Information Processing


How personal computers speed executives' tasks

Business Week

December 1, 1980

The professionals and managers who are pioneering in the use of personal computers are running them on tasks as varied as their own business. In three cases described below, the computer already is playing a major role in their work.

Buying a TRs 80 Model I from Tandy Corp, "was one of the best moves I ever made," declares Michael J. Rodriguez, chairman of Southern Telecom Inc. In the year since he started his Peachtree City (Ga.) cable television business, Rodriguez has won cable franchises for 32 suburban cities and hamlets around Georgia and Tennessee--a fast start that he attributes to his personal computer. "There seems to be no end to the applications you can put on these machines," he says. "The only thing that stops me is how much of my time I can afford to spend."

Rodriguez turned to computers two years ago--when he was still an independent consultant to the cable industry--to help automate the intricate and Laborious financial planning that goes into starting any cable franchise. After teaching himself programming from Radio Shack manuals, Rodriguez started writing programs to churn out the series of business projections that banks demand before they will finance cable-TV systems. Before he started using a computer, such projections took a "full week of very intensive manual work with a calculator," he recalls. The computer has cut the time to just two hours per franchise. What is more, Rodriguez can easily alter his projections to fit any new assumptions brought up by the bankers.

Rodriguez is so pleased with his computer's performance in the projection area that he is now putting it to other uses. In one case, his engineers are using the personal computer to design cable systems. They can design up to 35 mi. a day compared to the 2 mi. of cable that they could design with paper and pencil. The company recently hired a full-time programmer to write software to handle subscriber billing--a job that will require Radio Shack's more powerful small-business computer. Rodriguez has bought two of those in the last four months and plans to add four more in the next year.

Analyzing stocks

While Rodriguez used his personal computer to expand his business, stockbroker Denys Wortman credits his personal computer with the start of a new business. Wortman spent $3,500 for an Apple computer to use as a brokerage aid in his job at Moseley, Hallgarten, Estabrook & Weeden Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. Once he had become acquainted with the machine through computer games, Wortman learned to write programs from the instruction manual. Then, with the help of a computer programmer and a retired engineer, Wortman developed a graphics program for on-balance volume charting, a type of analysis used to make decisions on buying and selling stock. With little effort, he now charts 250 different securities. As a result, he and his two associates have founded Stock Market Software Inc. to sell the program by mail. The tiny company already has taken 25 orders, mostly from investors who are paying $1,000 for the software package.

A sales aid

Not everyone goes this far with a personal computer. Robert K. Singer, for example, was happy to plug in standard software when he bought his Apple computer just over a year ago. "I literally brought the thing home, plugged it in, and had it running in an hour," he says. As a district sales manager for McGraw-Hill Inc.'s Electrical Construction & Maintenance magazine, Singer uses the off-the-shelf software to do the same things that his company does with bigger computers: maintaining mailing lists, word processing, and keeping status reports on clients,

Singer has now learned to program the machine, and he has developed a sales presentation using the computer that shows customers how much they can expect to pay for various combinations of advertising. "The machine is getting me into doors I could never get in before," he says. Singer's only worry now is that he will not be able to retain this edge over his competitors for much longer. "So many other people," he says, "are thinking of buying a computer."

GRAPHIC: Picture, Rodriguez: "There seems to be no end to the applications you can put on these machines." Drew Leviton

Copyright 1980 McGraw-Hill, Inc.