Peace Software head Brian Peace advises those looking for success in the IT business to find an emerging market, one where change is about to happen.
He did, and now heads a software company which had multimillion dollar sales and employs 200 people.
Standard business-to-business and business-to-consumer processes are mostly automated now, and well known with much competition, he says. Better opportunities exist in an existing, staid and cash-rich industry about to change to new processes. For Peace this was power deregulation in New Zealand in 1992, which needed new customer service and billing systems, as did the US for its deregulation some years later.
Peace designed software for Auckland Gas, keeping the source code to develop his customer billing solution that was later adopted by power utilities across New Zealand, Australia and North America.
The son of a Kihikihi insurance salesman, Peace earlier took IT courses at Auckland university, lectured for 18 months and then started a Unix and database management consultancy. But he soon realised the opportunities in selling his time - rather than a product - was limited. In 1985, he formed Peace Software.
Any leader, Peace says, has the top objective of creating a successful team with the right company culture. Peace hires what he calls "lucky" people – people who are happy, energetic, passionate and bright and determined to learn by taking full responsibility and accountability. He also wants those with fresh ideas as they are the ones who produce "breakthroughs".
Entrepreneurs with fresh ideas must also stay true to their own beliefs and ability to innovate, he says. Figure out what it will cost you - and not just the monetary value - to get what you want. "If you are not prepared to pay the price, don’t try for it.”
Peace says software entrepreneurs need a flexible product that is scalable and can respond to market and technological changes. And they must be able to actually show customers what benefit their technology will bring them.
“It’s all about selling. Without a sale, there is no business,” he says.
Never make friends with a bank manager, Peace advises. Borrowing is best avoided, as banks only exist to make money from you, he says. Raise more cash than you need, and never run out of cash as you cannot always raise more.
To get to the US market, simply fly there, he says. The business rules are the same, except a little more complex and demanding. “In the US, it’s all about marketing and perception. Think big, talk big, act big and look big. Never assume the Americans know what they are doing,” Peace says.
And if you are working for an IT organisation and you never see the boss or owner, leave, as they are simply milking the company, Peace says.