ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR AWARD
1993 Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year
Atchison & Denman Court Reporting Services Limited
In 1985, Carol Denman quit her job as senior court reporter in the Supreme Court of Ontario to start a freelance firm. She began to learn the Computer-Aided Transcription (CAT) system which translates stenotype notes into English and provides transcripts on computer discs. This computer technology enabled Carol to provide the legal community with transcripts in a much shorter time.
In 1986, Carol had many clients in the Examination for Discovery business and joined forces with Ross Atchison to form Atchison & Denman Court Reporting Services Limited. In February 1987, they acquired 2,500 square feet of downtown office space providing several boardrooms in which lawyers could conduct their examinations. A court reporter was also provided to record the proceedings.
Just two weeks after moving into their new premises in February 1987, Ross Atchison died suddenly. There was no formal partnership agreement in place and no insurance. Carol was responsible for all the liabilities, including a five-year lease worth $250,000 and over $35,000 in furniture and equipment costs, start-up costs, and contracts with suppliers. She bought Ross’s shares from his estate and became the sole shareholder, Carol was also faced with apprehensive clients, a nervous landlord and a huge personal guarantee.
With a young family to support, survival was her goal. The growth of A&D was financed by the revenue generated by Carol as the top transcript producer in the company. With strategic marketing and self-taught business administration, Carol’s firm has sales this year of over $2-million, enjoys healthy profits and employs 28 women. Although Carol reports only occasionally now, the company is free of the crushing financial burden Carol inherited.
A&D is unique because it can provide same-day turnaround for all levels of government and the business and legal sectors. This expeditious delivery facilitates the speedy resolution of justice for all Canadians.
Carol’s clients include The Law Society of Upper Canada and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario. Other major clients are the Alachlor Review Board (1985-1989), the Royal Commission into the Niagara Regional Police Force (1988-1992), the International Inquiry into the Famine in the Ukraine (Brussels, 1988), the Patti Starr Inquiry (1989), the trial of Canwest v. Global (Winnipeg, 1989), the Preliminary Inquiry of Regina v. Rosenberg (Seaway Trust, 1988-1990), and the Arbitration between Ontario Hydro and Denison Mines (1993). Glowing letters have been received from many of Carol’s clients for her innovative ideas, quality product, and pro bono work.
Marketing strategies for the future include the provision of closed-captioning services for the hearing-impaired and a foray into the medical transcription market. A&D is currently expanding its videotaping and teleconferencing capabilities.
On a personal level, Carol has overcome the skepticism of friends and family, her own lack of formal business management education, and her fear of failure.
Reprinted with permission from the author.