How eSite Came to Be
In 1997, an ambitious entrepreneur named Tom Blazer and a talented business executive named Elizabeth Pennewill met. They immediately hit it off, and had a crazy idea: Tom had really gotten into this new thing called “business intelligence,” so why not get married, abandon their secure jobs, combine their skills and launch a fledgling startup?
Within just two months they did all of the above, opening a small business in the back of a real estate office.
By 1999, eSite had grown a small clientele. Word spread gradually, and Tom and Elizabeth—everyone knows her as Boo—hired a handful of employees. By 2001, they had expanded enough to need a bigger office. Two years later, the Denny's restaurant chain named eSite their Business Development Vendor of the Year. Eight years after launching the company, eSite's client list had grown to include other national brands like The Container Store, Harley-Davidson Motor Company and Oreck Corporation.
By this time, corporations around the country were starting to hear about the power of locational analysis. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times began devoting news stories to it. Agencies were applying it to marketing campaigns. All while eSite was steadily perfecting its custom suite of tools and solutions.
Then, in 2010, Tom and Boo's once-small shop began to experience explosive growth. Fortune 500 companies signed multi-year contracts. Staff more than doubled…even as a dwindling economy was forcing corporations throughout the country to slash thousands of jobs.
Tom and Boo's crazy idea was quickly becoming a success story.
As the company expanded, our founders knew they needed to stay grounded. eSite was established with a set of standards that had led to the company's greatest achievements. For the business to continue down a successful path, it would be crucial to institutionalize those founding principles.
But Tom and Boo, along with their growing team, didn't want a complex human resources setup. That's not the eSite way. They believe that progress comes from relationships and teamwork, not red tape.
So rather than creating a dry hundred-page employee manual, they set out to define the company's core values.
On the pages that follow are the principles that have guided eSite's foundations from the beginning. They're inspired, in part, by a series of encounters Tom and Boo had with a local business—ones that came at a time when our founders were thinking hard about how to best articulate their ideals for the company and that allowed them to experience, for the first time, how those values were seen through the eyes of the customer.
These are the standards by which we'll continue to measure our success, make our hiring decisions, care for our clients and select our vendors. They represent how we plan to do business for decades to come.
Value #1: Give Them the Bowl (But Wash It First)
In Charleston, S.C., the location of eSite's headquarters, there's a little Italian restaurant that for years had been an occasional dining spot for our founders, Tom and Boo. But one evening, at the cash register, a simple act completely changed their relationship with the restaurant owner.
They were simply trying to pay the bill. Boo noticed that a decorative bowl had disappeared and asked where it went. It had been moved, replied the owner. Then, as Tom and Boo waited, she walked to a back room, retrieved the bowl, washed it and handed it over. “Take it,” she said. “I want you to have it.”
She insisted. Refused payment. Didn't budge until her customers walked to their car with the beautiful ceramic bowl in hand.
From that moment, Tom and Boo were no longer just loyal customers. They were now raving fans of La Pizzeria.
The owner's response, they quickly realized, resonated so deeply because it mirrored the way eSite has always done business. For the first time our founders were experiencing, through the eyes of the customer, how powerful an impact one simple act of graciousness can have on a long-term business relationship. In that moment, they realized how being ridiculously “give-them-the-bowl” generous was the perfect metaphor for how they would describe their first corporate value. It was, after all, the way they'd always done business.
Our competitors think we're crazy. Potential partners, accustomed to official procedures and paperwork, question our business model. Our financial advisors are often baffled.
No matter. Showing clients how much we value them is in our DNA; we can't imagine doing business any other way.
At eSite, that means offering up our equivalent of family relics: using our experience and expertise to turn disparate data into business insights. But we never just hand them over. Like our friend at the Italian restaurant, we believe it's important to “wash” them first—make the data easy for everyone at your company to understand, customize software for your specific needs and provide a steady stream of support.
This principle applies to our internal team, too. Investing in staff members in meaningful ways causes them, in turn, to become personally invested in the success of eSite and our clients. When we regularly seek employees' input (and incorporate that input into how the company's run), pay the generous salaries they deserve or even help them purchase their first homes, they can't imagine working anywhere else.
Value #2: Swing Back By
Remember that local Italian pizzeria we mentioned in value number one? And the ceramic bowl? A few days later the owner called and asked Tom and Boo to swing back by the restaurant, where she met them with a matching vase. Wrapped and tied with a satin ribbon.
Tom and Boo were surprised until they realized, once again, how this act reflected the way they too strive to treat clients and do business. At eSite, being generous isn't a one-time event; that would be like over-delivering just to land a sale. Good business involves exceeding expectations, and then doing it again. And again…and again…and again.
Another data analysis firm might subject “the vase” to an exhausting round of reviews and paperwork—four weeks of meetings to discuss the decision to provide it, rounds of approvals, input form accounting and so on.
Not at eSite. If you have a new challenge, we’ll simply ask you to swing back by. Talk to your designated team of analysts about the answers you need. Call our CEO to discuss the issues you’re facing with your data. Take a cue from our friends at The Container Store and see if it might be time for an altogether new software solution. We take joy in dazzling our clients with actionable data at every turn, and want you to swing back by time and time again.
This is why, from the moment a client starts working with us, we’ll always be ready to provide the solutions they need. Even when it involves a challenge the industry’s never seen. Even when it’s a need most think we can’t possibly meet. (Trust us, we can.) As eSite continues to grow, our senior management is taking steps to ensure the company remains nimble enough to respond quickly to changing needs, giving our clients the competitive edge of being able to act quickly—critical in a retail landscape that’s constantly changing
It's also why we empower our employees to say “yes” at every turn. When a new challenge arises we commit to solving it. Our staff members know they don’t need to check in with management for every little detail; when a client stops by with a need or request, our goal is to fill it. Always.
Value #3: Know Really™
One evening, Tom and Boo did their usual thing. They went to the Charleston airport to meet a business partner, the CEO of a software company based in Australia. He had just spent 37 hours on a plane, so they welcomed him with a home-cooked meal.
In all of his travels to the U.S., it was the first time Glen Rabie of Yellowfin had ever been invited into a colleague's home.
That disclosure surprised Tom and Boo, who had always viewed hospitality as a customary part of doing business. As the company has grown, the eSite team realized that being a gracious business partner would be crucial to its long-term success.
We believe it's only when the people behind a company really get to know their clients, employees and partners that the business can become indispensible.
When a company focuses more on policy than on people, it's limited in what it can provide. A client asking how to get from A to Z, for instance, is handed little more than a printout of basic directions.
Alternatively, when you get to know your clients—hop on a plane to meet them in person, invite them to your house for dinner, devote countless hours to learning about their greatest challenges—those directions become an essential roadmap. When a client comes to eSite with a request for directions, we look for ways to make the entire journey rewarding. We create a custom atlas and accompany it with the best vehicle for the drive, a list of recommended stops and a favorite cup of coffee.
Getting to know our clients is what enables us to provide the business intelligence solutions they need to meet their specific goals…and not merely recommendations that are based in industry hypes or trends.
That's why “Know Really” became a value our founders determined to keep alive, no matter how big the client list becomes. It's so important, in fact, that we decided to trademark the phrase and use it as a tagline describing how eSite conducts business.