Karen Goode calls it her computer "graveyard." Like many small-business owners, Goode went through a major computer upgrade that left her with a collection of old 386 PCs. But she found a way to put some of them to work -- saving her customers time and her business money.

The 15 employees at Goode & Associates, in Berea, Ohio, turn hospital and clinic dictation recordings into printed text. Because clients want the transcripts back quickly, the company can rack up extensive bills for overnight mail and courier service.

Goode offered a few customers her leftover 386s so she could transmit their transcripts by modem. Four of her smaller accounts accepted, so Goode bought communications software for those who needed it. She made sure she got an education about the process -- including a short course in the word-processing software many of her clients use. That way she could educate her customers and her staff about the new procedure.

Today the use of modems frees up time on Goode's printers, saves postage, and satisfies the customers' desire for quick turnaround. "They're thrilled because they get it the same day it's dictated," Goode says. "And I don't have to pay for postage. I don't have to pay for a clerk to print and mail." She estimates that the savings in overnight-mail costs alone amount to $60 to $70 a week per account. As an added benefit, several large customers to whom Goode made her offer also agreed to switch to modem transmission -- without even requiring her hardware. -- Martha E. Mangelsdorf

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