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Charting New Waters

The day Christopher Spencer's software crashed and deleted eight years of customer data was the day Spencer knew he needed to hire a new employee to help with The Spencer Company, his eBay drop-off business. After his system failed in December 2006, the 38-year-old entrepreneur decided to move his business from Burbank, California, to Campbell, California, and expand its offerings.

Spencer posted an ad on Craigslist.com to find someone who could manage what would be the drop-off division of his new event-management company, The Chase Group. A few weeks later, Spencer hired 27-year-old Cameron Birdwell as the official online sales manager.

"[Birdwell] walked in with a lot of experience," Spencer says. "It took a lot of the pressure off because now we have somebody who's able to manage operations."

Shortly after he was hired, Birdwell created an entire technology warehouse with bar codes and advanced software to track sales. To avoid system failures in the future, he input inventory items into a remote data backup and data duplication system. He also connected more than 150 of Spencer's former Burbank clients with a new drop-off store that could continue their sales.

As a former eBay PowerSeller, Birdwell came up with innovative ways to propel the business forward. His presence helped boost customer service and perfect sale and post-sale processes. With Birdwell running a tight ship, Spencer had the freedom to steer the company in a new direction.

Now, as the executive vice president of The Chase Group, Spencer focuses on marketing strategies and manages the online trading division for the company.

Because of Birdwell's help, "We can spend more time on day-to-day marketing and getting clients in the door," Spencer says. "We're able to have a bigger vision." --Jessica Chen

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Cliff Ennico is a syndicated columnist and author of several books on small business, including Small Business Survival Guide and The eBay Business Answer Book. This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state.

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