Peter and Amy Kardel set out to build a strong company by helping other businesses succeed.
As owners of Clever Ducks, a San Luis Obispo IT services company, the Kardels believe they have more than achieved their goal.
“We’ve done very well by doing good,” Peter Kardel said.
In recent years, Clever Ducks has been in expansion mode, building a collaborative team that’s allowed the company to thrive.
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“We’ve never been more excited about the team we have now,” Amy Kardel said.
Founded in 1992, the company started with a single employee and now has 15, with plans to hire three more within the next two quarters, Amy Kardel said.
The company changed its name from Computer Network Services in July 2007 to Clever Ducks, which reflects the company’s philosophy of cooperation, communication and teamwork — both within the office and with clients. The name is a nod to migrating ducks, which fly in "V" formation to make the journey easier on the group as a whole.
In 2012, the company moved from its previous office on Monterey Street to its larger location on Broad Street, the former home of A&R Furniture. Amy Kardel described that as a “turning point.”
“It was the right location and purpose built for our needs,” she said. “We wanted it to be secure and comfortable for our employees.”
Clever Ducks prides itself on the ability to manage and support businesses with their IT challenges, staying a step ahead of problems so that companies have the tools and the edge to grow financially. The company provides clients with everything from basic monitoring of computer networks to complete outsourced IT services. Local clients include Central Coast Cardiology, Martin Resorts, Transitions Mental Health Association and Thoma Electric.
Businesses usually seek out services such as Clever Ducks’ when they want a team to fix an IT problem, or they have outgrown their current information-technology support and want a partner to “help their business to get where they’re going,” Peter Kardel said.
“Our mission is to help our forward-thinking clients, through their investment in technology, to serve their customers better than anyone else in their industry,” he added.
The Kardels believe another critical component of their company’s success has been their ability to tap into the expertise of others who have experience in the field. They actively seek out advice and adopt learning strategies from peers in this fast-paced industry. Eight years ago, the couple joined a peer group with a dozen other, similar businesses in noncompeting regions.
"We have to learn from each other in our industry," Amy said. "With the peer group, it's a way to accelerate your understanding and knowledge because you can see how it worked for someone else."
It also helps that the Kardels, who grew up in San Luis Obispo and now live in the city, know how to work as a team and learn from one another.
Each brings a specific strength that is key to making the business work, they said.
Peter Kardel loves systems and has a “tendency to obsess on the details.” His role is to hire the right people, inspire the staff and set direction for employees.
His introduction to IT work occurred as a result of helping the law practice of his father, the late Peter M. Kardel, and other local law firms to use technology to their advantage. The Kardels launched the IT business together while Peter Kardel was studying computer science at Cal Poly. The couple knew each other as students at San Luis Obispo High School, but they didn't start dating until after college, when Amy moved back to town.
Amy Kardel, who has experience working for international companies and building expertise in technology consulting, said she is more “people and goal oriented,” keeping the business focused on where it needs to go.
Together, they plan to continue investing in the future, hiring the best people and enhancing services so they can help their clients to do their best work, Peter Kardel said.
“Our customers, our vendors, anybody that we touch at the end of the day, we want to know that we’ve made a difference in someone else’s life,” he said.
Business: A full-service information technology firm serving clients primarily in the professional services, health care, manufacturing and hospitality industries.
Address: 1313 Broad St., San Luis Obispo
Website: www.cleverducks.com Founded: 1992 Top executives: Peter Kardel, 47, CEO, co-founder; and Amy Kardel, 46, director, co-founder Number of employees: 15
Annual revenues: Declined to disclose, but annual revenues are up 21 percent over last year.
Annual profits: Declined to disclose.