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Top Level Hawaii

Pacific Business News

Firm Saves Itself by Making Tough Choices

In danger of closing, company changes way it does business

by Alicia D. Partridge,
Pacific Business News

Michael and Christine Adderley are building a successful computer consulting business, enjoying healthy revenue gains over the past two years. But it hasn’t always been that easy. They, like many small-business owners, faced the prospect of closing shortly after launching their business, forcing them to make tough decisions to avoid failure.

Their company, Top Level Hawaii, was a three-tiered computer consulting firm offering web and graphic design, cable networking and wireless services. It generated $210,000 in revenue in 2008, grew 67 percent to $350,000 in 2009 and grew another 23 percent to $430,000 last year.

And the high costs that almost sank them are now under control.

The Adderleys were new to owning a business when they launched Top Level Hawaii in 2004. Michael said he believed that there would always be a demand for at least one of the firm’s three business sectors if the others waned.

Business grew steadily during the first two years, but high overhead and employee costs were draining the bank.

“We had plenty of business but our operating expenses were too high,” Michael Adderley said. “I was trying to run it as though it was at full strength.”

At the time, Top Level Hawaii was doing business out of a large retail space on King Street, and the wireless services required it to be open during normal retail hours. Adderley decided to drop the wireless services and focus on the web and cabling sectors, enabling him to reduce costs. In doing so, he had to lay off four of his 10 employees.

“It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make,” he said. “I had to let go of my best friend – he was in my wedding.”

To further cut costs, the Adderleys moved out of the large retail space and into more modest quarters on Hotel Street in downtown Honolulu. And they turned to outsourcing to reduce human resources expenses. Talent HR Solutions now handles government payments, forms and reports and helps supply contract workers when needed.

“I will call in and check up on people and give advice on Photoshop or help set up their Twitter page,” he said. “I am so proud to call everyone I work with not only clients but friends.”

Top Level Hawaii owner Michael says he had plenty of business in his company’s early years, but oper- ating costs were too high. Drastic changes in product line, staffing & location put him on a stronger financial footing.

“I wish I would have known about HR services from the beginning,” Adderley said. “It saves us a lot of time and money.”

The firm’s big break came when Lance Tauoa from Oceanic Time Warner Cable was eating lunch and saw Top Level Hawaii’s sign next door. At the time, he was spearheading efforts by OC16, the community access channel, to create a website and referred Adderley to programming manager Mitzi Lehano. Adderley presented her with five potential websites that he and his team had developed.

“They did more than just create a website; they created the ability for Oceanic Time Warner to share Hawaii lifestyles with places as far away as Sweden, Japan, Germany and many more,” Lehano said. “Michael sincerely cares about our goals and situations and has always strived to keep us on the cutting edge.”

Adderley said he takes time to understand every client’s story, their needs, the culture of their business and what they are looking for, not just for the project. “Understanding that culture is the biggest thing that makes a successful project and relationship,” he said.

He offers free additional help and support to his clients and continually calls to check up on their businesses.Bessie Fujioka, owner of The Bess Impression, a custom gift basket service, said Adderley helped design her website and logo when she opened in 2009.



Top Level Hawaii

Web, Design and Cable Networking

Owner, President and CEO: Michael Adderley

Address: 116 S. Hotel St., Suite 207, Honolulu, HI 96813
Phone: (808) 721-3030
Website: www.toplevelhawaii.com

SMALL-BUSINESS ISSUE
Saving a new business from closing.

STRATEGIES
  • • Refocus the company’s mission.
  • • Close a nonperforming business sector.
  • • Reduce staffing and overhead to match revenue.
  • • Outsource human resources functions.
  • • Offer clients free add-ons to contracted services
“I really liked the fact that Top Level Hawaii was local and worked on local projects,”

Fujioka said. “Michael was responsive and communicated with me regularly about the process. He made sure I was fully integrated and even set up my Twitter page for free.”

Top Level Hawaii’s customer base has grown to include The Queen’s Medical Center, SHOPO, Straub Clinic and Hospital , Hawaii Medical Library, Oceanic Time Warner and more. Today, the Adderleys are the company’s only employees; they use contracted programmers and developers depending on the project.

“I help people put their dreams in digital format,” Adderley said.

He did just that for The Realty Company Ltd. this year, designing its first website and logo.

“We were referred to Adderley from a friend who had a positive experience,” said TRC President Wayne Sadoyama. “We are new to web and he was able to take our suggestions and integrate them with his ideas. The end product was more than we anticipated.”

Adderley grew up in a family-owned business, working for his father’s furniture store in Oceanside Calif.

“My dad owned his furniture store for 45 years,” Adderley said. “I want to have that clout, like my father had, in my business.”

Adderley also owns and runs Top Level Networking, a consulting company that provides LAN and WAN design, remote access development, cable management and surveillance services.

Top Level Hawaii and Top Level Networking are subsidiaries of Top Level Communications.