Kent firm has big dreams for small companies

Technology isn’t just for Fortune 500 companies.

Kent resident Mike O’Brien

Technology isn’t just for Fortune 500 companies.

That’s the mantra of Kent resident Michael O’Brien, 23, and Auburn resident Jared Anardi, 28. It’s also the basis on which the two have founded their new consulting company, Praece Strategic Technology Consulting.

“We want to arm the small and medium business,” O’Brien said. “There’s no real barrier that keeps them from using the same technologies as these huge companies. It’s mostly just a mind-set barrier.”

Brothers-in-law O’Brien and Anardi have been interested in bringing technology to businesses for years, they said.

While attending Auburn High School, O’Brien even started his own company, called Pacific Applied Innovations, hiring out his technological expertise to the businesses of family friends. The Pacific Lutheran University graduate now also works at Redmond-based XKL, which produces hi-tech optical telecommunications systems.

Anardi also has had his hand in business technology for quite some time, working for two Microsoft partners — CIO Trust and Ascentium — installing Microsoft business applications. The Washington State University graduate now works full time for Praece.

The two said they first got the idea for the new consulting company working with a variety of large companies at their previous jobs.

“We would see all these technologies really benefiting big companies, but there are a lot of small- and medium-sized businesses that would really benefit from the same thing,” O’Brien said. “We want to give them that same strategic push.”

Several large consulting companies dominate the business technology market, they said, catering to Fortune 500 companies but often snubbing smaller businesses looking for similar solutions. That’s where Praece comes in.

O’Brien and Anardi plan to cater to area businesses with 20-100 employees — even so-called “mom-and-pop” shops — providing them with some of the same technologies used by large corporations.

They’ll start with what they call a “strategic technology audit,” meeting with people from each department — from secretaries to CEOs — to discover their needs and business goals. Then they’ll help implement systems that are designed to streamline information access, increase communication, bolster marketing potential and provide secure data storage.

“One of the main issues we come across a lot is a term called ‘siloed information,’ where employee John down the hall has access to a file but no one else does,” Anardi said. “We’ll equip companies with systems that basically throw all company files onto a network — an intranet — so they can be easily accessed by everybody in the building 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

He said another technology rarely used by smaller businesses is an automated customer-relationship management system, called a CRM. A CRM creates an information link between a company and its customers, collecting and computing valuable marketing information about customer needs and purchase habits.

He said these seemingly expensive systems have become much more attainable.

“The price of these systems have really come down, so they’re actually affordable for these smaller businesses,” Anardi said.

Praece also will utilize open-source programs to further decrease costs for smaller companies. O’Brien said some of those open-source programs are the same systems used by Fortune 500 companies.

“The fact that we can get that exact same software and deploy it for these smaller companies is really cool,” O’Brien said.

No one system will always work for every company, he said, so Praece will also customize systems to meet each company’s business goals. The company has contracted with six specialists — including programers and Web developers — to help them do so.

The Praece founders are in the process of beginning work with businesses in the construction and print industries, they said, and they’re busy meeting other potential clients. They say they’re confident that their young consulting company will continue to grow.

“Small and medium businesses drive the American economy, so we think there’s plenty of room to expand,” O’Brien said. “We’re definitely in this for the long haul.”

Learn more about Praece at www.praece.com or call 253-217-7129.

Contact Daniel Mooney at 253-437-6012 or dmooney@reporternewspapers.com.

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