P2P Client: Union Street Media
Passion, Drive...and a Little Help From Their Peers
A passion for Vermont and community, a drive to use technology to help their customers leverage the power of the internet, and a philosophy that creative, hard working people are a businesses’ greatest asset led three enterprising young partners to form Union Street Media (USM) in a dorm room at Middlebury College in 1999.
Over the past 10 years, the company has evolved from creating websites for college students and small businesses in Middlebury, to becoming a website and application developer for the real estate industry and other industries nationwide.
With 14 full time employees and four part time contractors, this young and rapidly growing company has found success in Vermont’s growing software / web development industry. USM offers high paying (low impact) jobs and brings in dollars from outside the state. Half of their employee base has a degree from a Vermont college or university – keeping more young minds from leaving the state. In recognition of their hard work, USM won the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce’s A. Wayne Roberts Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, given annually to a local business that exemplifies entrepreneurship, leadership, creativity and business expertise.
In March 2007, the USM President, Ted Adler and his two partners, Andy Vota and Jon Adler, knew they were at somewhat of a crossroads. USM really had two businesses – the general web development and the realtor application business. The question was could they (and should they) scale the real estate application business to the point where it would become more and more of their core business? The team had no shortage of ideas – but they wanted to know more immediately how best to execute current ideas.
Ted thought the team could benefit from some outside perspective into the business so he approached the Peer to Peer Collaborative (P2P). “We were looking for an advisory board opportunity where we could get outside input into our business, our operations, and the way we were going about making decisions. When we looked at who the P2P had in their stable of advisors we were really impressed by the skill and experience there. Lawrence Miller (CEO of Danforth Pewterers) did our initial assessment and he was asking some hard questions. I was thinking ‘now that’s the kind of person I’d love to have learn more about our business and advise us.’”
Ted appreciated the idea that P2P would take on the work of matching the right peer advisors, who had experience in their industry, with his team. “The fact that the peer advisors were well respected among their own peers and that they could come in with a fresh look at our business seemed like a super compelling opportunity to me,” said Ted.
P2P worked hard to match the young entrepreneurial team with advisors who could bring IT industry experience, financial acumen, project management expertise, and leadership and strategy skills. “The team came from a variety of backgrounds, worked well together, and often saw eye to eye when needed,” said Ted.
Ted points to the many benefits to the company, to the team, and to him individually that occurred during their P2P engagement. “Because of P2P, we fundamentally changed how we were accounting for revenue, and learned how to budget more accurately, which has helped us make better decisions in running the company. The real life experience of the peer advisors was instrumental in our discussions about good project management processes, and helped us identify where the real pain points were in our organization that were slowing down the production process. The process instilled a structure that we’re continuing to use even now that the program’s done. P2P gave our management team the opportunity to interact and spend time at the 30,000 foot level - which increased the strength, bond and mutual trust between the three of us.”
Ted summed it up best. “Having access to the experience of the P2P advisors was invaluable for our growing Vermont business. We made several strategic changes as a result of our interaction with P2P that directly impacted our bottom line. I enthusiastically recommend the P2P process.”