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IT business owner puts family first

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If you thought it wasn’t possible to live in the comfort and safety of the Flower Mound area AND enjoy the technological business advantages of being in Dallas — without having to drive there, you were right.

But “were,” is the operative word — being in the past tense. Nowadays, with CEO Doug Oppenheimer’s IT business hidden just yards east of 2499 at Dixon, next to Sears, you don’t need to go anywhere at all to access top of the line IT services…just like the big boys can. 

Actually, while it’s not quite ready for release to the business news columns, prototype:IT is serving some of the truly biggest of the big boys, on an extremely international basis, all from its larger than expected office expanse.

A 12-year Flower Mound resident, Oppenheimer came from the hotel business, where he ran operations.  When working for Wyndham, he segued over to the IT side, helping to open new hotels, coordinating the particular technical needs of that type of enterprise.

Despite having really just started growing his own family, Oppenheimer had the courage to eschew the relative safety of the corporate world to start his own company in 2005, with prototype:IT, then in Irving.  Nowadays, his family includes wife Janelle, Owen, 7, Avery, 6, and Annelise, 2.  “My son does love to play at the office,” he concedes, smiling. 

(Yipes – Oppenheimer is more courageous than I am.  My blood pressure soars when my kids just open their paint jars in our kitchen, much less play around someone else’s computer!)

Oppenheimer’s move to be his own boss brought flexibility to his work schedule, affording him more time to spend with his growing family.

“We all love the pool in this hot weather.  The kids love it even more.  Janelle and I are heading out to go rafting this summer, just the two of us. Long overdue,” he added. “We are preparing to go on a Mediterranean cruise with friends for our 40th birthdays next year.”

From the outside, the business looks like just another average office.  Once inside, however, it just keeps going in all directions. 

“We have a lot of space.  This property housed Distinctions home décor store, plus a medical spa and was earmarked for a third business, too.  We took over the whole building and are almost done building it out, combining the three facilities into one.  We’re making it as much of a family friendly place to work as possible.”

Most of us have worked in impressive looking offices in which the management claimed that there was a work-life balance and an “open door policy,” but survival instinct usually kept us from pushing these envelopes — right out that open door.  But it’s not just lip-service here. 

Besides a huge lawn and picnic tables, there are laundry facilities, and even showers!  (You may think I’m making this up to see if you’re really texting someone rather than reading this, but I’m serious.  I probably could have brought my own laundry to the interview had I known).

“A couple of the people have taken to running, which is great, so the showers really help out,” Oppenheimer explains, almost needlessly.  “Alex Coulonge has gone from 315 pounds down to 184!”

Oppenheimer proudly demonstrates an 87-inch Smart Board, which boasts the best of white board and computer technology combined.  It incorporates a gigantic touch screen monitor that you can write on, cut and paste, shrink and enlarge, and feel like you’re in control of John Madden’s Telestrator.  And yes, of course it’s attached to the Internet.  Heck, it looks like it controls the Hubble telescope.  I think we found a 10th planet on it while I was there. 

“I wanted to work for myself,” he explains.  “I was fortunate to be able to hire Dev Ludewig as Sr. Project Manager.  Dev had once hired me, so we knew each other and knew that we could work well together.” 

Over the past year, Oppenheimer moved prototype:IT up here to Flower Mound, buying the building last October and opening the doors in March – which allowed him to be closer to home and cut his commute time down considerably.

“Richard Crooks, COO, really brought structure to the organization and provides strategic direction to the team.  He keeps things in check, helps us to prioritize what’s important.”

When Oppenheimer talks about making the business family friendly for employees, he didn’t stop with the aforementioned accessories.  “We have quite a number of people who don’t want to work fulltime or year-round, so we’ve been able to offer lots of job sharing opportunities.  Ann Webster is a fulltime mom who only wanted to work a few hours a week.  She’s working about 20 hours, as are several others.  When their kids are out for the summer, they may not want to work as much or as often.  We’ve been able to accommodate them, as well as high school intern, Briauna Medley,  who can’t work fulltime.”

The company currently employs about 20 people fulltime, and can expand to over 50 to handle complete rollout type jobs for new businesses.  “We put in new firewalls for clients, manage backup solutions, provide security, oversee various compliance issues, and set up whatever networks are needed.”  Log onto www.prototypeIT.net to get an idea of all of the services handled and contact information.

“In a couple of more years, when we get to 50 people fulltime, we’ll probably need to move or add additional locations,” Oppenheimer waxes with what appears to be a mix of anticipation and lament.  “We want to grow, but not at the expense of losing our culture.”

As for his clients, Oppenheimer sounds as though he feels the same personal concerns and as he does for his employees, “We want our customers to really enjoy a personal relationship with our company, as though we work for them – which we really do, and it makes things so much easier.”

“There are lots of businesses of all sizes in Flower Mound area that we can provide service for.  Even if you have a small company, we have email and hosting services with centralized virus support and web content programs that start at just $4 and $12 a month!”  (I’m starting to feel wealthier by the minute).

Speaking of family friendly – Oppenheimer has helped some of his commercial clients with a need to monitor their children’s Internet activities at home using Open DNS, a free product.  If an inappropriate website is accessed, the browser will automatically pop up a photo of mom or dad stating that you need to ask permission to view the applicable content.  Then parents can approve the site.  The instructions to implement in detail are provided at http://prototypeit.net/homesolutions.php. 

While Oppenheimer is running a thriving and growing business, he sees the value in operating without the need for greed, as he espouses, “If we take care of the customers, the money will come later.”

The company can be reached at www.prototypeIT.net or (214) 270-0850. 

John LaVine can be reached at johnlavine99@yahoo.com.

 

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