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After 12 years of being the go-to computer guy in his family’s Southern California chemical business (not to mention, serving as its general manager), Jim Locke decided it was time to branch out on his own. In 2000, he started JW Locke & Associates, an IT consulting business catering to small and midsize companies in a variety of industries, not just those in chemicals.

Viral marketing and a handful of current clients from Locke’s days moonlighting as an IT consultant helped give JW Locke its start. Yet Locke says it was tough for the small company (initially consisting of just himself and his wife) to compete with similar small integrators in the Los Angeles area, cover all of the bases and gain any real traction.

All that changed 18 months ago during a user group meeting for Microsoft Windows Small Business Server.

Locke, who became president of the group, soon realized that the other integrators attending the meetings had a lot more than tech talk on their minds.

He found they wanted to learn how to grow their businesses, as well as to trade ideas on how to build a brand and offer a range of services with limited resources.

Realizing there was strength in numbers, the product user group members united to create the Small and Medium Business Technology Network (, an integrator group with more than 450 members focused on partnering, business development, training and vendor relations.

Although rooted in the Southern California area, the group is expanding: New chapters are being formed in North Carolina, and SMBTN’s goal is to create a national presence.