Customer service, trust basis for website company
Featured in the Arizona Business Gazette (Aug. 29, 2013) and the Arizona Republic (August 31, 2013).
By Georgann Yara
Like for many small business owners, necessity was the catalyst for eCreations’ founder Steve Tamulewicz starting his own web design and services business.
But the necessity wasn’t his. It belonged to a handful of his former employer’s customers who were among the accounts for which he was responsible as a sales representative for an Internet service provider.
The provider was in receivership, and Tamulewicz saw its inevitable fate. He came up with the business plan for eCreations but kept it a secret, waiting for the moment when the circuits would shut off. When that time came at 11 a.m. on a weekday, Tamulewicz returned to his home, called a dozen of his clients and obtained their authorization to handle their websites and keep them going.
By noon that same day, the websites were running flawlessly, and Tamulewicz earned his first group of happy clients, most of whom ran mom-and-pop businesses.
“I did it out of a desire to protect the clients I was close to,” said Tamulewicz, who started his Phoenix-based business in 1997.
Developing connections that extend beyond basic professionalism is one of the driving forces that has kept eCreations growing through industry trends, economic swings and competition for 16 years.
“Without relationships, there’s no existence. Everyone has that experience (when calling any service provider), and the voice says, ‘Please punch in your customer number,’ ” Tamulewicz said. “I don’t do customer numbers.”
Outsourcing coding responsibilities to foreign countries is something Tamulewicz won’t do, either. All coding is done in-house, which has become a rarity.
Small businesses and national conglomerates comprise much of eCreations’ clientele. Also among them are comprehensive marketing agencies and similar businesses that include web work in their services lineup and give that work to eCreations.
Tamulewicz said he also gets the occasional client who comes with a horror story about getting ripped off by another company or needing their destroyed site fixed. Tamulewicz listens to their concerns and gives them the best advice he can, which can include providing competitors’ phone numbers.
While it may not sound like the wisest business move, it has built trust, and Tamulewicz said this segment of his business has helped eCreations grow over the years.
“I’d rather set someone on the right path than sell them a boatload (of services) they don’t need. I give competitors’ numbers so they can talk to them. No one else is going to do that, but I want you to have the information,” he said.
Tamulewicz doesn’t advertise and relies on word of mouth. His original client base of 12 has ballooned to more than 850. Tamulewicz said. Referrals account for 93 percent of eCreations’ new business.
Three years ago, a referral led Judi Victor, chairman and CEO of The Producers, Inc., a Phoenix marketing agency specializing in high-tech industries, to eCreations when she sought programming services.
“They are extremely expedient. If we need something done quickly, they do a good job. A lot of (programmers) are not expedient; they overpromise and underdeliver,” Victor said. “We have exceedingly high standards, and Steve and his team go out of their way to make sure they are met.”
When Dupage Trading Co. owner Jim Yocum first met with Tamulewicz in April, Yocum had a floundering website created by a designer who was not as professional as he led the Chandler business owner to believe. Yocum generates 98 percent of business on the Internet, but his website took too long to load, customers complained and took their business to competitors. Hiring another designer in an attempt to fix the site failed.
Two weeks after meeting with Tamulewicz and one of his designers, they produced a tentative homepage that Yocum raved about.
“I showed it to my wife, my friends. If I had the talent, that is what I would do. I was just amazed,” said Yocum, whose business deals in collectible firearms.
Yocum’s business has increased compared with this same time last year, he said.
“I’ve had some really bad luck with two (designers) in a row, and to find professional people was refreshing. I’m going to make more money with this website than the previous one,” Yocum said. “The neat thing that I liked is that they listened to me and what’s important to me.”
A native of Cleveland, Tamulewicz always had a passion for computers and has been coding since 1981. He earned his degree in computer science, but owned and ran an automotive and aircraft detail center in his hometown before moving to Phoenix a few months before launching eCreations.
“I was always a computer geek. Everyone calls me when they have problems. I eat, drink and sleep this stuff,” Tamulewicz said.
The company’s early years were spent proving its abilities in the marketplace.
“I gave some freebies away, worked with other designers. My thought was, you give one to get 50. It was a matter of cultivating relationships,” he recalled. “Then, the dominoes fell.”
In an industry that has changed exponentially since he went into business, Tamulewicz said keeping up continues to be part of the challenge. The improvement in technology drives costs down. But web maintenance and services continue to be necessities, and that in turn creates new demands for companies such as eCreations. The evolution of mobile sites and automation is a far cry from the days when clients were happy with a basic online brochure.
“As technology advances and more technologies enter the market, more voids need to be filled,” Tamulewicz said. “It’s a curve every developer has to stay in front of.”
When the recession hit and caused many people to reduce spending, business and project development slowed, Tamulewicz said. But the years he spent developing relationships with clients helped keep eCreations afloat, he said.
Now, business has rebounded, and eCreations is holding its own in a competitive field.
“We’re a small firm, but that’s by design. I started it small so we can provide one-on-one attention to clients,” Tamulewicz said. “I don’t want to be so big that we need customer numbers.”