By CRAIG FREILICH
CANTON – With 6,400 car dealers nationwide using its software, Frazer Computing has been steadily hiring more staff as the business grows and emerges quietly as a success story.
The company, which had 18 full-timers two years ago, will have 24 employees, all full time, as the new year gets rolling, and will probably be adding a
couple more people before long. The firm also recently settled into a new building at 6196 US Hwy. 11.
Owner and Potsdam native Michael Frazer started the firm after leaving Atlanta in 2001 to come back to the North Country to build his company.
“I had just one person working for me at the time,” said Frazer. “It was 13 years before I hired my first employee, and another four year
s back here before I hired number two.”
Two years ago, Frazer had 4,300 automobile sellers using his software. At the start of 2011, Frazer says the number is around 6,400, with nearly 1,800 new customers in 2010.
Product in Demand
His product is in demand because the customers, used car dealers throughout the country, tell Frazer they have found it makes their record-keeping smoother, their filings with state authorities easier, and financing calculations a breeze.
“These are mainly ‘buy here/pay here’ dealers, who sell to people that a bank won’t finance. The software will do calculations for financing a purchase –annual percentage rates and payments. And it will keep track of customer communications and payments,” said Frazer.
“It will keep track of vehicles, their costs, expenses and profit,” he said.
“And it will print out the forms a dealer needs. The auto business is highly regulated. There might be 10 forms a dealer has to print out for a sale. It varies from state to state.” Frazer says they have programmed more than 30,000 different forms into the software. “We talk with lawyers from every state. There are a million little things.
The increase in demand for the product has engendered a need for more employees, to keep the software up-to-date with changes customers have asked for and adapting it to changing requirements and desires, while dealing with problems customers need help getting through.
“We’re ready to program any time. If Community Bank says they need a new form, in a couple of days we’ll send an update,” he said.
Frazer says he takes a practical, methodical approach to the growth of the business, such as taking the time to be sure employees are thoroughly familiar with the operation before they go “online.”
So while he has a need for more people, “we can’t bring them all in at once. Training takes a full month, and also takes a person from work on the phones to train the new person.”
From Vemont to Atlanta
Frazer graduated from Potsdam High School in 1973, “and I did what every other kid here does and left.” He went to the University of Vermont and earned an accounting degree.
Since then he has been in software development, for most of that time as his own boss.
After college he moved to Atlanta and, beginning in 1985, began developing his software for auto dealers. “And I’ve been pretty much on that since then.”
While in Atlanta, Frazer says, with his accounting and computer background, he was training people to use accounting software. He didn’t really have a plan to build car-dealer software, but “I just fell into it.”
“One accounting customer had a friend who owned a used-car business and wanted software to help him run it. I told him I would write it, and I went home and learned how to do programming. When you have a mortgage and a growing business, you do whatever you have to do. So if someone is willing to pay you, you ought to be willing to design software for them.”
Tired of Heat and Traffic
After 20 years in Atlanta, “my wife and I talked, and we decided that the heat and the traffic there were affecting everything we did.” The North Country Frazer knew would be the change of scene they felt they needed.
In the last couple of years, Frazer has opened a small used-car dealership at 6182 Rt. 11, between Canton and Potsdam, mainly as a realistic test-bed for software development, and he has renovated a former bottled-gas company building next to the dealership as his new office space.
The dealership has worked out “better than I could have hoped for. It’s not making any money – yet. The goal with it was to test the software, to use it as a user.” But he’s not giving up on the dealership as a profit-maker.
“We keep striving to improve. We’re in constant pursuit of getting better. We’re chugging along, growing and growing, but the numbers aren’t jumping off the page. That suits my personality.”
“We might well be the biggest in the business. Some others are close, no doubt.”
Frazer says he has had no trouble finding good people to work for him.
“I’ve found incredible people here. I don’t know if they are so good because not many other businesses are hiring or if the great ones want to stay here. Either way, it’s worked very much to our advantage.”