Published: October 2004
Colleen Hennessey | Connecticut Woman
If bigger is better, then 2004 is shaping up to be a stellar growth year for Antoinette Allocca’s company, Essential Data Corporation (EDC) a technical writing, documentation, and training services business based in Stamford. EDC has expanded exponentially within technical writing services from the recession. Despite the volatile economy, EDC is growing by leaps and bounds, and Allocca will be expanding her company nationally and ultimately internationally. The company currently employs 10 salespeople but will be adding 25 new salespeople by the end of 2005 who will occupy offices in locations across the country.
Over the years, competitors have fallen by the wayside. “There have been two major competitors in the past,” says Allocca. “They went out of business because they did not make the right decisions in the recessionary climate. Smaller competitors have also failed due to a lack of vision and financial resources.
In an economy that has been tough on high-tech companies, EDC has survived. “The recession has been good for EDC,” says Allocca. “It has given us time to reflect, plan and re-engineer for the future. We are ready to move forward in the boom times, and have time to prepare for the next recession, she continues. “The recession allowed us to diversify by geographical location and industry, “ she says.
In the Beginning
There are thousands of women-owned businesses out there. So, what distinguishes the wife and mother of four from other women entrepreneurs? After earning a degree in marketing, Allocca started her career by selling textile samples to dressmakers in Manhattan. After that, she worked in retail and insurance, then landed a sales position with a software company, where she quickly became a top sales producer, and later proved her managerial prowess by launching Vital Software’s technical writing division. It was at this time that Allocca became aware of an untapped market. When companies changed computer platforms or software programs, there are no instructional manuals to educate end-users on how to effectively and efficiently use the new technology. Upper management usually delegates the task of teaching end-users to the company’s programmers. This is a problem because most programmers are more “engineering types” than trainers or writers.
“Balancing work and family is not doing it all, it is having it all.”
Even before Allocca was promoted to Vice President of Marketing at Vital, she conceptualized a service that would make businesses more efficient and profitable. When a promotion excluded an increase in salary or bonuses, it was an easy decision for Allocca to “go it alone” in 1988.
In 1997, EDC was a $ 1 million company. By the next year, it was worth $10 million-a 1,900 percent increase in revenues! In 1999 revenues doubled to $20 million. The firm serves 200 Fortune 500 clients and “we project the company to be a $100 million within five years, “says Allocca.
Balancing a Family and Business
While at Vital Software, Allocca met Mark Greenspan, then a project manager for Paine Webber. The couple married and bought a home in Stamford. Mark, a lawyer and computer systems consultant, now serves as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.
As any working parent knows, the pressures of work and family life are many. When both parents are at the helm of a growing, prospering company, maintaining equilibrium is an even greater challenge. Although the family has a nanny, both parents are always involved in the children’s activities. Time is set aside to talk with their children and there is no shortage of hugs.
“Balancing work and family is not doing it all, it is having it all. Having it all is when you have achieved flexible office hours and have to help at home. You structure your company into a hierarchy and oversee the operations. You have the luxury of directing and delegating. This frees up your time to do those things which are most important in life, such as spending time with your husband and children, “Allocca says.
Formula for Success
“Forming a company is hard. It is not easy, and anyone who thinks it is will soon find out through their mistakes and mishaps. For example, because I place technical writers, I assume a great deal of risk and liability in my business. The writers I hire have to be highly qualified, efficient, and accurate. I only recruit the top one percent of technical writers in the industry, and will only hire them on a referral basis.
“Every company has challenges, successes, and failures. If you learn from your experiences, especially the failures, you and your company will grow beyond expectations.”
Allocca offers, “If you don’t change, you die. Change perpetuates growth. If you don’t grow, you die. Also, know that timing is everything. An entrepreneur needs to know what to do and when to do it to ensure the continuation and profitability of the business.”
Entrepreneur’s Prescription For Success
- Ask yourself: What business you are in? Does it have to be a cutting-edge business that satisfies a unique need for the market?
- Make sure there is a great demand for the products and/or services you provide.
- Know who your competitors are and how much market share they have.
- Continually measure profitability, taking into consideration all possible expenses.
- Know how to market your products or services effectively and efficiently.
- Have a vision; “think outside the box.”
- Expand or modify products and/or services in response to the demands of the market.
- Thoroughly know your businesses.
- Be passionate about what you do.
- Always meet and exceed the expectations of your clients/customers.
- Recognize threats and opportunities.
- Plan for and embrace change.
- Dream big.
- Take risks.
- Be persistent; never give up.
- Be resourceful.
- Be creative.
- Establish a unique corporate culture.
- Be able to identify talented people.
- Ensure that your employees are well trained and knowledgeable.
- Provide a relaxed yet professional a productive work environment.
- Empower your employees and provide them with good compensation.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes