Tammy Finch, founder of East Peoria’s Web Tech Services, didn’t plan on getting into the computer industry—it just kind of happened. About 12 years ago, while working as a research secretary for a medical group in Peoria, she was asked to create a website for the practice—something that wasn’t on the top of many medical groups’ to-do lists at the time.
“Of course, I didn’t know what I was doing in the beginning, but I kind of muddled through it…learned HTML and took some classes,” she said. Back then, she noted, HTML editors—software that greatly speeds up the web design process—weren’t around like they are today, so she had to type all of the code by hand. While that task didn’t come easily, Tammy’s glad she took the time to learn, as it provided the springboard for a growing business. Upon completing her first website, others commissioned her to design sites for their own organizations, which led her to start up Web Tech Services.
Not only did she acquire web design skills while working for the medical group, Tammy also became their IT support. Seeking the ability to access their network remotely, the doctors in the practice started bringing their personal computers to her for assistance. Tammy also began to perform basic maintenance such as software installation and virus removal, “and then it just grew from there.”
As more people saw her work, Tammy’s client base grew considerably. She continued to work at the medical group and was growing Web Tech Services on the side when she married Chris Finch eight years ago. A “computer guy,” Chris wasn’t working in the industry at the time, but he went on calls with Tammy and did a bit of design work as Web Tech continued to gain momentum. Four years ago, he left his own job and signed on with the family business full-time.
Each year since Tammy started Web Tech Services more than a decade ago, the company has doubled in size. In 2007, the business had gotten too big to manage out of their house, and so the Finches decided to open a storefront location. It was at this time that Tammy’s brother-in-law, Dalton Carlson, joined the team. A high school student in Princeville, Dalton worked on computer repairs at Web Tech Services part-time until he graduated last July. “He’s still kicking around the idea of going back to school,” said Tammy, “but for now, he’s just going to work full-time for us.”
Tammy’s daughters, Ashley and Jamie Lovell, have been helping their mother with the family business since the beginning. When Ashley became a full-time student at Southern Illinois University four years ago, she continued to work remotely part-time during semesters and full-time during the summers.
When Web Tech got to the point of needing another full-time employee two years ago, Tammy made the difficult decision to leave her job—and its high stress levels—behind and take on Web Tech full-time. “There were a couple of opportunities when I could have done that,” she explained, “but the job I had…paid a lot of money and it was really hard to give that up.” But Tammy said she’s never looked back, and doesn’t regret her decision one bit.
Last year, Ashley graduated from SIU with a degree in communication design and, to Tammy’s delight, joined Web Tech as a full-time website designer. Because she had been designing sites for the company’s clients for several years, this saved Tammy the time and money it would have taken to train a new employee.
Still, Web Tech Services needed another person to keep up with the day-to-day tasks of filing, mailing and keeping the store clean, so Tammy asked her niece, Becca Scronce, if she’d like the job. Although she has a second job elsewhere, said Tammy, “It’s worked out really well because we can just work around her schedule.”
As satisfied customers spread the word about the company, its business continues to grow exponentially. The Web Tech team has been especially busy the last two years, keeping up with their nearly 1,400 clients. Many of them were introduced to the company through the workshops Tammy began offering last year on utilizing social media and internet marketing for business. As these outlets skyrocketed in popularity, Tammy saw the need to help people understand their capabilities, offering advice on how to best use them to further their companies.
Hire Family If You Can
Because word of mouth tends to produce the best results for her, Tammy has joined a number of professional organizations over the years. At networking events, she often hears people say that they would never hire family members. To that, Tammy says she’s never had a problem hiring family, and in fact, wouldn’t have it any other way.
A business owner, she counters, merely needs to be honest about who would make good employees and who wouldn’t. It’s not like hiring a stranger, she said. “When hiring family, you already know their personality…and work ethic. So, in a sense, it’s easier to hire family members because you already know [them].” And the family members she has hired so far have worked out well because each of them is engaged in their work and truly wants to see the business succeed.
While deciding who to hire wasn’t much of a challenge for Tammy, ensuring that she can continue to offer them fair wages and health insurance is more difficult. While that is common for any small business, perhaps Tammy feels more indebted because she employs her own family. She views the fact that she can employ family, however, as one of her greatest gifts. “It’s just a great thing to be able to work for yourself, and also be able to help family by providing jobs.”
Web Tech Services has become much more than Tammy Finch ever dreamed when she started designing websites for a handful of medical groups a dozen years ago. As word of their work spreads through the community, the future of this small business continues to brighten. Already employing two generations of family, there is hope that a third will someday take it to new heights. iBi