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Development Group, Inc.’s co-founder Jason Eatmon talks biz
Jason Eatmon recently earned distinction as one of Shasta County’s most watchable movers and shakers: He won a 2011 “20 Under 40” award sponsored by the Redding Record Searchlight to honor young business professionals who are making a difference. He and his partner, Dan Lockwood (who won the same award in 2012), founded Development Group, Inc., in 2009, and it’s not hard to see why it’s successful even though it was started in the middle of a historic recession. The company specializes in Cisco systems and designs and implements networking systems for businesses as well as educational and governmental entities, and Eatmon has passion not only for his company, but also for being innovative in a highly competitive industry.
Eatmon explains that Cisco manufactures the hardware and software that runs the Internet, whereas Development Group, Inc., designs solutions leveraging these technologies, such as video-teleconferencing solutions, firewalls, data centers, voice-over IP systems and more. The company even works with some Fortune 500 companies. “At the core of what we do, we treat every customer in this way: We go in and analyze what problem they’re trying to solve or what objective they’re trying to achieve.”
One of the company’s key strategies, Eatmon says, is to approach each client “holistically.” As an example, a school district might want to enhance the marketability of its schools, making them seem safer and more appealing. Development Group, Inc., would help the district see how various resources would enable more people to have the functional technology that contributes to 21st-century learning. “Gone are the days of the chalkboard,” he says, explaining how, for example, technological solutions could enable a district to capture the lessons of an excellent teacher and make them available to all of its students, rather than just 30 at a time.
“Anybody can sell technology,” Eatmon says. “We provide solutions. We partner with our customers and analyze their operations to provide complementary solutions every time. Ninety percent of our business is repeat business.”
What’s on the horizon for the still young but growing company? “We’re going to continue to grow,” Eatmon replies confidently, “in two ways—in width and in depth.” The company is expanding up to Portland and south into the Bay Area, with employees in Chico, Sacramento and Oregon.
While Eatmon’s company might be viewed as “just a little company in Redding,” they’ve maintained positions on Cisco’s Channel Partner Advisory Board—and Cisco is a Fortune 500 company of 65,000 employees globally. “We’ve helped them steer the ship,” he says, noting Development Group, Inc., has more advanced-level certifications than many companies several times their size.
The Redding businessman, who also juggles community service activities and coaches a youth traveling soccer team, has some pointers for others who are in or going into business. “People need to identify that their competitors are no longer just simply across the street,” he says. “Define what you want to accomplish. Articulate to your employees and customers how you’ll maintain your competitive edge. Understand who your customers are and how they purchase.”
Eatmon and his partner were fortunate in their early days—they received assistance and guidance from Shasta College’s Small Business Development Center. “They helped us identify some of the logistics we needed to take care of. They helped us register our corporation with the state and make our business plan, and they put us in contact with many other resources as well,” he says.
The hard work in the initial stages of planning, as well as the ongoing focused efforts, have paid off: In addition to the “20 under 40” awards presented to Eatmon and his partner, their company was selected by the downtown community for Redding’s Best Downtown Business Award. The company—nominated by its own employees—also received Shasta County’s Best Place to Work in Shasta County award.
Development Group, Inc., recently hired its 20th employee. This is a noteworthy accomplishment, Eatmon says, “considering we started off in my partner’s parents’ living room four years ago.”