In The Beginning:
It was 1979 and I was just out of college with an Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Texas A&M University, working for my parent's flower shops and doing accounting work for a small bookkeeping firm. I had developed a true fascination with computers when taking the Introduction to Computers class required of all business majors in college in the late 70's. In fact, that was the last year computer classes actually used punch cards (if you know what those are, you just dated yourself). It was during this time my dad bought a Radio Shack TRS Model 1 computer to handle payroll and asked me to make some changes to the way the program worked. Now, I was totally in love with this "computer thing". It was right there on your desk and you didn't have to go to some big computer center across campus just to accomplish something, like I had to in college. But not having a degree in computer science and being newly married to my high school sweetheart and partner in life, I figured the best way to get into the computer field was to go to work for a large computer company.
Burroughs Corporation was hiring in El Paso, Texas for sales, so I interviewed and got the job. After a few months of training, I transferred to Austin, Texas. Because of my accounting and business background, Burroughs put me in the small business division covering parts of south central Texas. After a couple years at Burroughs, I was hired as the Accounting Manager for a new Prudential HMO startup called PruCare, in Austin, Texas. It was a 1 man department. So much for "Manager". On the personal side, I had convinced my wife to let me buy a $3,000 Atari 800 home computer, which was a lot of money back in 1981 for a young couple. The first night SHE spent hours playing PacMan, but I eventually was able to wrestle it back from her. I learned all about this new thing called a 'spreadsheet'. I immediately saw how it could become indispensable for my work at PruCare. Of course it was not 'sanctioned' by the corporate office, but did allowed me to get my work done so much faster. Due to my "constant nagging" corporate for an Apple computer and this new VisaCalc spreadsheet to more efficiently run my accounting department of 1, Austin was rewarded with the first division to get our very own IBM PC, which had just been released in November of 1981. Within 2 years, PruCare had grown so fast that I went from a 1 person department to 6. Due to my now proven strengths in accounting and computers, the corporate office sent me out to audit some of the other fledgling divisions and go over this new 'computer thing'. Shortly after, at the ripe old age of 27, I was promoted to Director of Administration/Comptroller and transfer to San Antonio to start the newest branch, eventually managing over 30 people in accounting, billing, claims and administration. We had grown to a $20 million a year operation in a few short years.
While having a great time, I knew I wanted to have a business of my very own and was still fascinated with personal computers and all they could do for a business; so like other fledgling entrepreneurs, I kept working my day job to pay the bills and started building my company at night and on the weekends. It just so happened that the personal computer boom was starting to happen in the early '80s . . It was the right time and place. I began teaching myself programming. My first software was an individual tax planning application for the Atari 800 and Commodore 64 computers. My wife started designing a rudimentary invoicing program to provide professional looking invoices for our startup while still having her own full-time job/career. However, I kept getting asked about the invoicing software we were using so I decided to transform the simple invoicing program into a full featured billing program we now know as, The Billing Clerk ™.
The Growing Years:
It was now 1985 and we had our first child. We both quickly realized we couldn't keep doing this, two full time jobs going to two separate cities to work, a new baby to raise and working all hours of the night and weekends to start our business. So we made the scary decision to cut off half of our income and I left PruCare. At the age of 30, I was full time in our business. With the program running on the original Atari 800 and now Commodore 64, I had a new contract in hand from a national forms supply company (NEBS of Groton, MA) wanting to sell our billing program and was ready to take on the world. First, they handed me an Apple // computer and said write the program for this. Next, came the IBM PC version. The next few years there were ups and down with some pretty scary times as we grew and added employees. Along the way, we also added our second child in 1991. 6 months later, the decision was made for my wife to join me full time in the business. The next few years were filled with lots of hours of work, trade shows and industry specific magazines ads. We constantly listened to our customers and added new features to the program. I did my jogging late at night after the family went to bed. It not only cleared my head, but inspired me with new ideas. Programming until 1 am was routine, after all I was still young. As the IBM PC came to dominate, we dropped the other computer versions and concentrated on it. Then came Microsoft Windows and the internet and a whole new rewrite of the program. When Y2K came around, many of our competitors were no longer in business. We spent the better part of 6 months back working 16 hours days bring on new customers who needed something to replace their soon to die programs from now non-existent software companies. We worked straight through the holidays, and eventually the world did not end and we were able to have a 'normal' work world again. A move out to the countryside in 1993 and a final third child followed in 1996.
Where We're Going:
Building the company at the same time as our family involved a whirlwind of activity. Lots of late hours and sacrifices. What started out as a simple invoicing program for the Atari 800 has now grown to over 50,000 lines of code and lots of customers that truly appreciate what we provide. They love using the program. They love talking to us, knowing they are going to get the personalized help they need. Many of our customers have been with us for 30 years and are now second generation. I helped their dad or mom learn the program and now the kids are taking over their business and looking for the same personalized help. Many of our customers go back to the early years and we recognize their voices and they ours. We do everything here is the Texas and will never send support overseas to India, or who knows where, like so many companies do these days. When you purchase our software you buy into a family operated company that thrives on quality customer service. We get to know you, we recognize you when you call. If you are having a billing problem, we will help you get it solved. We answer the phone without using phone menus and can even DirectConnect to your computer using TeamViewer to do a one-on-one class to help you understand and best use our software. Our goal is to continue to grow by providing excellent easy to use accounting software and provide amazing support. I still love computers, programming and working with our customers. I have absolutely no plans to sell out or retire. We now use technology to allow us to give world class support to customers without being tied to a desk or landline phone. I personally answer the phone after hours, before hours, weekends, holidays, etc. I have even helped customers with problems while ridding a ski lift on vacation. That is not always guaranteed, but don't be surprised if it happens. I want to do my best to help my customers. I don't know of any other software company that does that.