MERIDIAN — As complicated as the business world can be, the basic formula for success is simple and unchanging — see a need, fill a need. That’s the idea on which software producer Ideal Software Systems Inc. was established. And it remains its mantra today.
“I’ve seen a lot of neat products, products that looked really nice,” said David Goldman, founder and president of ISS. “The problem was, they didn’t always meet a need. The software we have designed was created from customer need. Our aim has been to create products businesses can use.”
Goldman had a unique opportunity to observe specific business needs first-hand and close up. A native of Meridian, Goldman’s father was, and is, an entrepreneur blessed with the vision to see new business opportunities on the horizon. Though prevalent now, he opened a rent-to-own business when they were in their infancy, eventually owning five in Mississippi and Michigan.
Meanwhile, David Goldman went on to the University of Texas where he majored in electrical and computer engineering. While he had a fascination with software, he said he also was interested in business solutions, starting at home.
Goldman’s father found it increasingly challenging to manage his rental outlets located hundreds of miles apart from one locale. So, in 1983, practically computer prehistory, Goldman sat down in a spare bedroom and started writing a software program for his father on an Apple computer.
The program worked, and along the way Goldman realized that his software had more potential customers.
“I got more serious about it as graduation approached and I needed something to do,” Goldman said with a laugh.
He struck out on the road and sold the first rent-to-own he pitched. All other responses were positive. Enthused, he hired his first employee.
That first year was a learning experience. Goldman soon realized that IBM-compatible PCs were the wave of the future, so he converted to that format. And he found that positive responses did not always equate to signed contracts. Growth was slower than anticipated, but Goldman was convinced ISS had a product that met the needs of businesses, and not just rent-to-own, either. So, he stuck it out.
Today, ISS has about 50 people on the payroll and counts customers in 48 states and numerous foreign countries. Currently almost 2,000 businesses utilize its software. ISS also offers installation, training, technical support and custom software.
In addition to furniture rental, ISS has developed 10 different products for three other specific industries — family entertainment centers, pawn shops and check cashing facilities. All were created to meet industry-specific needs.
For instance, the Ideal Arcade Manager assists in the monitoring of game activities in family entertainment centers — payout percentages, daily sales figures, tickets in stock and in use and token tracking. In addition to improved efficiency, the program also guards against the bane of arcades — theft. While employees may not get cash from the till, others may deem it harmless to give extra tokens to customers which, for an arcade, is the equivalent of embezzlement.
ISS has also come up with innovations. One perceived problem was point of sale access. If an employee was managing a POS and needed a break, the options were to either close the POS down, hardly business wise, or have another employee man it and risk one or both employees taking from the drawer and blaming the other. ISS created a program that allowed for a two-password system and eliminated potential unsolved crimes.
Goldman said he began the business under the concept that success would bring growth. However, over time he began to realize that perhaps growth would bring success. So, ISS has been adding to its staff, most importantly, to its sales team, which until recently numbered one but now has six members and will soon have nine, and to its management team, putting a director over the various departments. Goldman said that the extra management was essential, allowing Goldman the luxury of not having to keep direct tabs on ISS’ day-to-day operations and freeing him to get out and forge new business.
“The most satisfying thing for me is seeing all the quality people in this office,” Goldman said. “The growth would not have been possible without the people.”
Getting out and blazing trails is a big part of ISS’ present and future. Dave Marshall, who concentrates on sales in the FEC industry, just got back from London. Next stop is the United Arab Emirates. In fact, ISS is establishing a firm foothold in both Europe and Asia.
All the extra sales and accompanying support has cramped ISS physically. Currently taking up the entire third floor of the Union Planters building, ISS will take over the second floor as well, scheduled for next month. Goldman said ISS plans to build a stand-alone facility sometime within the next five years. Still, Goldman said he wants to maintain managed, healthy growth.
“I measure success by learning from experience — not repeating mistakes. I am looking for us to continue making progress, and to continue getting better.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at email@example.com.