When one thinks of Michigan now, business success stories don’t easily come to mind. Cities like Detroit have become the poster children for the national economic meltdown. But in the Michigan suburb of Farmington Hills, there is a 30-year success story named Datanational Corporation, a company focused on software application development, managed hosting, business consulting, and disaster recovery.
The firm was co-founded by CEO Paul Greenstone, in part with a $500 advance from his credit card.
“My then-partner and I were working a 40-hour job,” explained Greenstone. “The other hours were spent programming as contractors for other companies, creating a cash flow for ourselves. Borrowing that money from my credit card was [intended] to help market our talents. It’s one thing to have talent; it’s another to have a customer who wants that talent.”
Greenstone shared a few words of wisdom with us on starting a company and how business has changed over the past three decades.
Would you advise using angel investors or venture capital firms?
“If you go with angel financing and/or venture capital, you’re giving others the ability to control your performance. So that rather than being entrepreneurial in spirit, you become a financial slave to the scrutiny of others.”
Since this was before the Internet, how did you get the word out?
At that time, we were doing direct mail, and I would attend various IBM locations in the midwest and market our services to the various reps. You can’t sell hardware if it doesn’t work for you. So the IBM rep would sell the hardware to a client and tell them, ‘If you need it tweaked or need an application built for you, these would be the people' -- (meaning us) -- 'who you could talk to.'
Who were the big tech players back then?
IBM and Digital were the big players in technology. We started to leverage our posture by starting to work on Digital-based based systems. IBM wasn’t too happy, but we were developing a strong relationship with IBM and Digital. Digital disappeared, but IBM has been our core relationship over the past 30 years.
What changes have you seen since 1979?
More and more companies today are getting away from having internal data centers and having IT departments. We are an international one-stop shop. If you were a firm that didn’t want to buy hardware anymore, didn’t want to mess around with application software, and didn’t want software developers on staff, we would host your entire organization on our servers and supply 24/7 support and application development.
What do you offer your clients in cost savings?
If you’re a $3-10 million firm, we would present you with an opportunity to save 30% of your cost that you pay out in salaries and hardware and software licenses. If we can’t save you 30%, we’ll tell you you’re doing okay as is. We are involved in 13 times zones world wide and we handle companies of all sizes.
Learn more at: www.datanat.com