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In this issue of Small Business News from The Stevie Awards:
How a News Story Sent a Canadian Woman's Career Undercover
Customer Satisfaction Is Number One at PeopleAdmin
Podcast Interview: Darek Kozdra of United PR (Poland)
Small Business Blogs & Sites of Note
Calendar of Events for Small Business

Tina Thompson of MUG Solutions received the Stevie for Best Canadian Entrepreneur, and her Coquitlam, British Columbia-based company was named Best New Company of the Year, in the 2008 Stevie Awards for Women in Business.

Tina ThompsonThe Idea
The idea that would change Tina Thompson’s life began to take form in 2006, just after she had given birth to her second child.   Tina had been working in the fast-paced IT industry and was looking for a less frantic career—ideally one where she could work from home.

Around the same time there was lively debate in Vancouver about the Needle Exchange Program for drug users, which had been established there in 1989. Had it been a success or a failure?  Curiosity led Tina to research this program, only to discover that the use of the word “exchange” was misleading.  Fresh needles were simply distributed to drug users to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.  So the question was: Where were all the old needles going?

A large number of them, it appeared, were disappearing down manholes.  Again, “disappearing” is a misnomer.  The needles might have been out of sight of pedestrians on the street, but they were rapidly becoming a health hazard for the utility workers who had to go down these manholes into dark, confined—and now hazardous—workspaces.

Whenever these workers were jabbed by a needle, they immediately had to start a severe medical regimen that lasted for six months and involved a program that frequently left them either ill or in discomfort.   Thompson was already aware of this as her husband had had first-hand experience.

“It was at least 15 years ago and down a manhole that he got a needle stuck in his steel-toed boot, so fortunately no entry into his boot or skin,” explained Thompson. “It gave us a scare.  When the big discussions were going on about the success/failure of the exchange programs, I asked my husband if the problem of needles in manholes had been alleviated by the exchange.  When he told me how bad it now was down there, that's when I started to do my research.”

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PeopleAdmin of Austin, Texas won a Stevie for Customer Service Department of the Year in the 3rd annual Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service.  Recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in the country (675% over three years), PeopleAdmin provides web-based human resources (HR) systems designed for the higher-education and public-sector markets.  Here we look at why their client services department was voted among the best in 2008.

Sandra JensenPeopleAdmin's customer service department has had to work hard to keep pace with the company's rapid growth over the last three years.  In the past year alone, PeopleAdmin increased revenues by over 40%. Yet during the same period its customer service department managed not only to increase customer satisfaction by 10% (from under 86% approval rating to over 95%), it also increased its own productivity by over 23%—and all this while decreasing department costs.

Number One Goal
Customer satisfaction is PeopleAdmin’s number-one goal, and the organization has evolved to reflect this.  The company has fashioned winning partnerships by aligning employees' strengths with customer needs.  Every department—from the Client Success Manager group, to PeopleAdmin’s tiered levels of technical support, to its project-centric task force—has seen marked increases in customer satisfaction. 

Client Success Manager
The Client Success Manager group engages a number of proactive initiatives to ensure that PeopleAdmin customers thrive, and has created initiatives such as:

  1. a customer newsletter outlining company news and upcoming functionality;
  2. customer blogs informing customers of best practices in PeopleAdmin’s niche market;
  3. proactive system audits intended to increase customer knowledge and product adoption; and
  4. intra-departmental outreach to nurture company cohesion.  

Technical Support
PeopleAdmin’s technical support groups have been honed with new and dedicated training resources, employee career plans for promoting job satisfaction and personal growth, and customer care resources for ensuring expert coverage—including standardized requirements-gathering tools, improved CRM software, and leading-edge telephony.

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Darek KozdraDarek Kozdra is Strategic Planning Director of United PR in Warsaw, Poland. United PR is one of Poland's most established public relations agencies, and has won the Stevie Award for Public Relations Agency of the Year in Europe in The 2009 (6th annual) International Business Awards. The awards will be presented at a gala banquet in New York City's St. Regis Hotel on Monday, September 14.

We talked with Darek about the agency, his background, and the prospects for the PR industry in Poland.

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Blogs, or web logs, are all the rage these days. Each month in this space we'll point you to several blogs that we think might be of interest to you.

The House Next Door: Blog on film-making and the arts.
Cake Wrecks: When cake decorating goes horribly wrong …
Unnecessary Quotes: The "blog" of "unnecessary" quotation marks.
YourSpins: Does for music what YouTube does for video: rework a song and post your mix. Also generates ringtones.

Calendar of Upcoming Events for Small Business Owners and Managers
August 31: Final entry deadline for 6th annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business
September 30 : Last day that late entries will be accepted for 6th annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business
October 16: Early-bird entry deadline for 4th annual Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service