Software Spectrum: Have They Got A Program For You

Judy O. Sims always intended to join her husband full-time at their fledgling business, a vendor of personal-computer programs called Software Spectrum Inc. But in 1985, when it came time for her to leave her job at the Dallas office of Grant Thornton, it wasn't easy. She had worked hard to become a partner at the accounting firm, and she felt some guilt for turning her back on the women who looked to her as a role model. "It was difficult knowing I was walking away from all of that and into something where the future was a lot less secure," she says.

Dangerous as it may have seemed at the time, Sims's decision to take the plunge turned out to be a smart one. Based in Garland, Tex., Software Spectrum has been on a rocket ride, soaring to No. 2 in U.S. sales of business software such as Lotus 1-2-3 and Windows. It trails only giant retailer Egghead Inc. After BUSINESS WEEK's 1992 rankings were compiled, it reported $158.9 million in revenue for the year ended Mar. 31. Profits soared 98%, to $3.8 million. CEO Sims, 39, handles most of the day-to-day business. Husband Richard, 37, is president. He heads the sales force.

In a business where everyone sells the same products, Software Spectrum has found an edge in low costs, low prices, and good service. Through its extensive software data base, the company has established a reputation in the industry for tracking down hard-to-find software packages, such as On Time For Windows for a Baxter Healthcare Corp. local-area network. "They bent over backward to find that oddball software for us," says Glen Jurmann, Baxter's section manager for office technology.

The Simses, along with partner Frank Tindle, now retired, entered the software business with a pair of retail outlets. The three CPAs scraped together $40,000 for the startup. But it didn't take long to figure out that large corporate clients were a more lucrative target than the general public and small businesses. They quickly switched to direct sales and dumped the stores in 1989.

`SUBSTANTIAL LEAD.' Now, the Simses are looking for new ways to fuel growth. One area may be the European market, where major rival Corporate Software Inc. is already well entrenched. Says its CEO, Morton H. Rosenthal: "They can enter the market, but it's going to be tough because we have a pretty substantial lead."

That doesn't faze Judy Sims, who is not easily intimidated by competitors--or stereotypes. "It's easier for some women to feel their chances to succeed are not the same as a man's," she says. "But if you hang in there and do what you're supposed to be doing--conducting business--you can succeed."

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