The guy next door

    Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm

    When Christopher Carter started CCI Corp. in August 2002, he and two other people worked in the 800-sqaure-foot attic of his Hales Corners home. The computer consulting and support firm lost money in its first two years, and Carter used his savings and a home equity loan to keep the company afloat. "My wife would make us coffee in the morning, and we’d have lunch downstairs," Carter recalled.
    By the end of 2004, CCI had grown to five full-time employees, and the attic space was cramping their style.
    CCI’s revenues grew to more than $2 million in 2003, and more than tripled in 2004 to about $7.6 million.
    The writing was on the attic wall: CCI needed room to grow. And fast.
    CCI sells most of its services to companies outside of the Milwaukee market, and Carter considered moving his operations to Atlanta, where several of his biggest clients are located. He also looked at Philadelphia, Denver and Cleveland, before turning his eye back to the Milwaukee market.
    After weighing the costs of doing business in those other cities and the emotional toll a move would have on his family, Carter decided to keep his business in the Milwaukee market.
    "First is family. All my family is from Wisconsin, and my wife’s family is from Wisconsin," Carter said. "And we might not have a lot of clients in Wisconsin, but it’s not necessarily someplace I want to move from. It came down to my gut feelings, and my feelings about the Milwaukee IT market. And why not be one of those companies who boost the image of the market?"
    Carter said the cost of leasing office space in Milwaukee is far cheaper than what can be found in Atlanta or any of the other cities he was considering.
    Carter’s search led him to CCI’s new headquarters at 2156 S. Fourth St., in Milwaukee’s 5th Ward neighborhood. The company has leased space on the building’s fourth floor, taking up about 7,500 square feet of space.
    Carter and four other employees moved into the space in mid-February. A second phase of the fourth-floor space will be opened in July, when CCI will add about 10 more people to its staff.
    Including private contractors and staff in offices in other cities, CCI now has about 51 employees.
    CCI’s lease in the new building also contains an option to lease the entire third floor for future growth.
    By the end of 2006, Carter is expecting more than $20 million in revenues. If his expectations are accurate, he will need the third floor space and maybe more.
    CCI holds contracts to consult, train, run the help desks and build computer security systems for large, global companies such as Nike, Hershey, Pioneer, IGT, a slot machine manufacturer and Almatis, a German company with facilities in the United States, Japan and China.
    "We’re dealing with the big boys lately," Carter said. "If we don’t make $20 million in revenue by the end of 2006, I will cry somewhere. I refuse to not meet the goals for this organization."
    CCI’s new contracts with national firms began increasing drastically
    last September.
    "We just took off from there," Carter said. "We used to do one or two trainings a month, and now we’re doing 10 to 20. We’re doing more recruiting of new trainers now."
    CCI’s services revolve around SAP (systems applications products), a suite of software that links different departments within companies together, creating inter-connectivity.
    "It binds all of the departments together – financial, HR, the warehouse, the shop floor – all areas can feed information into SAP and can take it out as well," Carter said. "It puts all of the departments together into one system, so they can get their information in real time."
    Carter said that a manufacturing facility, through SAP, can receive an order, then tell its production department what it needs to fill that order. The production department can then find which pieces it needs from its warehouse area, and the warehouse area can order any parts it doesn’t have in stock.
    The information is then fed back into SAP, where the billing and shipping departments also are able to access it.
    Carter worked with SAP software at another firm before starting CCI.
    CCI now offers the implementation and upgrading of SAP systems, training in how to use those systems, a 24-hour help desk for SAP systems and software development that links other programs or features to SAP.
    SAP Systems Integration AG is a German-based global company that provides database solutions. Although SAP offers some of its own training programs, Carter said SAP often refers customers to CCI because because of the Milwaukee firm’s customized approach.
    In mid-February, CCI completed the acquisition of Quantam Consulting, a Cleveland-based training and operations support firm, for $3 million in future revenues.
    Carter said the purchase was more of a merger with Quantam, because its owner, Gordon Garrett, has become an employee of CCI. Quantam’s remaining four employees have been retained as consultants for CCI and will be used as needed, Carter said.
    With the acquisition, CCI now has satellite offices in Cleveland, Atlanta, Denver and Philadelphia.
    Carter said one of his company’s drawing cards is the fact that all of CCI’s experts and employees are based in the United States. He said the initial labor savings of outsourcing IT work to foreign nations such as India are often offset by problems with language, logistics or timing.
    "I believe that the U.S. has some of the greatest IT talent anywhere on earth, and I see companies throwing away a guy who has been working on their systems for 20 years," Carter said. "They’re sending that service overseas, where they can pay someone $10 an hour instead of $120,000 a year. Yes, there are some revenue benefits, but that pure dollar amount isn’t a benefit. More and more, I see problems with logistics and timing. And CCI is good at coming in and cleaning up the broken glass."
    CCI Corp.
    Product or service: SAP sales, implementation, training, consultation, support and related software development.
    Address: 2156 S. Fourth St., Milwaukee
    Revenues: $7.6 million in 2004
    Employees: 51
    Web site:
    March, 4, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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