Vail Valley tech firm is growing again
Vail, CO, Colorado
When the world’s economy fell off a cliff in 2008, Barry Biegler looked at the smoldering heap of a popped bubble, swallowed hard, then told his employees: “We’re going to make it.”
Now, with the worst of the economic slump apparently behind us, Biegler’s company, Resort Data Processing, is still humming along in the Vail Valley. The company is nearing its 30th anniversary, and has made a profit 22 years in a row. That includes last year.
How’d that happen?
“We’ve got a great group of people,” Biegler said. And make no mistake, Biegler appreciates his employees.
The employees get together for lunch every Friday in the south-facing atrium-patio of Resort Data’s building in Eagle-Vail. The building itself has a workout room, complete with a two-thirds scale basketball court, and a swimming pool.
“This is a high-stress job,” Biegler said. “These guys work hard, so if they need to work out, they can.”
While there’s a lot of stress in taking care of problems that need to be solved 20 minutes ago, Resort Data’s building is library-quiet. That’s partly because the customer-service people use e-mail instead of phone lines these days. It’s also because there aren’t as many people as there once were.
Resort Data’s staff is down 20 percent from October of 2008, but Biegler said most of the cuts came through attrition, not layoffs.
But the people who stayed felt the pain of a year in which Resort Data’s revenues dropped by $1 million.
“We all took pay cuts – I took a pay cut,” Biegler said. “But when things started to turn around, everyone got their pay back, and I matched it.”
That means if someone took a $12,000 pay cut, they got back $24,000.
Biegler believes in treating his people well.
And, after nearly 30 years in the business, he also thinks he finally understands what kind of people he needs to keep his business running and his customers happy.
“I want smart, nice people who like Vail,” Biegler said. “I can teach them everything else they need to know.”
Biegler said he’d like to keep employees their entire working lives, but the average is five or six years.
Matt LaDuke has been with Resort Data about six years. He’s the kind of person Biegler wants, a college-educated and self-proclaimed “former ski bum” who decided he wanted a more professional, career-oriented job.
Bob Kippola, Resort Data’s vice president of sales and marketing, has been with the company more than a decade. He’s proud of the company, and particularly proud of the people he works with.
“”We’ve had pretty good growth in this economy,” he said. “That’s a testament to the dedicated people we have.”
And those people are busy. Resort Data has seven customer-reps working with roughly 600 clients.
But Biegler considers many of them friends. That’s how he’s kept The Antlers Lodge as a customer for more than 25 years.
Bart and Andrew Cuomo of Vail Realty were among the Biegler’s first customers. They still have a service contract.
Biegler attributes the company’s staying power to both the quality of its software and its people. But getting started was more a stroke of luck.
“I happened to start right when the PC was introduced,” he said. “Before, a mainframe computer would start at $500,000. A PC cost about $5,000. There was an enormous market of people who wanted computers who could now afford them.”
Biegler, former software salesman for Hewlett-Packard, saw a need in the resort business. Working with both a lodge owner and programmers, the first resort-management software was introduced in 1981. He knew he wanted to live in a resort, but it took Bart Cuomo to convince him to come to Vail, which he did in 1987.
Being based in the Vail Valley isn’t easy – property’s expensive and help can be hard to find. But Biegler believes it’s one of Resort Data’s strengths.
“When you talk to somebody in Jamaica and say you’re from Vail, they think you know about the resort business,” he said.
He also hosts an annual client meeting just after Labor Day, when lodging rates are low and the golf courses are still open.
Besides, Biegler likes living here, and so do his employees. And Biegler, 57, has no intention of doing anything else anytime soon. He said he was approached time after time with buyout proposals during the tech boom of the 1990s. He turned them all down.
“I’d say, ‘What about my customers?’,” he said. “They’d tell me, ‘What do you care?’ I can’t operate that way.
“It’s an old model – having a business that makes a profit and being satisfied with that,” he added. “I hope we can get back to that – it’s what built this country.”
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.