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Small Business Spotlight: Hershey Technologies

When Neal Fischer’s employer of six years was looking to sell the business, then known as Hershey Business Systems, Fischer knew he had two options: Wait for a new employer to come in and take over the business or buy the business and be his own boss.

Fischer chose the second option and now, nearly 14 years later, operating under the name Hershey Technologies, the company has turned into a leading provider of information technology products and labor services.

The company has increased its revenue by about 77 percent since 2002 and expects to increase its gross revenue by more than 10 percent with the inception of its e-commerce sales model, scheduled to launch in February.

The new e-commerce sales model will allow Hershey Technologies to receive more orders and is expected to triple the company’s credit card sales in the first 12 months, Fischer said.

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RESUM & #201;

Name: Neal Fischer.

Title: Principal and co-founder.

Company: Hershey Technologies.

Address: 4225 Executive Square, La Jolla.

Phone: (858) 458-4222.

Founded: June 1991.

Prior experience: 15 years’ experience in office automation and defense systems contracting.

Average hours worked weekly: 50-60.

Source of startup capital: Personal savings of under $250,000.

2004 revenue: $3.9 million (projected).

2003 revenue: $3 million.

2002 revenue: $2.2 million.

Number of employees: 18.

Web site: www.hersheytech.com.


BACKGROUND

Education: Bachelor of science in business administration from Massachusetts State College in North Adams, Mass.

Residence: Rancho Penasquitos.

Family: Wife of 15 years, Jeanine; son, Brett, 21; daughters, Brittany, 14, and Kimberly, 12.

Hobbies: Surfing, boating, skiing, home remodeling projects and spending weekend time with girls at soccer games and tournaments.


JUDGMENT CALLS

Reason for getting into the business: Challenge; ability to control my own destiny (i.e., stay in San Diego); work independently and realize a vision.

How I plan to grow the business: Leverage our work and technology experience with our existing clients and potential partners, expand sales of Hershey-branded products and other manufacturers through an Internet e-commerce sales model, and adding sales staff that will focus on key vertical markets and sales of Hershey Technologies-branded products.

Biggest plus of business ownership: Satisfaction that your efforts can make a difference in the success of the business and improve your quality of life.

Biggest drawback: Finding good staff members is one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do in business. Even harder, it seems, is attracting and retaining the right staff. Also, the constant struggle of balancing family and personal time over business needs.

Biggest business strength: Strong work ethic.

Biggest business weakness: Ability to forecast when our clients will order products. Reading human nature is still a challenge, even after 20 years.

Biggest risk: Proposing a process automation solution that would have over 20 installation sites worldwide, that would need to be deployed and supported within a critical performance schedule for a major government agency. While we had some issues, the systems and service we provide today are better because of it.

Smartest business decision: Encouraging Sandy Levine to be a partner in the business.

Biggest business mistake: Not buying a building for the business.

Toughest career decision: To start a small business.

Biggest ongoing challenge: Finding, attracting and retaining the right staff members.

The most important part of my business: Our staff members. Our sales and support team have an excellent record executing technical services and responding to the support needs of our clients.

My business works best when: The client and our staff’s understanding of project goals, objectives and schedules are in alignment.

How you measure success: Customer and associate satisfaction and meeting personal goals.


GOALS

Goals yet to be achieved: An Internet e-commerce sales model (under way), expanded partnerships with resellers of our ImageNet product line and additional direct sales/service locations.

My five-year business plan: Increase gross sales at 15-20 percent growth rate, to have Internet sales equal or exceed direct commodity sales, and acquire a commercial building.


PHILOSOPHY

I would sell my business only if: The buyout fee included a dollar value based on time spent during the startup days, and allowing me to participate in the growth of the new business or start another venture.

Guiding principles: Negotiate offers that make good business sense and provide value to your customers.

Most admired entrepreneur: My grandfather , Max H. Fischer, wig maker and investor. He was extremely well-read, always eager to learn, but holding dear to core business and ethical values.

Important lessons learned: The ability to balance your life, faith and family, health and business. Business, while important, is not the priority in life. In my home, we have plenty of signs to remind me. Live Well , Laugh Often , Love Much.

Advice for those looking to go into business: Ensure that you understand the nature of the business, your customer needs and, most important, what is the break-even point. Have the financial resources to capitalize the business over the first year and make sure you are willing to invest the time and energy. And make sure you truly enjoy the work and look forward to the challenge.

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