Seventhman Blog

  1. The virtual office: A growing number of workers are setting up ‘offices’ wherever they want

    October 6, 2008 Jacksonville Business Journal

    The past decade has seen a quantum leap in the ways businesses are able to operate, especially as technology has advanced to a point that allows freedom from traditional brick-and-mortar offices. More companies and individuals are opting to work from a virtual office.

    “It’s a natural evolution,” said Cynthia Encinosa, managing member of A Virtual Office Service in Jacksonville, which receives mail and faxes, answers telephones and provides other functions to give people working outside the traditional office the needed services and a more professional appearance.

    “All my clients are owner/operators of small- to medium-sized companies,” Encinosa said. “They don’t find it necessary to make their overhead heavy with a physical location.”

    Instead, with developments of faster, wireless Web, more capable computers and a changing management mindset, workers are opting to hammer away at home or work wherever.

    William Cook, owner of William Cook Appraisal Service in Jacksonville, is one such person. “It reduces cost and I still have the effect of having an office,” Cook said. “When you call the business line, they have a person on the other end instead of voice mail and you reach me anytime, anywhere. I have been pleased with it. ”

    A Virtual Office Service’s 149 business clients range from local attorneys and doctors to international companies that do business in the U.S. The company’s annual revenue has more than doubled over the past decade.

    “Traffic is [a big factor]; a lot more are working from their homes,” Encinosa said. “Also, they don’t want to invest in infrastructure and they don’t want the overhead.”

    From broadband to BlackBerrys, technology and tools now allow people to work and stay in constant contact with clients and colleagues, even when they’re miles apart.

    According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 15 percent of all nonagricultural workers did some work at home as part of their primary job in May 2004, the most recent statistics available. Of those, about one-third were self-employed, and one in four had a formal arrangement with their employer. One-third were in management or professional occupations.

    The department did not have earlier statistics, but a recent survey indicates the virtual office is on the rise, especially since high gas prices entered the equation. In 2008, a record number of companies in the U.S. allowed employees to work from home, according to a new survey from WorldatWork, a human resources association based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

    Forty-two percent of U.S. companies surveyed said they offered teleworking programs to employees this year, compared with only 30 percent last year.

    “Rising gas prices, leading-edge technology and the push for work-life flexibility have all come together in the past 12 months to create a pretty dramatic increase in telework across the U.S.” said Anne Ruddy, president of WorldatWork.

    It’s easy to point to examples of businesses in Northeast Florida going without the trappings of traditional office space.

    “I could write a book on virtual offices,” said Shaleen Shah, president of Seventhman. The Jacksonville-based Web design and software development firm started in a traditional building, but began allowing its staff and developers to work remotely three years ago.

    “Things worked well and with the increasing amounts of bandwidth and technology, it’s easy to work in a virtual environment,” Shah said. “My wife and I are traveling around the world and I am able to work from wherever I am. A little while ago, I was in London working just as if I were here.”

    Seventhman is 100 percent virtual and 100 percent paperless thanks to technology and tools such as voice over Internet protocol, project management suites, video conferencing and Earth Class Mail, a service that receives and scans snail mail and then delivers it electronically.

    In fact, working from a virtual office has been so successful, Shah is now building a new virtual office venture, CityTalent.com, an online marketplace that uses proprietary software such as project and time management and billing to link more than 1,500 developers, graphic designers and programmers from around the world with corporate clients.

    Dave Kollasch, founder and CEO of greenerbilling LLC, a software-as-a-service firm that provides a platform for business invoicing, estimating and time tracking, said he’s found no difference working with a virtual firm such as Seventhman versus a company in a fixed office. Seventhman built a Web-based software program for greenerbilling.

    “Everything that I need to communicate to Seventhman, regardless of where in the world we are, can be done through an electronic connection,” Kollasch said during a drive to Orlando. He and his wife like to travel, and Kollasch works from the road when they are out of town.

    “Being virtual allows not having set hours. There is a freedom of mobility. I can travel and still not miss work or deadlines. Case in point: We’re driving down the highway using our wireless card to access e-mail and respond to your questions. All of this saves both of us time.”

    - Dolly Penland
    Jacksonville Business Journal

  2. Selling in cyberspace helps local businesses survive

    October 29, 2007 Jacksonville Business Journal

    JACKSONVILLE — Small businesses are becoming increasingly interested in selling their products online, with many moving to cyberspace stores.

    E-commerce can allow businesses to expand their markets and better serve existing customers, said Robert Myers, area program director with the Small Business Development Center at the University of North Florida. The growing familiarity with the Internet means businesses are looking for more than just a company Web site.

    Installing a standard e-commerce option to a Web site costs about $1,500, according to Seventhman, a Web design and development company in Orange Park.

    Adding an e-commerce option to your business, however, costs more than just the initial startup, said Joe Lemire, co-founder and chief innovator at eLYK innovation inc., a Jacksonville Web design and development firm. “If you spend X amount of time on e-commerce, you’ll need to spend twice that to generate traffic.”

    Marketing methods include advertising using blog networks, banner ads and targeted e-mail campaigns. Search engine optimization, which increases the likelihood of businesses coming up in online searches, is another tool. Letting traditional customers know about the online store also is essential, Lemire said.

    Those extras can spur growth for a business. In some cases, e-commerce can ensure a business’ survival.

    Barbara Nailler said her St. Augustine book store would be bankrupt if it hadn’t started selling online. About 30 percent of Wolf’s Head Books Inc.’s sales are made online. The online option means sales from all over the world, but it also requires constantly updating the Web site.

    Not sending orders promptly or displaying books that are no longer available causes poor customer reviews. “We need to have someone looking at our computer every day, or we need to pull everything online and then put everything back online,” Nailler said.

    Before entering the e-commerce area, small-business owners must consider whether their products are suited for the online market. This is especially pertinent if they are starting off and don’t have a “bricks and mortar” customer base, said Shaleen Shah, president and CEO of Seventhman.

    E-commerce is likely a good fit for any company that can sell products or services over a long distance, he said. Companies that target a two-mile to 10-mile radius should take a critical look at e-commerce.

    Shah said e-commerce can work for businesses that traditionally wouldn’t see an opportunity there. For instance, Seventh Wonder Day Spa is selling gift certificates all over the country for buyers who want to treat their Jacksonville friends.

    - Mark Szakonyi
    Jacksonville Business Journal

  3. See and be seen

    October 5, 2007 Jacksonville Business Journal

    Businesses large and small can improve their bottom line by improving their Web searchability

    There are an estimated 1.17 billion people regularly using the Internet nowadays, according to the research Web site, InternetWorldStats.com. That means small businesses really can sell their wares locally and globally — if potential customers find their Web sites.

    If you build it and they don’t come, your Web site just isn’t doing its job.

    “There are millions and millions of little Web sites that are very nice looking, but compare it to a beautiful billboard,” said Chris Patterson, CEO of information technology/Web site development firm InterChanges.com. “If it’s in the middle of the woods, it’s not doing any good. You need to take that billboard out of the woods.”

    An effective Web site, with good content, will only attract and retain customers if it ranks high on search engines such as Google, Yahoo or MSN, thus making search engine optimization a key part of any Internet marketing strategy.

    One strategy is to pay for a higher ranking. However, a good IT company or in-house staff guru also can use organic search engine optimization methods.

    “Internet marketing has evolved quite a bit from just 2003, particularly search engines,” said Shaleen Shah, president of Seventhman, an Orange Park-based software and Web site development company.

    “There used to be a time when businesses would add metadata, key words and things like that, that helped them get ranked on search engines,” Shah said. “Whereas now, search engines have evolved so much, it’s almost an art to [know what it takes to] be ranked well. This is especially true when you want to get ranking for high-frequency key words.”

    That was the case with The Waterhouse Group and its high-frequency key words, such as the words “sales” and “training.”

    “I have been involved with the Internet since it was a top-secret military tool,” said Steve Waterhouse, president of the sales and training consulting firm. Waterhouse isn’t kidding — he’s a former Raytheon Co. design engineer who worked on the Patriot missile. “We started early using the Internet as a business tool back in 1991 or 1992.”

    Waterhouse’s company, also based in Orange Park, enjoyed high search-engine rankings all that time until about three years ago when it slipped. That’s when he contacted Seventhman.

    “They got us from, I think it was [being ranked] in the 20s, and in a matter of weeks, we were at No. 1,” Waterhouse said. “We have sat at No. 1 since then.” That means when the keywords “sales” and “training” are queried on Google, The Waterhouse Group pops up at or near the top.

    The Waterhouse Group was getting about 15 to 20 unique visitors a day, but is now getting more than 100 each day. “I get all the leads I need just by being No. 1,” Waterhouse said. “My business does just fine simply from the Internet [-generated] business.”

    Useful content that is updated regularly is key to attracting customers, Internet marketers said. “You want to have the right information for people doing their due diligence on products or services,” Patterson said.

    Useful content also improves a site’s ranking on the search engines. “Google really values content. So, you can please Google and position the products or services at the same time,” Patterson said.

    “I would put that around 20 percent to 25 percent,” Shah said. “How fresh the content is also makes an impact, 5 percent to 10 percent. A tremendous amount is created with link-building with other Web sites.”

    The criteria for Web site rankings are complicated and in constant flux. So when hiring a company to give a site a boost, it’s important to look for current experience and good results. The big search engines have spent years refining algorithms to prevent artificially inflated rankings. Officials with those companies frown on attempts to game the system.

    “Google has penalties if they do some ‘black-hat’ approach to search engine optimization,” Shah said. “These search engines, when they find these tactics, [Web sites are] penalized.” Those penalties might even include being banned from ever being highly ranked.

    InterChanges.com helped egg-incubation equipment manufacturer NatureForm Hatchery Systems strengthen its Internet presence not only by updating the look of the company’s site, but also raising its rank among the search engines. Steve Warren, vice president of NatureForm, said traffic on its old Web site was “spotty.”

    “We definitely weren’t pulling internationally from it and it just wasn’t a very impressive site from an image standpoint,” Warren said. Now, “We’re getting a couple thousand hits every month.”

    New business opportunities generated from NatureForm’s Web site increased 44 percent within the first 180 days after InterChanges.com’s work. The number of unique visitors grew 57.56 percent in the first 12 months.

    Warren said NatureForm nearly doubled its sales volume in 2006 over 2005 and that sales will be up 40 percent in 2007.

    “It doesn’t matter whether they’re selling real estate or auto insurance or chicken incubators. If you sell nationally or internationally, you definitely need to make sure you have a strong Internet strategy,” Patterson said. “It’s not just big national companies. It’s also for local small businesses looking to increase leads and improve customer service or credibility.”

    This is particularly true as more people jump online to look for local information. According to a survey by Searchenginewatch.com, 74 percent said they conduct local searches, with 45 percent of those local searches being conducted with the intent to buy.

    Businesses “are finding the old way of marketing is just not working as well as it used to because the Internet is dominant,” Patterson said. “People are much more comfortable going on the Internet and looking for their product than looking at billboards or listening to radio ads or flipping through the Yellow Pages.”

    - Dolly Penland
    Jacksonville Business Journal

  4. Seventhman launches Clay County Sheriff’s Office Web site

    February 23, 2004 Press Release

    Coming to a computer near you – an improved CCSO Internet site. It can still be found at the same address, www.claysheriff.com, but is now loaded with additional pages of information that should prove to be more useful to the public as well as to current CCSO employees. The site was designed by a team of website developers at Seventhman of Orange Park.

    Here are just a few examples of some of the improvements you’ll find on our new site:

    - An updated homepage that is more professional looking and user-friendly

    - A “Learn More” section with information about crime prevention, laws, sexual offender lists, and Clay County’s Most Wanted criminals

    - An “About the CCSO” section with specialized pages for each agency division

    - A map of the county from which citizens can access sector-specific information such as crime stats and personnel contact information

    - A “Career” section that includes information about available jobs, Florida retirement, off-duty job guidelines

    - The “Speak Up” section gives residents a direct email connection to agency leaders in a wide variety of areas so they can provide tips on criminal activity, traffic concerns or comments about the agency

    - Much, much, more!

    Seventhman is a software development company specializing in web-based, information management systems and products. Their team worked with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office over a nine month period to complete the site redesign project bringing an out-of-date site into the next century.

    Please call CCSO PIC Mary Justino at (904) 213-6009 or Mr. Will Lombard, Seventhman Director of Business Development, at (904) 215-7075 for more information.

  5. Seventhman names Mike Long as V.P. of Software Development

    February 16, 2004 Press Release

    Seventhman™ Expands Its Focus on eBusiness Development
    Multimedia Executive to Lead Team

    Orange Park, Florida – February 1st, 2004 – Seventhman, an innovative provider of cost effective Web-based, eBusiness, and custom software solutions, announced the appointment of Mike Long as V.P. of Software Development

    Mr. Long has over a decade of experience developing high technology graphic solutions utilizing both print and digital media for world-class corporations – Citibank, Bank of America, AOL, MSN, U.S. Army, and U.S. Navy – and will lead Seventhman’s Multimedia Development Team. Mr. Long has held various project, production, and design management positions throughout his career. Mr. Long is a graduate of UNF he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree.

    “Long will drive forward our vision of customer centric software solutions we provide in our target markets, and will further the successes we have already achieved. Mike is an experienced leader who has a vast understanding of our target market. We are very proud and pleased to have him as part of our team,” said Shaleen Shah, President and CEO of Seventhman.

    Seventhman is an innovative high technology provider of Web-based, Intranet, eBusiness, and eCommerce solutions that allow business’s to become more productive and efficient with superior cost savings. The company’s products and custom software solutions can be configured to meet customer’s specific and expanding business systems requirements. Seventhman sells it products through its direct sales force and a network of qualified software solutions integrators.

    Seventhman distinguishes itself in the marketplace by providing the highest quality solutions and service to our clients, maintaining partnerships, and nurturing past, present, and future relationships.

    For more information, point your Web browser to www.seventhman.com or call 1-904-215-7075.

  6. Seventhman names Will Lombard as V.P. of Business Development

    February 16, 2004 Press Release

    Seventhman™ Expands Its Focus on eBusiness Development
    Business Development Executive to Lead

    Orange Park, Florida – February 1st, 2004 – Seventhman, an innovative provider of cost effective Web-based, eBusiness, and custom software solutions, announced the appointment of Will A. Lombard as V.P. of Business Development.

    Mr. Lombard has over a decade of experience developing high technology solutions for world-class corporations – General Electric, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, and Boeing – and will lead Seventhman’s Business Development Team. Mr. Lombard has held various management sales positions within General Electric.

    “Lombard will drive forward our vision of customer centric software solutions we provide in our target markets, and will further the successes we have already achieved. Will is an experienced leader who has a vast understanding of our target market. We are very proud and pleased to have him as part of our team,” said Shaleen Shah, President and CEO of Seventhman.

    Seventhman is an innovative high technology provider of Web-based, Intranet, eBusiness, and eCommerce solutions that allow business’s to become more productive and efficient with superior cost savings. The company’s products and custom software solutions can be configured to meet customer’s specific and expanding business systems requirements. Seventhman sells it products through its direct sales force and a network of qualified software solutions integrators.

    Seventhman distinguishes itself in the marketplace by providing the highest quality solutions and service to our clients, maintaining partnerships, and nurturing past, present, and future relationships.

    For more information, point your Web browser to www.seventhman.com or call 1-904-215-7075.

  7. Member Profile: Shaleen Shah, Seventhman

    Jacksonville Chamber Focus

    Shaleen Shah isn’t your typical business owner. While he’s been running his own business for the past four years, Shah isn’t “legally” an adult yet. Although he’s only 20 years old, his age hasn’t stopped him from starting and growing Seventhman, a technology consulting and Web design company that develops custom software packages for small- to medium-sized businesses.

    “Age is not a limitation for me,” Shah said. “Our team provides an extensive portfolio and experience.” Shah’s parents encouraged and supported him in starting his own business while he was still in high school at Orange Park High.

    Born in India, Shah moved to Jacksonville with his family when he was 10 years old. Then when Shah was 16, he started his own business in his family room at home. Since then, Seventhman has changed its name, expanded its services and moved to an office located in Orange Park only 10 minutes away from Shah’s home. While Shah began with two or three employees, he now has six full-time employees and utilizes 50 contractors on three different continents.

    The main focus at Seventhman is Internet development, including Web sites, e-commerce and e-business solutions. “We help businesses become more efficient using technology,” Shah said. “Our services range from developing enterprise solutions to connecting all your company’s locations using an Intranet.” Despite the busy load of operating his own small business, Shah also attends UNF working toward his marketing degree.

    If you’re wondering where the name “Seventhman” came from, Shah will tell you that he considers seven his lucky number and that the name seemed marketable and unique.

    While Seventhman’s 100 clients are located all over the United States, Shah says that more than 90 percent of his marketing is done through word of mouth. As a result, Shah recognizes the importance of his involvement at the Chamber.

    He joined the Chamber two years ago when he became involved in the West Area Council. He started on their board and then became the treasurer. Most recently the West Area Council nominated Shah as a candidate for this year’s Small Business Leader of the Year. “Being a part of the Chamber means building business relationships,” Shah said.

    Another part of Seventhman’s commitment of giving back to the community is with Get Connected, an organization that creates Web pages for businesses and non-profit organizations. Seventhman’s employees helped launch Get Connected, which is managed by students in northeast Florida. This group provides an opportunity for the business community and schools to combine efforts to better prepare young people for their careers through exposing students to a variety of skills.

    Seventhman also remains involved in the community through their ongoing internship program for college and university students. Seventhman helps students gain hands-on technology experience while simultaneously earning college credit. They also offer Technology Learning Experiences to area high school students.

    “Getting involved in the Chamber and the community is one of the best things you can do. It’s not just about our business, it’s about giving back to the community as well.”

    Jacksonville Chamber Focus