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Camas spin-off outgrowing parent

Consulting firm GT Group grew multimedia company out of demand for graphics and production services

Tired of traveling for his job at the national office of American Honda Motor Co., Sebastian Finocchiaro moved to Vancouver in the mid 1980s to work in the company’s regional office as an “instructional designer,” developing training programs. But the company continued to demand his training skills around the country and the world. So in 1987, Finocchiaro took advantage of an early retirement plan to begin working on his terms.

“I needed to figure out a way to take control of my professional destiny,” he said.

Finocchiaro established training and consulting firm GT Group in Vancouver that same year. The company struggled early, but relationships developed while working for Honda paid off. Dealerships began paying him for services that Honda provided for free.

GT Group specializes in process improvement, strategic planning, new-owner workshops, dealership certification, employee training, instructional design and program delivery. The company works with clients nationally and locally. The GT Group includes Cherry Hill, NJ,-based Subaru of America as one of its top customers.

A new business, a new home
GT Group increasingly contracted out for graphic design and other media services when creating materials as part of projects for clients, including business cards and brochures to Web sites and video production.
As the company grew, Finocchiaro saw the need to bring these services in house. Soon, clients were approaching GT Group strictly for its growing media capabilities.

In response, GT Multimedia LLC was created about three years ago.

At around the same time, Finocchiaro took advantage of appreciating real estate values and a reemerging downtown Camas where he purchased and refurbished a 100-year-old, 10,000-square-foot building on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Cedar Street. The GT companies occupy 5,000 square feet of the building, including a previously unfinished basement (which can be accessed by Camas’ first elevator). Tenants occupy the remainder of the building.

GT has eight in-house employees in administrative, video production, information technology and graphic design capacities. At any given time, the company also has six to 12 contract employees assisting clients around the country.

The renovation of the Camas building allowed GT to design the space according to its specifications. The building was wired to accommodate the latest technologies. GT houses a video production studio where it creates programs and training videos for clients. The company also has a small data center to host clients’ Web sites and a large-format printer to create posters and signage for customers.

“It has been a pleasant surprise for most folks when they come to little Camas, Washington, and see what we are doing here,” said Finocchiaro.

The ‘process guys’
GT Multimedia’s services are defined under three categories: video production, IT solutions and graphic design.
State Senator Joe Zarelli is a tenant in the GT building and sought the company’s services in his most recent campaign.

“We tried something different that to my knowledge had not been done before,” said Zarelli.

GT Multimedia produced a video featuring Zarelli addressing issues for his campaign. The video was distributed on DVDs to 26,000 voters.

Zarelli said the company’s reputation as “cutting-edge thinkers” made GT Multimedia an attractive partner for the unique project.

As a spin-off of GT Group, GT Multimedia practices what the other preaches when it comes to its processes and delivery of projects. “Internal process maps” throughout the Camas office keep employees on the same page.

“We are a company that specializes in process improvement, process documentation, process engineering,” Finocchiaro. “We are process guys.”

And the processes seem to be working, as GT Multimedia Project Manager Frank Spencer said he cannot think of a client they have only done one project for.

GT Multimedia’s varied capabilities allow them to attract clients to one component of their offerings and then expose them to everything the company can do in house, said Spencer.

“They are very clever that way,” said Pat Rice, president of Camas-based IRA Resource Associates Inc. “They take one concept and hook it into another concept to make you better.”

Rice has used GT Multimedia in many aspects of his work as an author. The company created marketing materials, a power point presentation and workbooks he uses on his lecturing tour. GT Multimedia also built his Web site.

A virtual company
Finocchiaro said the combined revenues for GT Group and GT Multimedia are between $2 million and $3 million. He said GT Group’s work with companies around the world indirectly leads to GT Multimedia’s work to be seen internationally. But the focus is to grow GT Multimedia’s client base regionally.

“Our vision is to become the premier multimedia group in the Portland market,” said Finocchiaro.

Future expansion would naturally be into the Seattle and the Bay Area markets, he said. The multimedia side of the business is expected to grow 20 percent to 30 percent annually.

Despite the aggressive growth projections, Finocchiaro doesn’t anticipate ever adding another desk at the company’s office.

“The virtual company where we have consultants and specialists around the country is the model that is going to work in today’s marketplace,” he said.

The company relies on assembling contract workers, or “facilitators,” on a project basis.

GT Multimedia has completed projects for clients they have never met face-to-face. In one example, the company completed a video project where one of the client’s decision makers digitally tracked the project’s progress from a hospital bed.

The final product was sent digitally. The only physical correspondence was the mailing of the invoice, which, ironically, was lost in the mail. But that will change one day, too, he said.

While the company wants to first look locally for its outsourcing needs, Finocchiaro said , “We are fast becoming a virtual company. I can assure you we will not be buying anymore desks.”

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