The Boardman-based company has dealers marketing its medical office software in25 states.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
BOARDMAN -- Tech companies are notorious for growing too fast, but it's a mistake Agit Kumar has vowed not to make with his Boardman-based software development firm.
Kumar, founder and president of Microsys Computing, believes slow, deliberate growth has allowed the company to survive and prosper while others in the tech sector have run out of steam.
"A lot of companies have come and gone. Why? They forgot the importance of quality product and service," said Kumar. "From Day One, I've always believed in controlled growth."
Founded 1983 as a home-based business with a staff of one, Microsys Computing now employs 33 full-time employees, occupies a 5,600-square-foot headquarters on Boardman-Canfield Road and has dealers selling and servicing its products in 25 states.
What it does
Microsys specializes in developing, producing and marketing computer software for medical office management, and it also offers software designed for dental office management.
Sales director Scott Catania estimates up to 65 percent of the Mahoning Valley's doctors use Microsys software to manage their billing, appointment schedules, patient registration, insurance form filing and other business.
"They used to have to do all those things by hand," said Kumar, who designed the first prototype for the company's software in the early 1980s, long before computers became commonplace. "It was a dream come true for doctors."
There's plenty of competition in medical office management software now, he said, but many area medical professionals choose the Boardman provider because it is local, and the company has built a reputation for reliable service.
Ironically, Catania said, tech support personnel can usually solve clients' problems over the telephone, so Microsys can promise the same quality service to its customers in Washington state and California that it provides its Youngstown-area clients.
Customers also prefer Microsys because its software works on Microsoft's Windows programs, he said, while most of its largest competitors still work only on an old-fashioned text-based system. Kumar saw the trend toward Windows coming and made the switch in 1997.
"It was timing and luck," he said. "We were one of the first medical software products for Windows, so we were in the forefront."
Doctors who buy the company's medical management software package pay an annual support fee, which entitles them to service and technical support whenever they need it.
When Microsys develops a new feature or enhancement for its software package, clients' software is upgraded accordingly.
Last year alone the company made 25 upgrades and added 25 features at no extra cost to its customers, Catania said. More than 600 clients attended a Microsys seminar at the Holiday Inn MetroPlex last month, at their own expense, to learn about the changes.
A native of India, Kumar earned a bachelor's degree in engineering there, then moved to Canada to pursue a master's degree in agricultural engineering on a scholarship. He later relocated to the United States to continue his studies at The Ohio State University, earning a doctorate degree in agricultural engineering and a master's degree in computer science.
In 1981 he accepted a position as a computer science professor at Youngstown State University, and his computer expertise soon opened doors for him to do consulting work on the side, helping other local professionals with computer-related problems.
When two local doctors asked him to help them with their computerized record systems, Kumar recalled, he was astounded to see how inadequate their computer software was for the job. He set about designing a software program designed for medical offices and worked on the project for more than a year, teaching at YSU by day.
"There were a lot of 16-hour days," he said.
It wasn't easy to get doctors to try the software prototype at first, he said. Computer systems were very costly then -- in the $50,000 to $100,000 range -- and few medical offices had them. He persuaded two doctors to try out his product, and the company's reputation grew gradually by word of mouth.
In 1987 he moved the business from his home to a small office on Market Street, and three years later he moved to larger quarters on Boardman-Canfield Road. He quit teaching to concentrate on the business full time in 1991 and built his present headquarters at 790 Boardman Canfield Road in 1994.
Catania joined the company three years ago and has focused much of his attention on increasing the number of Microsys dealers around the country. The company has 34 dealerships in operation, he said, and the average dealer boasts between 13 and 14 years of experience in the computer and software industries.
Kumar says growth is inevitable because the company's product is in such demand. "You never sit back in the tech field. You can't be stagnant," he said. "But we want to be sure we don't lose the focus. Support and service are our forte'. We can't forget that."
Microsys recently purchased another office building next door to its headquarters on Boardman-Canfield Road to allow for expansion.
And its software developers have just perfected a new product, a software program that will allow doctors to download patients' records and other information onto their Palm Pilot or other hand-held computer. Next, they'll work on ways to transfer appointment schedules and prescription records to the hand-held devices.
Kumar said the company will continue to add dealers in the United States. Microsys gets phone calls and e-mails every day from around the country and around the world, but he doesn't plan to expand outside the United States.
Adapting to the laws, health care requirements and insurance systems of other countries would be costly and labor intensive, Catania explained. "Besides," he said, "there's plenty of business in the U.S."