Winning at IT and customer service
A contest seeks to reward entrepreneurs who best apply technology to improve the customer experience.
By Chuck Marvin, FSB contributor

NEW YORK (FORTUNE Small Business) - Technology and customer service are two areas that challenge many entrepreneurs. For small-business owners who have mastered both, a contest sponsored by Dell Computer and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) offers the chance to win $30,000 in tech gear and services, and perhaps more valuably, to learn some of Michael Dell's business secrets.

The 2006 Small-Business Excellence Award seeks to reward entrepreneurs who best apply IT to improve the customer experience. The winner will get $30,000 in Dell (Research) products and services; a trip to Dell's headquarters in Round Rock, Texas, for a day with Dell experts to share best practices (including time with Dell chairman Michael Dell); and lifetime membership in the small-business advocacy group NFIB. Nine runners-up will receive a Dell notebook computer and a one-year NFIB membership.

Contest winners could learn some of Michael Dell's business secrets.
Contest winners could learn some of Michael Dell's business secrets.

Last year's winner was Dr. Timothy Kriss, a neurosurgeon based in Versailles, Kent. Dr. Kriss created a mobile medical office, serving patients who normally would not have easy access to a neurosurgeon at least not without traveling long distances. Dr. Kriss maintains a virtual administrative back-office, storing patient files on two laptops and using voice-recognition software to generate notes for medical records.

The 2004 winner of the competition, Donald A. Gardner Architects, a Greenville, S.C., firm, was the subject of a FSB Small-Biz Makeover story in February 2005. Gardner offers ready-to-build house plans through its website, www.dongardner.com. When her company won the award, president Angela Santerini brought her entire management staff to Texas to learn from Dell's business model.

"The best thing that came out of the award was our meeting with Michael and the other Dell executives," Santerini said. "I learned how to communicate with my employees about management and technology issues, and the Dell executives taught us how to use infotech to make our company grow."

The contest, which will accept submissions through Feb. 24, 2006, is open to small businesses with 100 or fewer employees. For more information, or to get an application, visit www.dell.com/ceaward.

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.