As Joel Mann sees it, if you start at the absolute bottom there's no other way to go but up.
For a small business on a shoestring budget with no track record, no established customers, absolute bottom was the day he chose to open the doors.
Sept. 10, 2001.
The day before terrorist attacks changed the way America operates - and a huge wet blanket fell on U.S. commerce.
"It is incredible that starting in 2001 like we did, that we are still around, what with all the war on terror, the economy, the Internet scams, and everything," said Mr. Mann, 23, who is president of Mann Technologies Inc., in Millbury. His company builds, sells, fixes, and maintains computers for home users and small businesses.
But revenues keep improving, he said, thanks to more complex computer technology, and an explosion in spyware, Internet viruses, and other malicious software that create large headaches for computer users.
Mr. Mann's other piece of good fortune: working in Millbury, which is more convenient for computer users and businesses east of the Maumee River.
"When I was looking for a place to start my business, this area was pretty much lacking in computer services," said Mr. Mann, a graduate of Genoa Area High School.
East side businesses are glad.
"We've been using Joel since he started," said Denny Kruse, who is an accountant for Yackee Electric Services Inc., in Martin, which is in Ottawa County.
"Everybody needs a little guru, someone who get the gremlins off your back. That's Joel. He's local, he's personable, and you can depend on him to get the job done," Mr. Kruse said.
Mr. Mann said he built computers in high school and knew someday he'd have his own firm. He went to the University of Toledo - "for about 20 minutes."
On campus, he realized that he wanted to start a business, so he borrowed money from his parents, and later got a loan from a local bank.
As the computer industry has changed quickly, so has the focus of Mann Technologies.
"It seemed like the business plan was changing hourly. First we were selling new equipment and new software, then we were making money by selling parts, then it was outside service," Mr. Mann said. "Now, it's pretty much a mixture of it all."
But service and maintenance dominate the firm's revenues, with small business services at 60 percent of the firm's estimated revenues of $250,000.
Service to home users is 30 percent, parts and software sales 10 percent.
"We like to bill ourselves as a total [information technology] solution for small businesses because they need our services the most," Mr. Mann said.
"When a small business' computers are down, nowadays their whole business shuts down," he said.
The local firm began with Mr. Mann and his friend, Chris Mettie, but has added four technicians. Most hours are spent out on service calls.
There's room for financial growth, Mr. Mann said.
Microsoft is about to introduce a new operating system, which will change IT for businesses.
"It'll keep us busy," Mr. Mann said.
Contact Jon Chavez at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6128.
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