Home Office With A World View A Web-based Marketing Business In Medford Is Attracting Enough Clients To Expand The Operation - To Spain.

Posted: September 11, 2000

Walking into Tim C. Kearns' at-home office, it doesn't appear to be the headquarters for a business that could become a competitor in the global market.

A barefoot Kearns, 36, expertly navigates his toy-ridden Medford home and heads upstairs to the computer that serves as his company's hub.

But as president of Frontier Interactive, a marketing company, Kearns is more cosmopolitan than his khaki pants and golf shirt portray.

He recently opened a branch office in Barcelona, Spain, expanding his operation into a trans-Atlantic marketing firm - even though he added only one more name to his on the payroll.

"We're using our Web site to work with clients in the area and out of the area," Kearns said.

When one Frontier Interactive client in Cherry Hill moved to Ohio, Kearns began to find ways to maintain his services over a great distance. And soon, potential clients from various continents who stumbled upon Kearns' site began to contact the company, asking for help in increasing their business or promoting their services.

Harry Menta, spokesman for the New Jersey Small Business Association, said that while overall exporting from the United States has dropped over the past five years, the export of services has increased.

"What he's doing is sort of new," Menta said of Kearns. "Exporting service is not as common as exporting a product. It's definitely caught on in the last 3 to 5 years."

But for Kearns' small business to remain competitive in the global market, Menta said, the business must provide the "one-on-one customer service customers are in need of or think they're in need of."

In 1988, Kearns began working for a large marketing company in Philadelphia as an account manager. He later was a marketing director at a bank. But after his son was born two years ago, Kearns decided that he wanted to spend more time at home. He began a career-counseling company for teenagers and young adults called Career Frontier, and had an office in Mount Laurel.

Through this work, Kearns met John Golden, president of Organizational Renewal Associates Inc. Publishing in Mount Laurel. He soon began helping Golden market his products, which included a popular psychological test known as the Personality Profiler.

With widespread interest in the profiler, a test that helps a person determine possible career paths, Golden needed help ensuring that his technology would not be pirated off his Web site.

"We were getting contact from Singapore, Norway and Japan," Golden, 38, said. "If you have people that are interested in your products, it takes the small entrepreneur out of their areas of expertise and puts them into new areas."

Golden hired Kearns as a troubleshooter who would work out some of the difficulties that stemmed from his company's foray into the global market.

"In a foreign market, it's more complex," Golden said. "One of the challenges in working in the international environment is language. With e-mail you can communicate quickly, but you can also miscommunicate much more easily."

Concerns about shipping costs for products, time-zone differences, and the theft of technology from the Internet plagued Golden.

Kearns, however, developed a Web site that protected the company's intellectual property and made sense to clients in various countries.

"Rather than just being a Web developer, Tim brings his marketing experience to the use of the Web," Golden said. "It's not just a static Web site. It really meets the clients' needs."

Golden said his profits had grown by 70 percent since the Web site was launched two years ago.

"And this year is on that same pace," he said. "It's not the Web site that's generated money in and of itself, but it has increased the exposure that we've gotten."

With the opening of his Spain office, Kearns said he was more actively seeking clients in Italy and other European countries.

He said he still believed that the Internet could eliminate the need for direct contact with a client and save on costly travel expenses.

But, he said, "I want somebody who is there who knows the geography and the culture. I don't trust the Internet enough when money is involved."

Wendy Ginsberg's e-mail address is wginsberg@phillynews.com

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