In the late 1980s, Fred Ode created and sold a successful accounting software package for the construction industry. But by the mid-’90s, the Windows operating system, with its user-friendly graphical interface, started to overtake all the programs for the PC.
Ode’s Foundation software was still in DOS format, and starting to look more and more antiquated as the months passed.
His competitors hastily issued a Windows-compatible format of their software, but underneath its new exterior, it was still the same old DOS program, with its crowded software architecture and inefficient logic. In programming lingo, what they did is called an “overlay.” “There’s a principal of software design that somewhere you’ve got to start over,” says Ode, president of Foundation Software Inc. in Brunswick. “In 1996, we were faced with the decision of doing an overlay and making a lot more money in the late ’90s, or starting from the ground up.”
Instead of going for the quick money, Ode and his programmers spent four years and $3.5 million writing the code for their Windows-compatible software. Although it took four times as long as slapping on an overlay, rebuilding was the smart move to make.
“If we did an overlay, sure we could’ve squeezed out three, four, five years of profit, but I’m in this for the long haul,” says Ode, who just celebrated Foundation’s 17th year in business. “We’re not going to do anything that’s going to put the company in jeopardy. We’re looking long term. In hindsight, doing a complete rewrite was the absolute way to go.”
Foundation was a Weatherhead 100 winner five years in row until 2000, when its sales, like most other accounting software makers, dropped off. This year, however, looks to be its highest sales year since 1999, Ode says.
“I’m real comfortable with our somewhat more conservative approach,” he says. “Maybe we grew quickly compared to other industries, but for technology, we grew at a conservative pace.”How to reach: Foundation Software, (330) 220-8383 or www.foundationsoft.com