Founded in 1979 by Jerry and Cathy Swerdlick, Electronic Vision Access Solutions (EVAS) is a family-run, privately held corporation based in Westerly, Rhode Island. EVAS Assistive Technology Solutions are tools that can be used to gain independence —an independence which can open the doors to further education and employment opportunities and a better quality of life for people with disabilities.
The company offers fully customized computer-based solutions for people who are visually, physically, hearing or learning disabled. It has recently developed a family of disability specific complete solutions that offer plug & play systems at an excellent price.
Jerry Swerdlick came to the RISBDC for assistance in expanding the company’s market share for their Assistive Technology. He chose the RISBDC for assistance because of its long-standing reputation for quality and the breadth of resources available through the host of the RISBDC, Johnson & Wales.
John Cronin, RISBDC executive director, worked with the Swerdlicks and their management team to develop a plan of action to establish the level and type of RISBDC and JWU support required for the project. Working with JWU student Amanda Marcello, they initiated an analysis of EVAS’ leadership, mission, values, and culture. They then began a strategic planning effort including the development of corporate goals and a deployment plan for each of the objectives. The goals included increasing revenue, improving operations, and developing the leadership team and the workforce.
One primary goal of the plan, related to increasing revenue, was to grow market share by creating a marketing plan that would identify both new potential customers in new market segments. Erin Wilkinson, professor of marketing led a student team from her Consumer Behavior and Qualitative Research classes to develop a marketing plan for the company. The plan they developed included:
Creating a market segmentation profile for Senior Computer Training Centers Defining the market opportunity and segmentation trends related to the assistive technology market Detailing the competitive environment at different levels in the value chain for various company product lines Breaking down specific market segments by demographics with regard to assistive technology Selecting appropriate marketing strategies to promote EVAS products to each of the identified market segments.
As part of the marketing plan it was determined that exhibiting at industry trade shows should be a primary element of EVAS’ sales effort. JWU Associate Professor Jennifer Galipeau led yet another student team in providing assistance to the company to develop a highly focused effort to make use of these trade show opportunities with specific training in qualifying prospects and closing sales either at or soon after trade shows. This training included a pre-show promotion plan, the setting of specific, measurable objectives for each show, establishing policies for show operations including a “booth handbook” for all staff working at the booth and a staffing plan for the booth. The project culminated in a two-hour “Boothmanship” Training Program for all EVAS employees who would be working trade show booths.
Beyond the support for the development of a concerted sales management effort at trade shows, the Wilkinson team developed a comprehensive Sales Training Manual for EVAS. This detailed document identified target markets and sales tools and included specific sales presentations and customer service follow-up techniques and guidance on proposal writing, order taking, and the development of a contact management system.
Another element of the services provided by the RISBDC was related to the strategic objective of developing the leadership team. Jerry and Cathy Swerdlick decided to develop a management succession plan and asked the RISBDC to provide executive coaching and leadership development support for their daughter Sara. JWU Professor Gretchen Guertin worked with Sara in a series of discussions, exercises, and training sessions to assist her in developing her management and operational skills.
Jerry and Cathy were very impressed with the level of knowledge and commitment of the team put into place by RISBDC and supported by Johnson & Wales and appreciated all their efforts. In fact they liked the work of the marketing team so much that they hired a member of that team, Corinne Bergen, as a full-time employee in the marketing area. When it was decided to create a Corporate Video as part of the marketing plan Erin Wilkinson introduced John Diamantakos of Diamond Start Media, a JWU alumnus, to EVAS. John produced a video promoting EVAS that is now shown at trade shows and is featured on the company’s websites.
As a result of the collaboration EVAS’ market share and revenues are growing. The company has gained recognition in the assistive technology field through its participation in trade shows and conferences across the country. This recognition has initiated new business opportunities with state agencies and other groups who serve people with disabilities.
“Our collaboration with the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center and Johnson & Wales University was a great success,” said Jerry Swerdlick, CEO of EVAS. “All the objectives that we set were accomplished and EVAS is now in a better position to grow its business. The team that was created had the knowledge and resources to address our needs and was able to guide us to reaching our goals. I would recommend these services to other members of the Rhode Island business community.”