Having a building on Main Street was always one of Sharon Epple’s goals for Benchmark Administrative Support Services, the business she started in Baltimore in 1986. The opening of the building at 608 S. Main St., in Bel Air in 2006 was one of her proudest moments. “It was a gift to have a successful business, and being able to purchase a building was a big accomplishment,”
Benchmark Administrative Support Services, Inc.
Eight years later, Benchmark Administrative Support Services remains a steadfast part of the town’s Main Street, but also continues to provide the virtual support to regional and national companies upon which it was founded 28 years ago. Benchmark offers outsourced executive assistant, administrative assistant, bookkeeping, marketing and accounting support services to businesses of all sizes. It positions itself as an extension of its clients’ offices, giving clients the benefit of additional support without having to hire employees or increase office space. Benchmark’s clients represent such industries as software development, engineering, architecture, commercial real estate and medicine. Epple says she guarantees both client confidentiality and the work. “Everything we do is confidential and guaranteed. That’s why our clients hire us,” she notes.
The company has evolved from a sole proprietorship for computerized business services to a diversified administrative support system for business owners. After leaving her full-time job at Becton Dickinson and with the encouragement of her husband, Epple capitalized on the crest of the personal computer wave – when companies weren’t ready to invest in personal computers, but they needed the technology to streamline their businesses. She became an expert in providing “administrative assistant” services – a term that had not yet become mainstream. Epple’s first large client, a Baltimore-based research foundation, remains a Benchmark client today.
Epple and her husband moved from Baltimore to Bel Air in 1990, and she continued to run the business out of her home. She hired her first full-time employee in 1998, and now Benchmark employs nine full-time professionals who use the Main Street office as home base. The company also hires additional staff to accommodate fluctuations in workload. “We have long-term contracts, but we also work on an as-needed basis,” Epple explains. “We work for our clients as employees of their businesses would.” For example, Benchmark may implement national trade show exhibits, handle a business-to-business sales function, or provide full marketing support.
Among the company’s offerings are virtual business administrative support services such as meeting coordination and training seminars, bookkeeping and payroll services, QuickBooks, financial statements, and marketing services such as email marketing, social media and traditional marketing campaigns. The staff at Benchmark is a team of qualified and experienced specialists in accounting, marketing, training, technical support and sales, as well as executive and administrative assistants. The company encourages business owners to “Work smarter, not harder.”
Epple says her mission is to enable businesses to be organized and well run. “There are so many resources for start-up and new companies, but less resources and support for existing businesses. My passion is to support existing business owners so that they can focus on growth.”
That passion, Epple’s background in accounting, marketing, sales and business administration and her desire to have job flexibility to raise a family combined to give her the skills and determination to succeed. “I started the business so I could have a balance between work and family. Having my own business allowed me to raise our daughter when my husband traveled,” Epple says. Over the years, Benchmark allowed her to give to the community through organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Harford Family House, Anna’s House and the Humane Society.
Epple admits her success didn’t come without challenges. “Managing the types of clients and their demands and keeping the balance of family is a challenging undertaking,” she says.
Epple’s daughter is now grown, married, has a career of her own, and Epple has her first grandchild. When Epple is not in the Main Street office or working with clients, she can be found spending time with her grandson and traveling with her family. I95