Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Serving the SMB Community, One Web Site at a Time; Website Pros, Once a Struggling Business, Has Turned Itself around by Redefining Its Services

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Serving the SMB Community, One Web Site at a Time; Website Pros, Once a Struggling Business, Has Turned Itself around by Redefining Its Services

Article excerpt

Byline: MARK BASCH

Five years ago, Website Pros Inc. was a company on the verge of going out of business.

The company had only been in business for about a year after acquiring the assets of Jacksonville-based Atlantic Teleservices. But its owner, Norwest Venture Partners, decided it couldn't succeed in its main business of designing Internet Web sites. So the owner was ready to shut the company down.

"They had already written off their investment," said current Website Pros President and CEO David Brown.

Brown founded Atlantic Teleservices and retired after selling it to the venture capital firm. But after meeting with the firm's officials, he decided to come back and run the company with a new management team.

"We decided, let's just see if we can't survive and get the business back on its feet," Brown said.

"In a very short period of time, we had a company that was cranking," he said.

The company went public in November to position itself for future expansion, selling 6.8 million shares of common stock at $10 each.

Website Pros offers Internet development services to small and medium-sized businesses. With a target market of about 22 million U.S. businesses, it sees a great opportunity for growth.

"Small businesses do need help getting on the Internet," said Brown.

The difference between Website Pros now and in 2000, when it was ready to close, is that the company now offers more than just Web design. It also "optimizes" Web sites, creating a site that potential customers can find.

"It's not just about having a Web site anymore. It's about having a Web site that does something for your business," Brown said.

And he's not talking about selling products through the Internet. Website Pros' technology is designed to help customers who may want to use a small business' services find the business.

For example, say a consumer uses popular Internet search engine Google to find furniture dealers in Jacksonville. When that consumer does his or her search, Website Pros' proprietary technology is designed so that its small business customer's Web site will turn up among the first entries on the Google list.

Analysts say it's a service that's appealing for small businesses.

"Due to a lack of expertise, SMBs [small and medium-sized businesses] need help to establish an Internet presence, but historically, those services have been prohibitively expensive," said a research note by Friedman, Billings, Ramsey analyst David Hilal. …

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