Though it isn't unanimous, a majority of entrepreneurs featured in this "Women In Business Series" got their start with a dream to enjoy work and family -- not an easy thing to accomplish when running in the rat race. Lucy Garrighan, president and founder of Business Alternatives Inc. (BAI), is one of the most compelling examples.
Ten years ago, when her oldest child was 7 years old, Garrighan did the unthinkable -- she quit her job of eight years, started her own company and went into business in direct competition with her former employer, the giant Xerox Corp.
Today, Business Alternatives is two businesses, with more than 40 employees and projected annual revenue in excess of $8 million. More important, though, Garrighan says, is that she's had the opportunity to be an excellent mother to her four children, including a 1-year-old toddler, and still has 98 percent of the customers she started with in 1990.
"I didn't want to juggle work and family," she recalls, "but I never imagined it would go this well. I am so fortunate to have assembled such a wonderful staff and such quality customers. I think it's a measure of our success that we have such low turnover of both workers and customers."
The Garrighan decade
Garrighan, a former Xerox Education Market executive -- and her husband, John, then a corporate service manager -- started the company with two technicians. After starting by offering service contracts on Xerox large-volume duplicators, Business Alternatives went on to the remanufacturing and selling of Xerox high-speed copiers.
Garrighan says Business Alternatives offers full-service maintenance on these products at a cost that is at least 30 percent less than what the manufacturer charges. Its response time for Xerox equipment averages two hours or less.
In 1993, the company acquired a larger facility and became the largest independent Xerox remanufacturer and service company in the Northeast, and one of the top three Xerox independent companies in the country.
To address the mid- and low-volume needs of its existing customer base, BAI became an authorized Minolta dealer in 1994. Over the years, it's added products from Gestetner, OkiData, Samsung and Standard.
Although Garrighan's core business is sales and service of analog, digital and color copiers and fax machines, she created BAI Printing three years ago. The second business does about 3 million copies a month, much of it one-color outsourced material from organizations that don't want the trouble and expense of maintaining and staffing their own print shops.
Lurking in the eastern suburbs
Born in North Versailles, Garrighan was educated at the University of Pittsburgh and lives in Penn Township with her husband/partner and their four children. The businesses are located in Plum Borough.
"You might think I don't get around much with a geographic history like that," she jokes, "but the businesses cover five counties -- and so do I."
Garrighan says the key to her businesses is "knowing our customers and their needs. ...Unlike the giant companies, we're not bloated with bureaucracy and overhead costs. So we have partnerships with our customers -- the whole thing is geared to maintaining their satisfaction.
"Our incentives are customer driven. Our technicians are paid monthly bonuses based on clearly established objectives which are customer oriented, not bottom line oriented."
The printing business alternative
BAI Printing offers a line of services including large-volume and high-speed copying and printing in one-color and full-color, plus tabs, laminating, shrink-wrapping, binding, folding and stapling, two- and four-color offset, and graphic design.
Says Garrighan, "We also offer customized copier facilities management programs providing on-site personnel to manage and monitor copying programs. We can also manage mail, records, micrographics and engineering duplication services."
The printing business is technologically robust, she adds. In the decade she's been in business, printing has moved from hard-copy master art prepared by hand through traditional means by pencil- and knife-wielding graphic artists to fully electronic and paperless input. What once involved careful handling and messenger delivery of master keyline art is now accomplished by simple transfer of sturdy diskettes or direct electronic transfer of design and text files.
"I can remember when we thought the personal computer and business software would usher in the paperless society," Garrighan recalls. "Well, fortunately for Business Alternatives, people seem to like to have something in their hands, and not just on their screens." How to reach: Lucy Garrighan, Business Alternatives Inc., (724) 325-2777 or www.busalt.com
William McCloskey is a Pittsburgh-based free-lance writer.