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LEO SMITH

jeTECH Data Systems Is Award Finalist

June 30, 1998|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Entrepreneurs, Camarillo businessman Michael Edell says, must have a desire to be better, faster and smarter than others in their field. They must take an aggressive approach and have a drive to succeed.

But to be a successful entrepreneur, he said, requires at least one additional attribute.

"You have to make money at it," he said. "That's the part that took me a little longer."

Success may have taken awhile, but it did arrive for Edell. The founder, president and chief executive of jeTECH Data Systems has seen his 15-year-old, privately held software firm increase sales by 100% each of the past two years. Sales for 1998 already have topped those of 1997, Edell said.

His success has not gone unnoticed. The company recently was named a finalist in the technology category of Ernst & Young's 11th Annual Greater Los Angeles Entrepreneur of the Year Award Program.

Although jeTECH did not win the award, handed out last week at a Beverly Hills ceremony, the company was among the top finishers from a pool of about 100 companies vying for honors in nine categories.

"Our organization and what we've done is as entrepreneurial as you can get," Edell said.

"We were a pipsqueak among these companies," he said. "We are a very aggressive organization, and because we are smaller is the reason we got to be a finalist. When you're a $100-million company, yeah, you'll have an entrepreneurial spirit, but not many of those companies still have the founder with them."

The 130-employee jeTECH develops labor-management products--software designed to manage employee information, including production and labor records. Clients include midsize and large corporations, such as Armstrong World Industries and Corning.

The company recently added Southwest Airlines to its customer list. Airline officials Monday announced plans to use jeTECH's automated Enterprise Labor system to manage time and attendance records for about 16,000 employees.

Edell said it has taken years for companies such as Southwest to recognize the value of high-tech labor management. But, as illustrated by the recent success of the company, they have begun to catch on.

"There are companies out there that have thousands and thousands and thousands of employees and they are all still punching mechanical clocks, believe it or not--we go to companies that are so high tech, but these people are still punching clocks," Edell said.

"Now it's becoming a foregone conclusion that companies have to automate, but the market didn't kick in right away," he said. "I think it's gotten to the point where in a lot of companies, Mary Payroll is retiring. She's been doing payroll for 25 or 30 years. She runs it for 5,000 people and nobody else has a clue how everybody gets paid, and when she retires the payroll knowledge goes right down the toilet."

Other finalists of the entrepreneur awards program included Big Dog Holdings of Santa Barbara, the Assn. of Black Women Entrepreneurs of Los Angeles, Scheid Vineyards of Marina del Rey and DataDirect Networks of Chatsworth.

"The judges look for revenue growth. They tend to like to see profitable operations," said Jim Peters, a partner with Ernst & Young and co-director of the awards program. "They also like to see companies that are good citizens, that take good care of their employees, that have good growth and good employment."

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