Although the concept of WebSurveyor Corporation, to better outfit companies with easy to use survey software, began in 1998, it wasn't until 2000 that the online survey company increased in popularity.
Now, four years later, the Herndon-based company has earned the respect of the computer industry, being rated "easiest to use" online survey software by PC Magazine and a technology fast 50 rising star by Deloitte & Touche, among other accolades.
"Version one was a desktop production designed to make writing surveys very easy," said Bruce Mancinelli, WebSurveyor CEO, of the company's start. "In 1999 the second developer published it to the Web and it worked well ... we began growing in 2000 and grew 100-percent, 200-percent, 300-percent, depending on what year you look at."
ON NOV. 2 the company was recognized for their dedication to maintaining ethical practices — in an industry that has seen its share of unethical practices — as the small business winner of the 2004 National Capital Business Ethics Award.
"Our staff is unlike most Internet companies," said Mancinelli. "It's an incredible staff, they are genuinely committed to the success of our clients utilizing our product. They're committed to doing it and doing it well."
The award was presented by the Greater Washington and Northern Virginia Chapters of the Society of Financial Services Professionals in partnership with George Mason University to recognize businesses, outside the financial services industry, that exemplify a strong commitment to business excellence.
The group also looks at businesses that maintain a high standard of civic and social responsibility, integrity and ethical conduct.
Mancinelli explained that the National Capital Business Ethics campaign is exhaustive and looks at the grassroots of a company, how they do business and how they started doing business.
"The winner has to be a leading example," he said, adding the selection process was somewhat intimidating. "It's a demanding process, they check your finances, they talk to ex-employees, they talk to your competitors. It's intimidating but also a gratifying manifestation and recognition of a company that has grown like mad, but also grown well."
As the leading provider in do-it-yourself online surveys, WebSurveyor was created to help survey the people in a company's target audience as well as employees. Thousands of companies, such as CNN, American Red Cross, Microsoft, FedEx, IBM and other national organizations, have used WebSurveyor technology to survey customers and readers about issues important to them.
"It's a way for me to stay in touch with my clients," said Carrie Salter, senior manager of client services for Current Analysis, a competitive intelligence company. "I have too many clients that I can't touch them all, so this way I get [feedback] all in one spot."
Salter said last month she used 15 surveys from WebSurveyor for the company, adding before using WebSurveyor she had tried three other Web survey companies.
"They were the easiest to use," she said as to why she's stayed with the company for two years. "The ease of the use saves me time and I'm happy [about that]."
Through the program, companies of all sizes can go online and read through the set up process of a survey that includes everything from editing questions to compiling the results and how a company wishes to display the statistics.
"IT IS INCREASINGLY difficult to stay ethical in Internet space," said Mancinelli about why the ethics award is so important to the company. "With spam, identification theft and capitalizing on other people's identities, we insulate our users from all of that."
He said because the company was co-founded by three ethically driven people, David Alison, CTO, Tom Lueker, CMO, and himself, the first step they took in the business was to create an employee manual that emphasized proper business ethics.
"As things have changed, we've been very quick to be compliant — I'd like to think every employee acts ethically," he said, adding often it's the executives who act unethically. "We've got three business partners that think and operate the same, the middle managers think and act the same way, we've got an open company so no one is kept out."
Mancinelli explained on top of serving their clients the company has tried to reach out to the Herndon community where they are based.
"We've tried to embrace the notion of community," he said, adding their location by St. Timothy's Episcopal church keeps them in the heart of downtown. "We're taking on more civic commitments, we're donating our expertise to the Herndon Dulles Chamber of Commerce and offering those kinds of gifts."
He said they offered the chamber the option to utilize their surveys — which run about $1,500 a year for the program — and staff assistance as well as encourage their employees to donate time and money to local charities.
"It is important for us to recognize where we're at is a good place and we need to start to give back," he said, adding they help with the Special Olympics, Big Apple — a foundation that sends clowns into hospitals — and Make-A-Wish Foundation. "We also give individual gifts to local schools, we have mentors that share with students and we're starting a mini-scholarship foundation."
ON THE BUSINESS end of the Web survey process, the company's role is to supply the means for organizations to create a survey, or in some cases create one for them. But it is the individual companies that send the information out to their selected clientele.
"We don't send out captive emails," he said. "Our customers are already wired to their survey respondents ... surveys are launched from a Web site, portal or a gateway."
Because of their strong business ethics and increasing recognition, Mancinelli said they are well on the way to becoming a $5- to $10-million company.
"Our source of growth remains our customers," he said. "First time users become recurring customers — that's where the growth comes from."
Salter's company, Current Analysis, is an example of this.
In its second year with WebSurveyor, Salter said she continues to use the surveys because they are accessible and because if she needs assistance she will get it immediately.
"I trialed three [other companies], they were the easiest to use," said Salter, adding she was not surprised the company won the business ethics award. "They have great customer support, they are very easy to work with."
Mancinelli said because of the customer loyalty and their increase in popularity over the years, he believes the company will continue to grow as it has.
Along with receiving the ethics award this year for a small business — out of 35 other companies — WebSurveyor is currently number 59 on INC.500's fastest growing companies list and the recipient of the 2004 American Business Award for "Best New Product."
"My guess is we will continue to grow in the same manner as a INC.500 company does," said Mancinelli. "Our goal now is to stay in INC. 500 — we'll definitely be there next year."