Career Story: Owner Of A Software Consulting Business

Owner Of A Software Consulting Business

Job Title: Owner Of A Software Consulting Business

Type of Company: We provide support, programming and consulting services to manufacturing companies using PRISM enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to run their operations

Education: BS, Business, Boston University

Previous Experience: I worked at an electronics manufacturing company using Enterprise Resource Planning MRP software to schedule and purchase materials. I was later hired by an ERP software vendor to support the buyers of their ERP products. After 11 years I was laid off in a corporate buyout. So I started a company with a couple of my co-workers providing support and services to the customers of the same ERP software I'd supported at my previous job.

Job Tasks: My company provides software support and services to food, chemical and pharmaceutical companies. The software system we support is a form of Enterprise Resource Planning software that was developed in the 1980's on a mainframe system in an older programming language. Although the software is quite old, there are still companies using it to run their businesses, but the vendor of the software (which has been through many buy-outs) no longer provides support for it. My company fills the gap. We help companies understand how the software works so that they can utilize it properly and customize it to meet their specific needs. With modern technology we can access each of our customers' systems from our own PCs, so we do not have office space. We all work from our homes.

I have a dedicated office in my house where I do all my work. I receive phone calls and emails from customers asking questions about why something isn't working as they expect. Since the software is fairly complex, there are a lot of variables that affect its output. A typical question might be something like, "I am doing a Cost Run to calculate my annual standard costs, but the figures the program's generating don't seem correct. Can you help me figure out if I've set something up incorrectly or if there's a bug in the software?" At that point I would log into their system and review the data to analyze the issue.

It would not be unusual either if a customer called to ask if we could create a report that showed them their raw material price changes for a specified time period. I would then work with them to define the requirements for the report and provide them with an estimate of the time it would take and how much it would cost. If they approved the estimate, I would assign the programming work to one of my programmers. Another customer might contact me asking for us to come out and train a new user on the software. Again, I would provide a quote for the work and send a consultant to perform the training.

As the owner of a small business, I also spend time keeping track of our financial activities (bills, payroll, etc...), I oversee all or our human resource activities, and I manage my employees and our projects.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is analyzing a problem and being able to provide an answer or solution to our customers. Of course, working from home is a big bonus too.

The worst part is not having enough time to get everything done. I like to keep a good balance between work and home life, so it seems like I am constantly playing catch-up at work.

Job Tips:
1. Take programming courses even if you don't want to program. It helps you to understand how a software application might work.

2. If you want your own business, look for an under-served software user community.

3. Try to be a user of the software or a similar software so that you can understand the user's needs and perspective.

Additional Thoughts: You have to have a strong analytical bent and be very detail-oriented to work in software.

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