Small-time Online Operators Hit Big
By Damon Marturion
New Business News Staff Writer
SEATTLE -- Husband and wife Web-mastering team help to create record-breaking revenues for local businesses in an otherwise crippled economy. The unexpected growth this Holiday Season produced happy clients and big problems that caught Dave and Shelley Masters of Web Masters Ink off-guard as well as their customers.
Web Masters Ink is located in Aberdeen, Washington, on the coast, just South of Seattle. The small enterprise was started as a labor of love to help assist the struggling former logging and fishing economy help recapture lost profits via the World Wide Web.
"We have all the tools necessary to help our clients exploit the Internet," says Shelley Masters, "to make certain that our clients get the best representation on the Internet and a strong history of success. Specializing in on-line e-commerce enabled Web Sites has taken most of our local clientele from marginal to successful."
Their success was so well received that they began to entertain clients from out of town and now have clients nationwide.
"Although we were prepared for what we projected to be a growth of 100% over last years' figures, we had no idea what would happen on December 1st, 1999." Dave Masters continues, "We strive for 100% customer satisfaction on both ends: the consumer and our retailers, so it is important for our retailers to have sufficient inventories to meet the demands of our Internet shoppers. We watch all the numbers carefully so as not to be caught off-guard but on December 1st, the dam broke."
"Nothing teaches you more about your abilities than your inabilities." Shelley, in charge of accounting, billing and customer service says, "We were swamped! Our 800-lines were full, and everyone was in a desperate attempt to place orders that would arrive to their destinations before Christmas."
Dave, who handles the programming, site design and maintenance elaborates, "Every weak link that we had in our organization reached maximum capacity and if it could break, it broke. Our biggest panic came when our Internet Service Provider couldn't handle all of the wear and tear that the orders were putting on their servers and they crashed -- hard. They told us it would be three days before they could re-build the servers. Rather than accept a band-aid we jumped ship as fast as we could to another, more high-powered, server that could handle the heavy load."
"Extra help was hired to work the phones," says Shelley, "we kept open lines of communication with our retailers, whose inventories were depleting faster than we could process the orders. They were calling their suppliers who were already down to the bare walls . . ."
The crux of the issue is that, " . . . we were all prepared to handle a 100% increase but were faced with what would have been a 600% increase just for the month of December had we been able to deliver all the products ordered."
The full attentions of the Web Masters Ink teams were focused on keeping constant contact with the online buyers, "Would we be able to assure delivery of the item on time, if at all? As soon as we knew, we tried to tell the online shoppers. Most of the time we were able to tell them at the time they made the order." Dave says, "All in all, we came out okay. We kept constant contact with our buyers and sellers and figured that honesty was the best policy."
"Although we would like to have a perfect record," says Shelley, "there were three packages that did not arrive before Christmas, and that still bothers me." Dave interjects, "That we know of . . . we did our best to be prepared, but we have to agree with our retailers, that it was hectic to say the least but a hoot as well. They're the kind of problems (if you're going to have them) that you want to have to deal with."
. . . watch for more stories coming soon