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Detroit Free Press Susan Tompor column [Detroit Free Press :: ]
[August 17, 2014]

Detroit Free Press Susan Tompor column [Detroit Free Press :: ]

(Detroit Free Press (MI) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 17--Paula Tompkins, CEO and founder of Dearborn-based ChannelNet, created a space by cleverly applying Silicon Valley technology to the sales and marketing process for bricks-and-mortar businesses.

Auto dealers are able to use ChannelNet's Web-based services to manage the turn-in of auto leases, as well as tap into other digital connections with car customers.

Her company is making it easy for consumers, for example, to go online and apply for loan for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

ChannelNet's partnership with Fiserv gives some lenders the ability to provide their clients facing a hardship access to self-service tools to better restructure a mortgage or installment loan payment online.

Clients include: BMW Financial, Hyundai Motor Finance, Ally Auto, Hunter Douglas window treatments and Benjamin Moore paints.

Not bad for a business owner who started when the Web was just something made by spiders.

In 1985, Tompkins founded a company called the SoftAd Group to take advantage of newer marketing tools for consumers and businesses using personal computers.

The company was renamed ChannelNet in 2004, better reflecting opportunities for marketing channels on the Internet. Her company, which is privately held, grew by 50% in 2013 and is on track to grow by more than 30% this year, she said.

Tompkins, 62, noted that consumers are far more willing to solve problems online, instead of waiting on hold or going through an automated phone system.

"They don't go to the phone book anymore," she said. "They go online." The company's niche is to mix its creative part of the business with Web-based solutions.

"Digital is where it's at," she said in an interview in Dearborn. "Companies are spending money on it because it is very efficient." And consumers want their interactions online to be attractive and easy.

"Consumers are time-starved today and we're helping them by streamlining," Tompkins said.

Tompkins spends half her time living in Birmingham and half in Sausalito, Calif.

"I'm a frequent flier," she said, noting that she has 3 million miles on Delta.

ChannelNet has the bulk of its employees in offices in the Parklane Towers complex in Dearborn because of its heavy footprint in the auto sector.

In addition, Tompkins said her company finds Michigan to be a lower-cost base and an area where the workforce is every bit as good as Silicon Valley's.

Silicon Valley is extremely competitive for high-tech workers who show little loyalty to employers, she said.

"They change jobs as often as they change clothes." Contact Susan Tompor: 313-222-8876 or ___ (c)2014 the Detroit Free Press Visit the Detroit Free Press at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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