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									C2• Thursday, February 22, 2007

BUSINESS

Rona reports record earnings
MONTREAL

Home-improvement retailer Rona Inc. (TSX:RON) will continue its strategy of careful acquisitions after capping a 16th straight year of higher annual earnings. “We are the leading consolidator in the Canadian market and we have proven to be a good integrator of our numerous acquisitions,” CEO Robert Dutton said Wednesday after Rona reported record annual earnings of $190.6 million or $1.66 a share, up 8.8 per cent over 2005, as sales grew 13.1 per cent to $4.55 billion.

“We will continue to acquire quality operations in Canada in the retail market,” Dutton said, adding that these could be either big-box or specialized stores. Rona’s fourth-quarter profit was up 1.3 per cent to $38.1 million or 33 cents per share from $37.6 million or 32 cents per share, as sales increased 13 per cent to $1.14 billion from $1.01 billion. Samestore sales picked up two per cent. “It’s the 16th consecutive year for top-line and bottom-line growth for Rona,” Dutton said.
— The Canadian Press

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WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7th, 2007 • CABOTO CLUB
REACHING OUT: Bob Berry, left, and Aaron Peterson of Webplanet.ca boast a client list that extends beyond the Tecumseh area into Detroit, Toronto and Boston. Star photo: Tyler Brownbridge

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Online gurus put clients on track
BUSINESS TO GO
BY TED WHIPP
STAR STAFF REPORTER

A

small Internet startup has survived a partnership, transformed itself and continues to expand, helping small business grow online. The small Tecumseh-based shop WebPlanet.ca, downstairs at 12201 Tecumseh Rd. E., offers services such as website design and e-mail, as well as handling back-of-the-house operations such as online sales and orders. Its software makes it so easy for business customers to revise and update their websites, some do it daily if not several times a day. Using MS Word, clients can tweak and change the information on the fly as their whims and needs dictate. That in itself has helped make the business all the more rewarding, says Aaron Peterson, WebPlanet.ca’s young, soft-spoken entrepreneur. Some clients have become so successful, their online sales have exceeded their brick and mortar revenue. Their Internet sales may also help shield them from fluctuations in the local economy Peterson says. , In turn, WebPlanet.ca’s own customer base continues to extend far beyond Tecumseh, into Essex County, across the border and beyond, with customers in cities such as Toronto, Detroit and Boston. The company originally was among the first web design startups. Peterson went on to buy out his partner, change the business name and expand the customer base. Bob Berry came on board to help with sales and marketing. The company now employs five people. Content management — the ability for customers to update their own sites — appealed especially to business people who, says Peterson, just don’t like to pay for updates. “We made the capability extremely friendly for them.”

Most of the customers are small business, with fewer than 50 employees. Some are tech-savvy, some are technophobes. Still, both groups comment about the ease of use. Peterson, 30, who was born and raised in the area, talks more about the business and his background, answering questions this week from Business to Go. 1. What was your first job, and how did it influence you? “Selling marbles.” Peterson was seven and the experience made an impact, turning him into an entrepreneur. He went on to run flea markets and a sports card and sports collectible business. He’s single and a graduate of St. Clair College where he also worked as a teaching assistant and manager of a computer store, before getting involved with the Windsor Metro web design business. 2. What’s your best success? “We love to see our customers make money online. And I like signing paycheques and growing sales.” 3. How do you remain inspired, motivated? “Passing on knowledge and the training part of it with our customers. I get a lot of clients who ask for help with other things, like ‘my printer won’t print.’” Making the technology work for clients remains rewarding, he says. 4. How do you balance work and family? “I try not to work weekends. I try not to bring the work home with me.” 5. What’s your best and worst habit at work? “My worst has to be multi-tasking too much.” At times, staff will gently remind him, too, he says. He says organization remains his best work habit. “We make use of technology .” Berry adds Peterson’s ease with helping people, patiently answering their questions. “His greatest attribute is sharing his knowledge and exchanging information.” twhipp@thestar .canwest.com or 255-5777, ext. 663.

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