“When you work in your business, it is very hard to work on your business unless you have some good outside help. My involvement with the SBDC, and my planning sessions with them helped me look at my business from a strategic point of view, not just the day-to-day operation. I appreciate the support and guidance that the Marin SBDC extended to me, and I can say that results show that the SBDC does make a difference.”
Rick Barham established Market Rates Insight (MRI) in 1985 by to provide competitive rate information to financial institutions. MRI started as a one-person operation, but now employs 34 full-time employees in San Anselmo, California. Rate information, such as interest rates for loans and deposits, is very important to financial institutions because they directly impact business volume. In the early days of MRI, the competitive rate information was delivered to customers via direct-dial modem (very innovative for 1985) or by fax. Through the years this process was improved by leveraging the Internet, but the business model relied heavily on manual procedure and a fragmented product-delivery system.
In the early 2000’s, Barham felt that his growth rate was slipping, and that the competition was catching up with his early innovation and ideas. Barham noticed that potential clients were beginning to lean toward centralized or aggregated sources for information, and clients also wanted greater functionality and flexibility.
In 2005, Rick enrolled in an NxLeveL for Entrepreneurs course offered by the Marin SBDC in Marin County. The class helped Barham understand business planning, and gave him the confidence to step up to take on the development of a new strategic plan. Then Director of the Santa Rosa SBDC Lorraine DuVernay suggested that Barham counsel with a strategic planning specialist. The resulting strategic plan revealed that there were three areas where MRI needed to develop its competitive advantage: connectivity, interactivity, and speed. In addition, the strategic plan called for a three-stage development and implementation process: 1) market research and analysis; 2) product development; and 3) Web site development and implementation. Barham also contracted a web-development company to revamp his Web site, instructed his IT people to redesign some of MRI’s products, and began developing a new sales and marketing campaign.
Currently MRI is in stage three of implementing its strategic plan. The company is already experiencing a net gain of one FTE in sales capacity, and one PTE in a marketing capacity, an increase of 17.5 percent in revenues for FY 2006 over FY 2005, and an owner investment of $205,000 for product development and Web site redesign.