one vendor can be an expert in every area. Some companies concentrate on applications, some do local area networking, others might install accounting systems.

One client may be working with several different vendors, and they can end up pointing fingers at each other when something goes wrong.

In 1995, my company and two other firms collaborated to create what we call the Solutions Alliance Inc. We meet regularly for sales meetings, have cross-commission plans, do joint marketing and bid on contracts jointly, each concentrating on our own strengths. Nadek focuses on infrastructure design and support, American Digital Technologies focuses on client server development and Advanced Inter Systems focuses on document imaging and management.

Although we each maintain our separate firms, the Solutions Alliance allows us to go to a client and apply the expertise and staff of three firms with more than 100 people to their information systems. Also, the clients have a single point of accountability, and they can expect a seamless solution to their systems' needs.

Since we formed the Solutions Alliance, we have taken on projects that, singly, we would not have been able to approach and win. Also, when one of us has a large project, we have the ability to effectively borrow people across our organizations. That is one of the problems inherent in a small business, having to hire on people when there is a spike and then lay them off later. This way, we extend our resource base and can leverage personnel resources by borrowing people full or part time.

We have also found that we can approach trade shows jointly and do marketing that might have been too expensive before. Another thing that has really been helpful is the ability to share business expertise and discuss solutions to internal problems with two other owners and executive staffs.

I think some business owners are unwilling to open up enough to do what it takes to partner with other firms. You need to honestly share a vision, strategies, problems and financial information so you can operate as a whole. Many people may feel too threatened or uncomfortable to do that with competitors.

But I feel that by focusing on our core strength and allowing the two other companies to focus on theirs, we are able to provide good service for our clients. And in a service industry like ours, whatever is best for the client is best for us.

OTHER SMALL-BUSINESS COVERAGE, D9

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AT A GLANCE

President: Richard Sudek

Nature of business: Computer networking, consulting, installation and support

Location: Irvine

Founded: 1982

Employees: 35

Annual sales: $5 million

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