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Making it work

By   /   Monday, October 12th, 2009  /   Comments Off on Making it work

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First, the airwaves. Then, the nation.

Santa Barbara-based computer support firm Make it Work has landed a deal to host a nationally syndicated radio show about consumer technology. And it plans to parlay that show into a coast-to-coast rollout of its tech support services.

Driving a fleet of bright red Mini Coopers, Make It Work technicians go to customers’ homes to, well, make their tech stuff work. Founded in 2001 by Eric David Greenspan and Jeremy Anticouni as a two-employee operation, the company has expanded to cover all of Southern California, from the Mexican border to Palm Springs to Goleta.
In September, Make It Work signed a letter of intent with Citadel Broadcasting, which acquired the ABC Radio in 2006, to carry “Make It Work Tech News” co-hosted by Anticouni and L.A. talk radio personality Tim Conway Jr. In the coming months, Anticouni’s voice will hit the airwaves in more than 20 U.S. cities, including New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco.

The plan is to roll out Make It Work services in all of the new markets, letting the radio show drive brand awareness.

The show features tech news, reviews and opinions and draws on the experience of Make It Work’s 40 tech support specialists in the field. “We can talk from the streets about what’s going on in technology,” said Greenspan, the company’s chief executive.

Though the planned show will be information-oriented rather than a long promo for Make It Work – Anticouni has interviewed higher-ups from Microsoft and other tech firms about their products — the company plans to exploit the market presence it generates to keep its signature red Mini Coopers speeding up and down the freeways.

“Within 60 days of launching the shows, we’ll put cars in all these territories as the calls flow in,” said Greenspan, Make It Work’s chief executive. “The goal is to put this show in every decent sized city in the country, by request of the sponsors,” which include Verizon, and Goleta-based remote access software maker Citrix Online.

The move up to national syndication comes after a quick rise for Make It Work’s radio presence. To get the word out about its services, the firm had been buying advertising time on radio host Jeff Levy’s show on KNX 1070 AM in Los Angeles.

“He was our No. 1 customer-acquisition source, but he wasn’t cheap,” Greenspan said.

When Levy’s show went off the air, Greenspan searched for a way to keep bringing in customers. Anticouni had found some success hosting a tech-talk show in the Santa Barbara area, and Greenspan began working on a deal for a show on a sister station of KNX’s.

After Greenspan did some footwork to bring aboard Verizon and Citrix Online as sponsors, the station moved him onto KNX with co-host Conway acting as a comic foil to Anticouni’s tech expertise. That was in March, and the show went on to grab top Arbitron ratings for its Saturday afternoon time slot before being picked up for syndication.

In addition to the new show for Citadel, Anticouni will still do a slightly different version of the show for KNX, which is a CBS-owned station.

Anitcouni and Greenspan are vetting the show’s sponsors and say they have already turned down a few. They only partner with companies whose products they recommend to Make It Work’s customers or use themselves. They use Citrix Online’s remote access software, for example, to help customers, train employees, and power interactive post-show Webinars where Anticouni demonstrates new software from his desktop.

“It would be a huge detriment to myself and to the company to bring on a sponsor that I can’t in good conscience recommend just to bring in the revenue,” Anticouni said.

Make It Work is also launching a barrage of video and other electronic media messaging, building facilities for video and sound production in its headquarters above a burger joint in Santa Barbara.

“We’re creating our own in-house media division,” Greenspan said. “Because we’re experts in technology, it’s a natural thing for us to talk to people about it.”

For his part, Anticouni will be trading off some of his former duties as chief technology officer. He had once overseen the company’s internal tech infrastructure, a fit with his background designing enterprise-level systems. In fact, Anticouni was hesitant about taking up consumer-side tech support during Make It Work’s early years.

“I had been designing and deploying large networks for years, and the thought of going to someone’s house initially wasn’t exciting to me,” Anticouni said. “But the phones kept ringing off the hook.”

A national expansion goes easier for a tech-centered company like Make It Work because it’s already a mostly office-less endeavor, Greenspan said. Roving techs stay connected to the mother ship via Blackberry and often come to the Santa Barbara headquarters only for training and vetting. Also, Greenspan said, some of his veteran technicians have lined up to move to other parts of the country to provide “assistant coach” oversight to new employees.

“Setting up a technician with a car and a Blackberry in New York City is no different from doing it in Orange County,” Greenspan said. “We run the whole thing like a football team. Some of our Level Four techs have offered to relocate at least temporarily to some of these markets.”

That said, Greenspan is a big fan of the In-N-Out Burger business mantra: Don’t expand at the expense of a quality customer experience.

“We’re not going to explode into these markets,” Greenspan said. “We’ll hire as the calls come in. In New York City, we’ll start with only two or three techs, just like we did in Los Angeles.”

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