Brave River Solutions

PBN's Five Questions with: Ernie Gaines

March 3, 2010

PBN sits down to talk with Brave River President Ernie Gaines, as appearing in Providence Business News 3/03/10.

By Ted Nesi
PBN Web Editor

PBN: What do you do at Brave River?

GAINES: We offer a full range of business technology solutions to businesses located primarily in New England. We design and develop interactive and e-commerce Web sites, offer CIO-to-Go consulting services, develop custom programming solutions, and provide general IT support. Our team provides all of the services that one might expect in an IT department. So, for midsize and large organizations we are an extension of their IT staff, and for smaller companies we actually are their IT department.

Our goal is to provide our customers with the greatest return on their technology investment. When their business succeeds, we succeed.

PBN: One of the projects you developed has gotten a workout recently – the Web site of the Rhode Island Broadcasters Association (RIBA), which hosts the system that tracks school closings and other cancellations during snowstorms, like the one forecast for Feb. 10. Could you talk about that project?

GAINES: The RIBA wanted to create a Web site which would include a centralized location for schools, churches, and businesses to report information, such as closings, that is to be directly transmitted to the various media outlets. Previously, organizations had to contact each media outlet individually to let them know they had a delay or cancellation. This manual system had a lot of duplication of effort, and put an unnecessary burden on everyone involved. The site Brave River created with RIBA provides the functionality necessary to accommodate the transmittal of time sensitive information to multiple media outlets simultaneously. Given the critical nature of the information, the Web site must be functioning 24-7.

As you can imagine, when we have a major storm, it is a stressful time for RIBA and the news and media outlets. We house our servers in a high-end facility with all the redundancy that is needed to ensure the site is “always” up and functioning. We also provide RIBA with a monitoring service to alert us and them if the site is unavailable.

Murphy’s Law tried to get us during one of the first storms after the site went live, though. Our hosting partner – who is not located in New England and has never heard of Foster-Glocester – had scheduled some preventative server maintenance, which of course happened to fall on an evening where we were having a major storm. Although the maintenance wasn’t supposed to impact the site, we scrambled to get them to change the schedule so we could rest assured that RIBA would be unaffected. RIBA views the system as a critical tool to help everyone communicate during the winter storms, and Brave River supports their efforts – even if it means a few employees sleeping with their cell phones!

PBN: Has Brave River felt the impact of the recession? How would you compare it to the period following the dot-com crash?

GAINES: I don’t believe that there is a business out there that has not felt the impact of the recession in one form or another. We are fortunate since our customers continue to invest in our services. This time has proven difficult as our customers need to see a more immediate return on their investment. However, maintaining the same values and mission established 10 years ago – providing high quality solutions on time and within budget – has helped our business to grow modestly. Delivering on our promise of quality products and services that provide the greatest return on investment has kept our loyal customers by our side and enabled us to add many more to the Brave River family even during the recession.

The dot-com crash was much more drastic for us as an organization. Overnight, everything that had Web or Internet attached to it had a bad connotation. Company executives reacted a little more quickly to pull back and stop projects during that time period. Companies are a little savvier this time and have not overreacted by cutting back on IT investments as dramatically.

I think that there are quite a few comparisons to be made between the dot-com crash, and our current economic situation, the most glaring of which are their root causes. The reckless technology investing has been replaced with the real estate and mortgage issues fueled by risky lending practices. Today, however, it seems that companies have learned from the dot-com bust, and have been more careful about buying technology they can’t utilize immediately.

PBN: Brave River is also known for its involvement in the community. What are some of the things you’ve done of which you’re the most proud?

GAINES: Over the past few years we’ve become involved with the Rhode Island Blood Center, the United Way of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. This was driven largely by our employees seeing what the recession was doing to people in our community.

Learning how invaluable the donation of blood is to our community, the Rhode Island Blood Center’s team inspired us to become blood drive sponsors. We host the event annually in the Centerville Commons business park here in Warwick. Without the support of companies and organizations, it would be impossible to collect enough blood to meet Rhode Island’s needs.

We also sponsored a food drive in the business park this past holiday season. With many more families seeking assistance this year it was wonderful to witness our employees coming together to collect more than 200 pounds of food for one of our valued customers, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.

PBN: Is it hard, as a small company, to make that commitment? Why have you made it a priority?

GAINES: Giving back to the community that has given us so much is an easy decision. We are fortunate enough to be in a position to offer support through volunteering, sponsorship and donations. Our employees really enjoy these projects, and we solicit their suggestions and input when deciding how we get involved. A side benefit is that these community service projects are great team-building experiences for our staff. The IT field can be stressful, and the community involvement is a nice way to bring people together for a good cause.

We truly hope that our contributions have an impact on the community and enrich the lives of those who are served by the organizations that we support. •

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