Ever wondered where Soft Tech came from? The answer is to be found with me, John Ball, the founder of Soft Tech, while working as a freelance accountant in 1970s New Zealand. I took on a project job for a window and door manufacturer which involved looking at a costing system. I quickly realized that the repetitive tasks involved left plenty of room for human error, and for a computer to help.
Just about everyone in the window and door industry had someone on the side tinkering with what were new-fangled gadgets. But it was the combination of an accounting eye along with programming savvy that gave Soft Tech an early advantage: Soft Tech went beyond the initial problem, of generating a quote for the customer and solved the greater challenges of producing a cutting list and bill of materials with all the information to produce the products.
Suddenly, we were solving the problems that people really wanted to solve and soon we were dominating the New Zealand market. And, as was the case for so many growing companies out of New Zealand, we looked to expand internationally.
The first jump is inevitably to Australia where the market needs and challenges for window and door companies were similar. Breaking into this new market meant a lot of persistence and “shoe leather” on the street. Even though it was only Australia, it took time to get off the ground but, all of a sudden, a domino-effect took hold as the notion that we could help companies actually “produce” their products. Suddenly, everyone wanted to talk to us!
Now, owing to the way in which we make windows and doors in the Asia Pacific region, Soft Tech enjoyed something of an advantage as we eyed the U.S. and Europe. It meant we automatically were best suited to the needs of this complex industry, especially when the corresponding holes in the buildings weren’t standard like the mass-produced products.
This didn’t make entering these markets any easier. As many Kiwi companies before and after Soft Tech have discovered, when you arrive in America or Europe, you’re a nothing and a nobody. Where the three Ps of retail are position, position and position, for a software company, they are presence, presence and presence. Plane trips every month just weren’t going to cut it, and through a potential customer’s recommendation, we started our first offices in the U.S. and Europe. Again, continuously calling on customers and being at every trade show, our international business finally took off.
Today, the market is infinitely more competitive. It is no longer enough to have a good product, it must be the best or you just aren’t going to make a difference. This is what’s helped us along the way to a presence strong business in New Zealand, Australia, England, France, India, the U.S. and multiple other countries.
Looking ahead, the accelerating pace of technology development and the change that represents, makes for exciting times for Soft Tech and all our customers. We’ve got some top guns across multiple areas of the business, with plenty going on to ride the wave of automation and software intelligence currently unfolding.
We’ve reinvented ourselves multiple times since the days of microcomputers and punch cards, DOS, and various iterations of Windows, and we look forward to an even brighter future.