News Column

Applied Data Consultants receives Eau Claire chamber's annual small business award

May 4, 2014

By Liam Marlaire, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.



May 04--Jim Ward had a difficult time suppressing a smile last week at a business he co-founded.

Landing a big account for Applied Data Consultants was not the reason for the grin, nor was a technological breakthrough by his staff. Ward had recently defeated a couple of his employees at table tennis in what were considered upsets.

Such is the culture at ADC, which measures success by production and meeting timelines as opposed to filling out time cards. What's important is that you get your weekly work done, whether that requires more or less than the traditional 40 hours.

"We try to create an environment where it's not work but a place where you are when you're not at home," said Ward, 44.

That sentiment is evident at the business, located in the Chippewa County town of Wheaton, just northwest of Eau Claire. The company provides Web technologies, software development services and geographic information systems across the nation.

The company recently earned the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce's Small Business of the Year award. ADC earned the recognition for businesses with more than 25 employees, while RB Scott Co. earned the honor among those with smaller payrolls.

The award came as a welcome surprise for Ward, president of ADC.

"You want your staff to be recognized and proud of who they work for," he said.

As far as company culture, ADC places an emphasis on charitable efforts. Table tennis tournaments are frequent, as are outdoor volleyball matches. The finishing touches are being put on a fitness room.

ADC is located on 5 acres that include a diamond for kickball and Wiffle ball. Ward envisions installing a golf hole, likely a par 3, in the not-too-distant future.

Winning ways

ADC is no stranger to recognition: The business earned the 2011 Chippewa County Business of the Year title from the Chippewa County Economic Development Corp.

"The unique nature of the company and diversity of products and services provides a distinctive position in the marketplace," Charlie Walker, president and CEO of CCEDC, said at the time.

Although the Great Recession took a toll, Ward said a leaner ADC emerged from the downturn. It currently has about 40 employees, including 32 at its headquarters. The business has personnel in Denver; Omaha, Neb.; and the Milwaukee, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., areas.

"We focused on the things we thought in the future would be profitable," he said.

ADC has realized 25 percent growth in the past year. Elite EXTRA (Extreme Tracking and Routing Application) was launched in 2010, and the online, real-time product that streamlines delivery systems has grown 60 percent in that time. The division now has more than 500 customers in the U.S. and Canada. It serves industries such as automotive parts delivery and courier services. ADC products are tweaked to serve the needs of individual clients.

"We're one of the few software companies that's a consulting company too," Ward said.

Partnerships with western Wisconsin companies such as Gold Cross Courier Service and IDEXX Laboratories have helped ADC fine-tune its products. The former has aided ADC in customizing its product to the courier industry, and Ward's company is developing software for the latter

ADC also has working relationships with nearly half of Wisconsin's 72 counties. A long list of testimonials on the company's website includes favorable remarks from officials in Barron, Chippewa, Eau Claire, Pepin and Rusk counties.

In the past few years, ADC has branched into Web design as well. Its clientele includes local businesses and nonprofits.

"I've liked the designs that they have come up with and have found them to be prompt, reliable and very easy to work with," said Linda Pophal of Strategic Communications, whose website was developed by ADC. "I also think their rates are very reasonable, especially since I can -- and do -- call on them often throughout the year with questions or requests."

Dave Strobel of Strobel Insurance shared that sentiment.

"ADC designed and hosts my website; they were great to work with and helped launch my business into the online world," he said. "They are very responsive and continue to help make changes to upgrade the site as well as help to make us a more visible presence on the Internet."

As a UW-Eau Claire graduate, Ward takes pride in the Chippewa Valley's growing role in the high-tech sector.

"We all compete for talent," he said. "You feel a kinship, but you also want to keep your superstars."

Next up for the business is to expand Elite EXTRA into the fleet telematics industry. The concept is to fine-tune a single product or service that can monitor vehicle location, movements, status and behavior. ADC already has lined up partnerships with communications giants such as AT&T and Verizon.

"The growth potential is huge," Ward said.

Marlaire can be reached at 715-833-9215, 800-236-7077 or liam.marlaire@ecpc.com.

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(c)2014 the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.)

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Source: Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, WI)