For a series of feature articles on the tech business climate in New Jersey, NJTechWeekly.com has interviewed Guy DiMemmo, president and CEO of Visual Computer Solutions (VCS) (Freehold).
VCS was started by then-programmer DiMemmo in 1998 to provide scheduling, time and attendance systems for law enforcement. At that time, DiMemmo was taking side jobs, as were many programmers, to keep up with Y2K maintenance. A local police department contacted him to develop a time and scheduling package for them. However, they couldn’t afford to have him create a one-off program for the department.
“I realized there was a need for a software solution for numerous police departments, so I decided to write that solution,” DiMemmo said. When the number of clients his company had reached 30 in 2001, DiMemmo felt secure enough to quit his full-time job to pursue this venture.
Since its founding, VCS has continued to grow, expanding into providing software for public safety, fire and corrections departments as well as municipalities and cities. The company has also increased the features it offers police departments and others.
The software filled a need in New Jersey cities and towns that had been hit hard by budget cuts during the recession: that officers be on the street, not tied up with administrative tasks, DiMemmo said. Towns saw savings from the efficiencies right away, he added.
In the near future, the company plans to venture into other verticals, including medical. The software is scalable, DiMemmo said, with current clients able to manage any number of employees.
VCS is now in a growth spurt. It has 18 employees and is hiring. DiMemmo says he sees business picking up in New Jersey and hopes to ride the economic upswing.
With some 300 clients throughout the United States and about 60 percent of them in New Jersey, VCS is truly a New Jersey company.
Why is VCS located in New Jersey?
In the beginning, we decided to settle in New Jersey because the majority of our clients were here. Our main goal was to develop very close relationships to continue to understand each customer’s individual needs. Over the years, we have established a long-lasting and strong foundation with our clients who were satisfied with our products and services. We were able to extend our software solutions through referrals from many New Jersey departments, since we established a great reputation in the state.
What do you think of the talent available here? Do you find you can hire good people?
In the computer software industry, it has become practice to outsource to any state or country. At the start of our hiring process it was apparent that there were extraordinarily talented people in the area, so we decided not to go that route. Some of our workforce had previously worked in New York City or other parts of New Jersey, and they impressed us with their knowledge and ideas.
Some New Jersey tech companies won’t hire employees right out of college. Do you?
Yes! Just a couple of years ago we started an unofficial internship program with The College of New Jersey (Ewing), and we use interns from there. We have had five interns work for us. So far we have hired two of them as full-time employees. The others are still in school and continue to work for us. Two out of the three remaining are juniors, and we hope to offer them a full-time job when they graduate. There is a lot of great talent in New Jersey colleges! All of the interns we are hiring are either computer science majors or computer engineering majors.
Do you find any impediments to doing business in New Jersey?
As a company that frequently does business with the state of New Jersey and its municipalities, we have found that working with the state government can prove difficult at times. The sales cycle can be longer than in other states and in the private sector because of the state’s procurement rules. Our software has proven to provide clients with an immediate return on investment, and given our reputation, it would be in their best interest to certify that we are a good company and shorten the cycle. In some cases, a client may get a low bid from another company and because of the procurement rules, they may have to accept that bid instead of ours, sacrificing quality products, solutions and customer service.
If you could say one thing to Gov. Christie, what would it be?
I would ask him to make the procedures a bit easier. We do sell through the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). In that process, when you are given a seal of approval by one organization, that approval flows through to every organization under the GSA. And a price is negotiated. We can charge based on that price. I think if the state followed this procedure, municipalities and others may find that we can sell our software less expensively. They would get a better price because if we could consolidate the purchasing process, sales cycles would be shorter and it would be easier to do business.
Have you taken advantage of any state programs that help companies?
When we first began, we worked with SCORE. After that, most of the people we dealt with were private companies that helped us with our business plan. At one point we thought of going into an incubator in Trenton, but between the time we had looked at that option and the time we were ready to rent, VCS was too large for the incubator.
You say you are hiring. Besides programmers, what types of positions are you looking to fill?
We are actually interviewing more trainers and one more officer at the management level. And we are always looking for talented salespeople. We go through a lot of interviews before we find the right salespeople. We have a complex sale. We are not replacing anything, so we have to educate our clients to understand what we do and how we can help them. Then, after the education piece, we sell the product. We need salespeople who realize that they need a large pipeline, because our sales cycle is longer than average. A nice sale takes anywhere from 30 to 60 days, and some are as long as 18 months because of municipal budget cycles.