Data Pioneer

Improved state business climate drives Troy-based iDashboards.
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 Before it was popular to put an “i” in front of a word to evoke intelligence, as in the iPhone or the iPad, there was iDashboards. Founded in 2003, the Troy-based software company develops online dashboards for an array of businesses and organizations worldwide.

The challenge in the early days, and up until recent times, was that the company’s client base was largely out of state — a sign that Michigan’s business community wasn’t as competitive as it could be. Higher taxes, unnecessary regulations, and the Great Recession held back growth opportunities.

“In the last three years, we’ve had more Michigan-based clients than in the seven years prior,” says Shadan Malik, president and CEO of iDashboards. “I think Michigan’s turnaround is real, especially from the vantage point of our company and the 2,000-plus customers we serve in 36 countries.”

Citing the state’s enhanced business tax climate and the eliminationof more than 3,000 regulations in recent years, Malik says Michigan is starting to become known as a go-to source for software development, technology advances, and hardware production. Otherwise, the company wouldn’t have stayed. “We have to have the right people on the bus,” Malik says. “If you can hire good people, you can grow a business, and we’ve been able to find the people here.”

They’ve also been able to find more clients. Most recently, the Michigan Schools and Government Credit Union selected iDashboards’ Enterprise Suite to track key performance indicators ranging from loan volumes to employee performance. In June, the company rolled out a dashboard to track the final 16 teams in the 2014 World Cup, and the information included global team rankings, live feeds, features, and stadium information.

“Spreadsheets are good at listing metrics such as sales activity, but the information can be time-consuming to produce, and it’s often not in real time,” Malik says. “We can integrate daily or hourly sales activity, so that anyone in an organization that has access to the information can see how the company is doing at any point in time on their dashboard.”

The real-time reports also can be tailored to specific users, given a logistics team has a certain set of data to track that is different from a sales department. “Our value proposition is that we link active data in your system to a dashboard, and we can manage the dispersion of that data by a department’s needs, or a CEO’s needs, and with the overall security the client needs,” Malik says.

A native of India, Malik moved to the United States in 1991 to attend graduate school. After working at various companies in the Northeast,
he and Quaid Saifee co-founded a consulting company in Troy called WIT Inc. The firm specializes in traditional data warehousing, reporting, and dashboard development projects for companies like Ford, Chrysler, and Delphi.

“As I visited Detroit more often, it was clear the city was bigger than my last stop in Pittsburgh,” Malik says. “There’s more diversity here, and a bigger business ecosystem. That’s how iDashboards was born.” db


Web Market

The world of Internet marketing can be a tricky business. A website offering products or services may provide personal gratification, but if it fails to generate business leads and sales, what’s the point?

Cheryl Heppard, owner of Front Street PR in Farmington, knows the anguish of underutilized websites all too well. The self-taught Internet marketer, who holds a teaching degree from Madonna University in Livonia, has helped a range of clients achieve better search engine results.

“Whether you’re building a website or have an existing one, there’s no guarantee the site will draw visibility,” Heppard says. “Don’t get me wrong; a cool website helps — but a cool website won’t attract leads and sales. You need an online marketing strategy that maximizes SEO (search engine optimization), along with optimizing social media, to draw customers to your site.”

She cites, for example, MichiganDogTrainer.com, which was attracting a few visitors each month. After Heppard reworked the company’s online marketing strategy, traffic on the site is now averaging 40 to 50 leads per month.

Heppard also worked with Birmingham-based StartUpNation.com, which helps small business owners looking to launch a successful enterprise. After Heppard spent time with the company on its online marketing strategy, thousands of new subscribers signed up on the site, while automated sales increased 17 times over (1,700 percent).

“When we take on a new client, we assess what their site is doing and set up a marketing plan tailored to their needs,” Heppard says. “We can also design a website for you. We identify the market opportunities, we set a game plan, and then we maximize the opportunities.”

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