No Growing Pains For ISI

December 18, 2006
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KENTWOOD — ISI President Ryan Leestma has come a long way since his first foray into the technology field a dozen years ago. Then a high school freshman in DeMotte, Ind., Leestma rode a childhood programming interest into a preternatural position as JasperCounty's foremost computer technician.

The business started with residential service calls, his mother driving him to and from each job. He added commercial accounts after earning his driver's license, and was soon covering a service area that spread 45 miles in every direction.

"There was a pretty tremendous need and I was the only guy in town," said Leestma of his first company, Compufix. "I'd get off the bus at the end of the day, jump in my dad's car and do four or five calls a night."

Leestma was never home for dinner, but his advertisements could be heard on the local radio station and seen in the newspaper. The firm he launched with seed money earned on his uncle's chicken farm grew to a $50,000 enterprise by his graduating year, enough to pay for his first two years at private CovenantCollege in Georgia

In 2002, Leestma and his bride-to-be, Megan, launched an adult version of that computer service firm, Information Systems Intelligence LLC, commonly known as ISI, and immediately after the wedding relocated to West Michigan, a favorite vacation spot of his family.

"I knew this was what I was meant to do, but I wasn't sure how this business thing was going to work out," Leestma said. "I remember asking my wife how she felt about living in a trailer park."

He needn't have worried. Now in its fourth year, the eight-employee service and consulting firm has seen its revenue grow by an average 50 percent each year, with expectations to finish the year at well over $1.3 million. Earlier this year, the firm acquired a 5,500-square-foot office building on

52nd Street
in Kentwood as its new corporate headquarters, along with a small fleet of Scion xBs.

It is the only West Michigan firm to be both a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and Microsoft Small Business Specialist, primarily serving as an outsourced technology partner for small and medium-sized companies. It also carries Cisco systems and security certifications.

Leestma attributes the company's rapid success not to its passion for technology, but to an understanding of the companies it serves.

"I don't run into too many business owners that are crazy passionate about what we do," he explained. "We don't form a bridge on that basis. Where we do is as that one throat to choke."

With little desire or time to concentrate on information technology needs, Leestma has found that small business owners are in need of an individual or firm to which it can delegate those operations and that can carry the responsibility of fixing any potential problems as they occur. As technology is deployed, whether as an administrative or operational upgrade, these types of entrepreneurs expect quantifiable results.

"Our industry is increasingly being put under the pressure of almost like performance contracts," Leestma said. "A very small fraction of our customer base actually enjoys technology and likes gadgets and getting the latest and greatest. They all want to see what it is going to do for them."

According to Leestma, the ability of technology to change an organization is limited without fluid change in the marketplace, as has been the case in the Microsoft world for a number of years. The recent release of the Microsoft Office 2007 suite of business applications, however, should have a significant impact over the next 12 to 24 months, as enterprise resource planning applications and other visualization tools become available to smaller businesses.    

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