Interface Software finds its popularity on the rise
February 16, 2004
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
'No one wanted to talk
to us in 2000. We weren't sexy," says Nate Fineberg, the
42-year-old CEO of Oak Brook-based Interface Software.
As Interface prepares
to launch three new modules to its industry- leading InterAction
software, Fineberg no longer worries about his company's appeal.
His firm fills a unique niche. It's the customer relationship
management solution for professional services firms.
"We serve 72 of
the 100 largest law firms," Fineberg says. "Of the four
largest consulting firms, we have two. We have investment banks,
even professional sports organizations," he says.
Founder Terry Holt
launched the company in the early 1990s as a services firm helping
organizations adopt Microsoft Windows. "Through engagements
with Sidley & Austin and Gardner Carton & Douglas, we
came upon a relationship management need that wasn't being filled,"
says Fineberg, who joined in 1997.
attorneys, for attorneys
president of Teamwerks, a local consulting firm, was an early
proponent. "I led technology at Jenner & Block in 1995,"
she says. "We piloted Interface's software. It was the only
CRM product designed by attorneys tailored to the needs of attorneys."
Frank Ballantine, senior
partner at Sachnoff & Weaver, says InterAction helps track
which lawyers have the right skills for assignments. More significantly,
Ballantine says, "It helps me understand the school connections,
the board connections, the invisible networks that drive the world."
It's also a successful
software product invented in Chicago.
is a new trend that's gaining popularity here.
The Pampered Chef,
an Addison-based direct seller of kitchen tools, is adding a 600,000-square-foot
distribution center and updated warehouse-management system. The
expansion is necessary, says Richard Schubkegel, vice president
of information systems, to support a sales force of 70,000 independent
kitchen consultants who organize 1 million home kitchen shows,
serve 12 million customers and generate sales of more than $700
Instead of buying all
new equipment, Schubkegel turned to Wauconda-based Heartland Computers
Inc., a seller of new and refurbished electronic warehouse and
inventory gear. Heartland supports vintage systems like Schubkegel's
circa-1997 system, and according to Heartland, Pampered Chef saved
$107,000 using Heartland's services -- a savings that should be
palatable to Pampered Chef owner Berkshire Hathaway, run by the
frugal Warren Buffett. The move matches a new tech trend: Customers
aren't always buying the latest version or upgrade.
Kudos to Heartland's
CEO, Jerry Greenwald, 62, who began his career as a store manager
for Jewel Foods. In the early 1970's, his store was a test site
for the first electronic handheld order-entry devices. Greenwald
loved the technology, and went to work for several manufacturers
before starting his own business. Today he employs 60 and services
a host of customers.
Greenwald says he and
Pampered Chef founder Doris Christopher have something in common.
They both started businesses in their homes in 1980. "Doris
started in Mount Prospect. I started in Schaumburg," Greenwald
says. "Christopher sold her business to Berkshire Hathaway.
I'm still waiting for Warren."
44, president of the Technology Executives Club, is a committed
convener, bringing local technology types together to discuss
issues. With a presidential election brewing and a jobless recovery
under way, he's tackling technology outsourcing.
"There's a perception
that outsourcing only means a shift of jobs to other countries,"
he says. "The lower-level, repetitive functions are going
overseas. The value-added roles will stay."
He urges job seekers
to adapt, and expand their skills toward higher-value roles.
Mark Power, president of ROS Inc., an outsourcing advisory firm,
quotes statistics from McKinsey & Co. that show "for
every dollar spent by American companies on outsourcing in India,
the U.S. economy has benefits worth $1.21."
My guess: Outsourcing
will be a big issue in the election even if it makes economic
Datebook: MCI CEO Michael
Capellas appears Thursday at Kaarina Koskenalusta's Executives'
Club. Google's David Hirsch talks at the Business Marketing Association.
Krauss is a Chicago based tech-writer and consultant, and senior
vice president for Hostway Corp., Chicago.