Klein first encountered 5050BIZ while attending an industry convention. It was there that she met Leif Hartwig, a business coach and founder of TruQuest Corp., which conducts team building and coaching exercises for businesses, particularly those in the financial sector. In addition, Hartwig just so happens to be the founder and managing director of 5050BIZ.
"About 2 years ago, I came up with a concept that turned into 5050BIZ," says Hartwig. Already familiar with social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, thanks to his children, Hartwig thought small businesses could gain a great deal by taking a social approach. But he also knew that most small businesses don't have the time to devote to such efforts. Hartwig also thought that many businesses were wary of Facebook's more informal atmosphere. "It's very difficult to have a business conversation when a homemaker is discussing kids, and teenagers are talking about wild parties," he says.
According to Hartwig, most of the companies using the site are small businesses with between 5 and 10 employees, but he notes that several larger companies are evaluating the site as well. "Really, our sweet spot is the small-business [owner]," says Hartwig. "Small-business [owners] employ more than 50% of the population of the U.S."
5050BIZ's business-oriented communication tools sounded ideal to Klein, who initially was simply looking for a way to keep in touch with employees no matter where they were. "When we first heard about the program, we thought of it as a way of staying in contact with people who work for us who are not in the office," says Klein. The fact that 5050BIZ is an SaaS solution was also ideal for Klein's employees since it meant they could check in and access important documents from any internet-connected computer without having to install additional software.
For Klein's office manager, Frankie Stewart, another appealing feature of 5050BIZ was the ability to conduct conferences through the service. After receiving an email invite, clients would be able to join a conference to discuss financial matters and review documents without having to create an account on 5050BIZ.
5050BIZ is also fairly affordable, with free limited membership for individuals, individual "Gold" accounts starting at $24.95 per month, and business group plans starting at $49.95 per month.
According to Klein, 5050BIZ was very accommodating in terms of both startup support and possible alterations to the service. Although the firm ultimately did not require any additional customization, she notes that 5050BIZ was "totally willing to add things" to the platform to accommodate her company. 5050BIZ was also willing to offer support and assistance, making the transition to the program as painless as possible.
Klein Financial Services was set up on 5050BIZ in late 2009, but it wasn't able to immediately begin using the service due to an overwhelming workload at the time. Once things calmed down and Klein's employees had time to try out the site, the switch was a simple one. "We just got on one day and it was very easy to get used to," says Klein. "[5050BIZ] was able to get on the chat room with us and walk us through. They were very open." She also emphasizes that the company had "very good support."
Once employees were up and running with the program, the company had a much simpler time keeping in touch with its traveling representatives and out-of-state customers. Reps could easily check in with the office to access important documents or seek guidance, while the firm could use the service's email functionality to manage mailing lists and send its customers updates on their investments. And because the company could provide clients temporary access for specific conferences and documents, Klein Financial Services didn't need to spend time managing passwords and setting up accounts for clients.
"We were able to keep the security we wanted with the client data while, at the same time, provide a way with 5050 that we didn't have to give all the passwords out," says Klein. "We could just share that one document."
Klein also found the social networking aspects of the service to be an unexpected boon. She has been able to get business advice from the topical experts on the site's volunteer ProTeam, and the ability to connect with other businesses and users on 5050BIZ has helped open up new business contacts.
"I've gone online and looked at the profiles; I've gone online and found people," says Klein. "You know the old adage about being three phone calls away from anybody in the world? Actually, you're about two clicks away when you use 5050BIZ."
Klein estimates that about 80% of her employees are using the service, either for outside communication or in-office collaboration. However, the company hasn't yet explored some of the suite's more advanced features, such as video conferencing and workflow monitoring.
Ultimately, what pleased Klein the most about 5050BIZ was the breadth of services it offered. "We were just very glad to find so many things in one place," she says. "It was nice not to have to have this software, and that software, etc. It was all in one."