Jane Mason has been on quite the winning streak, so much that even when she loses, she ends up winning.
Take a March pro-am tennis tournament sponsored by her Clearwater software company, eMason. Rain-soaked clay courts forced the event to morph into a table tennis battle.
Paired with tennis great Jim Courier, novice Mason lost her pingpong match. "But it turned out better," she said, "because we ended up gaining that one-on-one time." Plus she helped raise more than $70,000 for charity.
Mason has gotten used to money flowing in lately. EMason tripled revenue during last year's crippling recession and is on pace to double revenue this year. In 2009, the firm made Inc. 500's list of fastest-growing private companies.
EMason's success is hinged to its core product: business-processing software called Clarifire.
Though the software wasn't designed with the real estate crisis in mind, the crisis has fueled demand. Institutions like Bank of America and Fannie Mae are using Clarifire to expedite loan modifications. As the federal government changes the rules, Clarifire helps them adapt.
"We were in the right place at the right time," Mason says.
The St. Petersburg Times recently talked with Mason about the birth and fast growth of her company.
How and when did eMason begin?
My sister and I had a law firm called Mason Law in Clearwater. We did real estate and intellectual property. I was (chief operating officer) and did business development and overall running of the business.
During that time we developed some software ahead of its time. That software ended up springing out of the law firm, and we sold it to a large company called Fidelity National Financial … in 2003. I spent some time working for Fidelity. I came back and said, "I know how to do that." I spent a couple of years building … a totally new product (called Clarifire). Right now, it's entrenched in the mortgage banking industry for financial service organizations. The flagship client was Bank of America in 2006.
How does it work?
This is business process automation. You can automate things that are currently being done on spreadsheets. Let's talk about the default arena. If a borrower files bankruptcy and is already in the foreclosure process, this would automatically put that process on hold and launch the bankruptcy process.
Fannie Mae uses Clarifire to close the gaps between a borrower needing a workout, contacting their financial institution and the financial institution not responding or not responding (in a timely way). With Clarifire, the banks … went from 25 to 30 minutes to three minutes to get an automated workout decision.
We provide on average a 25 percent (savings). One large financial institution quoted me that we saved them on average $1.5 million every three weeks in the loss and mitigation arena.
It doesn't matter what the process is. We can use this for consumer credit cards or compliance with U.S. Treasury. Any enterprisewide process. It's easy to use.
So you're applying the software beyond real estate?
We even run eMason using Clarifire. All of our HR processes are automated. Our travel processes are automated. Implementation, client management. All processes building out of Clarifire.
How fast is your company growing?
We have 75 employees now and plan to add 25 more over the next quarter. We tripled the revenue from last year. As of 2009, we were at $12 million (in revenue) and for this year, we anticipate doubling that.
It actually took us a little longer to get traction because of the size of the clients I was targeting. Now that we have Bank of America and Fannie Mae and a couple other large ones, it seems to be coming in waves.
With the Tampa Bay area's 13.1 percent unemployment rate, no doubt you're getting applicants. But are you finding the right people? In some areas. In the business analyst area, that's kind of an industry agnostic type of job. We're able to find quality people in that area.
We're struggling to find high-level executives with knowledge of financial services because Tampa is not a haven for that. We get 1,000 resumes a week. It's a lot to sift through. That's what we do all the time is interview and do background checks and meet people.
We are trying to hire locally. HSBC and Chase have ongoing layoffs, so we get a lot of those people.
Are you worried about growing too fast?
We're really making sure our contracts are shored up enough. … We're having to stage implementations so we can manage the pipeline.
I noticed some dogs highlighted on your Web site? Are they yours?
They're dogs of our clients. We love dogs and one of the things we talk about is that we automate processing so you have time to walk with your dog on the beach.
I don't have a dog but my sister's dog is on the Web site.
We have dogs at work.
Is that part of your corporate culture?
We all work real hard and that is part of the culture. Our vision and mission has to do with kindness and respect for each other. Most of the people here are passionate for what they do, and if they don't have that, they weed themselves out rather quickly.
How do you keep that culture alive?
I think we're doing that through some of our community exposure. We did a beach clean-up last year. … We also have an "in the loop" video once a month that says where everybody is, what we are, the new things that everybody is doing. It's a sense of being present and looking around and sharing things that happen. We're on Ulmerton (Road) and there's a big pond out there. … There's a family of otters that moved in and people were taking pictures of them.
Are the dogs competing with the otters for attention now?
We do have otter trivia and a contest for naming the otters. It's good stuff.