Stater was headed to a meeting with IT consulting client Anheuser-Busch one morning 11 years ago when he was accosted in a Columbus, Ohio, hotel parking lot. A robber sprayed his face with a chemical fire extinguisher and stole his briefcase.
"They made me go to a hospital," Stater remembered, "but I was OK."
Although he called the brewery at 9 a.m. to cancel his appointment, his commitment to the project had him on the job by noon.
Stater and two partners founded the information technology consultancy in 1994 after getting experience at Indianapolis-based software vendor Data One. Stater spent six years there, starting as a programmer and working his way up to vice president of development. They left on good terms, though, using Data One to handle the new company's billing for the first couple of months.
But not everything went smoothly for Computer Renditions.
While Stater was consulting with Anheuser-Busch, a relationship that lasted until 2001, his partners were trying to make inroads in the real estate industry. They didn't get far, though, and revenue suffered. Consequently, one partner bailed out, taking with him his share of the company-his computer.
During this stressful period, Anheuser-Busch tried to hire Stater full-time for more money than he was earning on his own. The offer tempted him, but he resisted.
"That's partly why I left Data One," said Stater, now 39. "I didn't have control of the direction of my life."
He and his remaining partner worked from their homes before subletting space from an interior design architectural firm in 1998. But the two found themselves headed in different directions after years of working apart and decided to end their business relationship in 1999.
Still, the company survived. Computer Renditions aligned itself with Microsoft Corp., getting certified to participate in its partner program. That relationship opened doors to the small and midsize businesses the consulting firm targets, Stater said.
"This gave us some credibility in the marketplace," he said.
Eventually, Stater hired more employees, and revenue grew through word of mouth. Business hit a plateau in 2002, but the company has grown dramatically this year. Computer Renditions is on target to reach $850,000 in revenue in 2005, up from $650,000.
Stater said his company analyzes clients' business problems and figures out how information technology can help "make [processes] more productive and efficient."
That's what it has done for Laura Christy, owner of Natural Stone Specialists in Carmel and an admitted computer hater.
"They helped us get our server straightened out and they streamlined our computer system," she said. "They are extremely responsive and they know what they are doing."
Indeed, the company has loyal customers like Polly Bonacuse, art director for Quinlan Marketing Communications, who described Computer Renditions as "organized, responsive and professional."
That responsiveness is both Stater's focus and his challenge as the company grows.
"Our company is built on relationships with customers and partner companies," he said, and providing the same level of service to a larger customer base will mean adding administrative and technical staff in the next six months.
Time management is another potential problem-albeit a relatively good one to have.
"We have a tough time saying no," Stater said. "We end up working overtime when we overcommit."
After years of working for others, Christopher Stater struck out on his own to gain control of his life.