As our founder Scott Kissinger likes to tell the story, ASI started from as humble beginnings as Amazon, Apple, Disney, Google, and Harley Davidson; over a garage. His garage to be specific. Now back in the days of the mid to late 90s, running a software company out of your garage wasn’t as easy as it would be today. Just think – Dial-up internet. (Did you shudder there too?) According to Scott, at one time he had seven phone lines leading to his house. And not subtly either; for a few months, they were stretched across his backyard until the Wisconsin winter thawed the ground enough to bury them! Yikes.
He got to enjoy that short commute (complete with homemade lunches and kitten snuggles!) for three years before he needed to expand.
In late 1997, Scott moved ASI to rented office space over a delicatessen in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, and hired our first employees. One of those lucky few, Jim Krueger, is still with us today! And while the company still used dial-up phone lines to connect to customers, the rental space was a bit more accommodating and professional than working from a room over your garage.
Our insurance carrier customers started leaning more on us to keep pace with the modernizing technical world of the ’90s and to prepare for the new millennium. If anyone can recall the dreaded Y2K fear of what would happen when the calendar changed from 1999 to 2000, there was a whole lot of concern that older (at the time) business systems would fail. Would ATM’s work? Would security systems no longer lock doors? Would planes fall out of the sky? Well, in hindsight, nothing even remotely close to those types of failures came to pass, but truth be told, we recently had to deal with some residual Y2K code that came back to haunt us! Who knew we’d still be dealing with some of the same programming languages after 20 years??
Post Y2K, ASI’s expertise and services quickly expanded beyond simply maintaining core business logic. The internet was in the early stages of providing a common platform by way of a browser. Netscape Navigator was on its way out, and Internet Explorer was gaining steam. This allowed people in remote locales to access information, and ASI continued to grow and gain experience with newer development technologies. Renting additional rooms in downtown Sheboygan Falls had its limits, and our staff was becoming fragmented into small spaces on multiple floors.
Putting Down Roots
Outgrowing the rental space was turning into a reality, and looking for new rental space presented a challenge. Most of our county has ample manufacturing space available, not prime office space at the time. Staying in the Sheboygan Falls area wasn’t necessarily the goal. Still, with the city in the early stages of developing a business park, the idea of being the first tenant in the area had a lot of appeal. ASI purchased just over two acres of land in late 2006, and the process of designing and building came next.
ASI worked with Sheboygan based architect DuWayne Hameister to develop a unique and (we think) classic brick structure to serve as our new corporate office. Hameister’s firm had experience using Andy Chappa and his construction business in other commercial endeavors, and Chappa Construction was then picked to lead the build. Of course, none of this was ever going to happen without the help of one’s favorite bank, and Janet Foss from the former Community Bank & Trust (now Wisconsin Bank & Trust) all participated in a groundbreaking event mid-November, 2007.
After construction, which spanned twelve months, the ASI team formally moved into its new digs at W3131 County Road C, Sheboygan Falls, WI, on November 15, 2008.
Why It Means So Much
So … why is talking about putting up a building such a big deal to Scott and ASI? Of course, it had to do with growth since that was the primary factor at the time. Stability also played a part in the decision; granted a stable business was not exactly a guarantee at the time (remember, this was 2008 when a recession was underway), but the concept of a physical building also conveyed a sense of permanence. ASI would be around for the long haul, through good times and lean times. This concept truly cemented the decision to build versus continue renting, especially since the majority of ASI’s customers have been writing insurance and have been in business for well over 100 years.
The last 11 plus years have seen ups and downs for ASI, just as many small businesses have experienced. Today, while writing this, our office is scattered at home, with COVID-19 upending everyone’s lives. ASI’s business model is built on remotely providing IT services to our customers, so having our employees work from home was a reasonably easy ask. Would we like to see everyone back in our office as soon as possible? That’s a resounding “yes”! While we may be technically equipped to work by ourselves in isolation, our best work happens with teamwork, collaboration, camaraderie, and face to face interaction. While we’ve always known this, we, along with most of the world, are truly getting a taste first hand of how vital that daily physical interaction is.
Let’s all be smart in the coming months, focus on working independently, and social distancing ourselves from others as we must. Ultimately, we all will emerge and rejoin our friends, our teams, and our other gatherings. Eventually, the ASI team will all be back under our corporate roof, working together for the long haul. But until then, we’re happy to keep plugging away and continue answering the call to help IT teams and businesses in need. We’re here for you; give us a call at 920-467-1200 or send us an email.