Starting a Speech Recognition Company
Interview with Dana Abramson, Founder of Achieve Results Corp.
Dana Abramson had always found speech recognition software helpful when running her first business. Today, her second business helps others achieve the same benefits.
Dana Abramson founded Achieve Results Corp. in 1999 in Pittsford, New York.
Tell me about Achieve Results Corp.
Achieve Results Corp. is an innovative leader in the area of speech recognition software training and support for the purpose of achieving measurable productivity gains. The company has been certified by Nuance (Dragon NaturallySpeaking) as a certified speech recognition software training company since 1999. Achieve Results provides software, accessories, training and support services for the use of speech recognition software. The use of speech recognition software as a supplement to keyboard entry and as an alternative to traditional transcription provides significant cost savings and productivity benefits in areas where large amounts of document generation are required. Achieve Results has a patented training methodology utilizing Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech recognition. The Achieve Results training methodology focuses on developing the skill as opposed to features training. Utilizing Achieve Results' training methodology reduces the training time and risk of abandonment considerably and yields consistently a 95% success rate.
How did you come up with your business idea?
I personally used speech recognition software to improve my personal productivity. I found this software are very easy to learn and very easy to use. What I very quickly learned was that I fell into a minority. The majority, statistically about 85%, are unable to effectively use this software as a productivity tool without training and support.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
In addition to Achieve Results, I have another company, Corbi System. Inc, that sells technology products to NYS government agencies. This business was started in 1993. Prior to that I worked in sales, in the area of new market development.
Did you write a business plan?
Yes, and it was very effective until I stopped using it regularly as a tool. Once I realized I had drifted far from my goals I reacquainted myself with the use of the business plan.
Who did you hire to help you?
I hired the professionals; bookkeepers, accountants and lawyers that assisted with specific issues. I did not find outsiders useful when it came to effectively guiding me through the business challenges. What has worked well for me are mentors that I specifically identified, developed and nurtured.
What outside resources were helpful for you? Business incubators, Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, ....
I did try all of those types of resources throughout the years. Without a doubt I found the informal relationships significantly more effective.
Have you hired additional staff?
Yes, and the greatest challenge has been identifying the proper individual for the role. I did not have the personal expertise to effectively interview and hire the appropriate people. My pattern was to hire young inexperienced individuals with the intent to train them in the appropriate skill while keeping payroll costs down. One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that it is critical to hire people that have the skills and experience specific for the task. You can find good experienced people that are willing to be part of an organization that they believe in and where they can make a difference. It is not always about the money.
For women entrepreneurs, what specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become an entrepreneur?
Gender difference has never affected my situation. I believe that is because the gender differences are not as prevalent in an entrepreneurial environment as they are in a corporate environment. I believe because you are playing the game by your own rules.
Have you outsourced any portion of your business?
Yes, we outsource our IT support and also some of the writing for marketing material. It is very effective because we can benefit from the expertise without the need to have expertise on staff.
Finding employees to work in a new and growing business can be a challenge. How did you find your employees?
Up until recently it has always been challenging. We have tried the highly recommended, word-of-mouth. Advertising through traditional means such as newspaper, and more recently through the social media venue. Without a doubt, the most effective approach has been CraigsList.
Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?
Conceptually I agree with social marketing. Logistically unless you have the internal resources and expertise it is not effective for small business with so many other business responsibilities.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
Media exposure through PR efforts have yielded greater benefit than any other marketing effort we've attempted, which includes; billboard advertising, radio advertising, newspaper advertising, direct marketing, cold calling, trade shows, seminars etc.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
Yes, very. When I started my business I truly believed that all it would require was hard work, long hours, good customer service and a good product. I realize that's not what it is about all, is all about relationships, experience, and knowing what to do with them.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
No, because every step of the way was a very powerful lesson that increased my business knowledge and experience that can be achieved no other way.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Take it slow!
I was so passionate about my idea and I had so much time invested into thinking about it and working in it that I took for granted that others felt the same way. Because of that, my forecasts and vision for the business were grossly inaccurate.
That is great advice, Dana. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share your story with the readers at Gaebler.com.
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