Editor’s note: Charlotte Beat is a regular feature on Wednesdays.Two small Charlotte companies are showing that the Internet can give even a tiny firm national reach.

Lonnie Harvey Jr.’s Jesclon Group Inc., which does human resources consulting, conducts an employee survey for an Alaskan client entirely online.

And Julie Tuggle’s three-person firm, Carolina Buyer’s Agent, recently bought a home for a Cape Cod, MA couple communicating primarily through the Internet.

Searching for Help

Harvey, who started Rock Hill-based Jesclon Group in 1995 after leaving as human services director for Glidden Paint, consults for a number of regional companies. His clients include Pathway and Rosling Engineer Plastics in Gastonia, the City’s of Charlotte and Rock Hill, Spring Industries, York Technical College and King’s Electronics in Rock Hill.

One of his clients is 3,000 miles away, however.

The Southeast Alaskan Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC, pronounced “search”) a non-profit health consortium of 18 native communities in southeast Alaska, needed a way to get feedback from its 800 scattered employees.

SEARHC serves the health interests of Tlingit, Haida, Tsimpshean and other native people in the region. Pat Higgins, SEARHC director of human resources, placed a query on the Society for Human Resources electronic bulletin board and asked members for help.

Harvey replied. He specializes in assessing major causes of employee turnover and designed a survey to meet SEARHC’s needs with the goal of having all of the organization’s employees participating electronically by 2004.

They began working together in 2002 and refined a first survey via email and conference calls. “They’re optimistic about getting 100 percent participation from the Web site,” Harvey tells Local Tech Wire.

Despite his success designing the online survey, Harvey is not so sure about that. The survey does offer a pencil and paper option and can be mailed.

“I think there will always be those people with some sort of paranoia about doing it via the Internet. Or there may be those who simply haven’t developed the proficiency. I think we’re still a long way from Star Trek, where everyone punches in his information and goes about his business.”

Harvey adds, however, “There is a host of electronic and technical things I do for people.” Another area of human resources that works well online, he says, are exit interviews for employees leaving a company.

“You can have a supervisor sit down with the leaving employee and do it,” says Harvey. But it works better if someone from outside the company does it by sending them to a Web site.

He says the employee appraisal and self-appraisal process also work well online. “One of the beauties of doing it on the Internet is that management can go to the Web site and see a performance curve. What percent of machine operators exceed expectations, how many need improvement, the whole bit.”

Harvey says that while the Internet gets him to Alaska with no need for a fur parka, “I would love to find a reason to go for a visit. Especially during a Rock Hill summer.”

Show me the real estate

Julie Tuggle, who started Carolina Buyer’s Agent in 1998, launched her web site in 2000, and has grown her small business to three full time agents.

“Since I’m strictly a buyer’s agent,” says Tuggle, “I needed something to differentiate myself from other real estate agents in Charlotte. That’s why I originally developed the site.”

Recently, Tuggle helped a couple from Cape Cod, MA buy a Charlotte home largely via the Internet. “They were going to come down and look at a home and I offered to go out and take a look at it for them,” Tuggle says.

“I took pictures inside and recommended against making an offer. I didn’t think it was a good value for the money. I sent some digital pictures of one I thought they might want to consider. They loved it. Another offer was pending on that house, so they allowed me to negotiate for them based on the digital pictures.”

Tuggle charges a 3.5 percent commission she handles the whole deal and 3 percent if it goes through another listing broker. “That’s because the listing broker takes care of some legal disclosures and documents I do if they don’t,” she explains.

Unlike many real estate agent sites, CarolinaBuyersAgent.com offers original material Tuggle created rather than the limited information of template designs.

“Most sites based on templates offer information that is too general. It just is not specific enough,” she says.

Her site includes specific information about Charlotte neighborhoods, schools, and other Charlotte amenities. Like other agencies, she offers all Charlotte listings.

“But on my pages, you can also search the database for foreclosures, new construction, and for-sale-by-owner homes,” she says. “Most agents don’t include those.”

Tuggle says Charlotte residential real estate is “still a buyer’s market,” and most of the folks she deals with are coming from the northeast or the San Diego, San Francisco areas of California where it’s a “seller’s market.”

“They get top dollar there and come to a buyer’s market where the average home sits for five months before it sells,” she says.

CarolinasBuyersAgent: www.carolinabuyersagent.com

The Jesclon Group: www.jesclongroup.com/The_Jesclon_Group.htm