Major Oak Software: Steve Ralph-Ward
Bespoke software systems developer
Tell us what your business does:
We develop off the shelf and bespoke software systems for the aerospace and automotive industries. Skills Master Pro is our first fully integrated off the shelf system. Our systems are built to fit in with ISO 9000 requirements.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I was working in IT in the automotive industry and developing the in-house system. I was asked by another company to develop a system for them so decided that maybe, having been made redundant, there could be a need for bespoke systems.
How did you know there was a market for it?
I have spent the past 20 years developing systems for manufacturers and have a fair understanding of their requirements.
What were you doing before starting up?
I was developing systems for a company in the automotive industry. I was IT manager there for 10 years. We made exhausts systems for prestige car manufacturers.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I have always been an ideas person and fancied running my own business. I was inspired to get on and do it when I won a contract to build a system for an American company, which is currently going well.
How did you raise the money?
I started the business with no cash. I have joined the Microsoft Bizspark programme which allows me access to all the development software I need for the first three years in business. Thanks Microsoft.
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What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
My biggest challenge is marketing. I am pretty much on my own so I am developing/debugging and building the website then dealing with calls on the phone. I hope that I will soon be in a position to employ someone to assist with the website development. I still have a few ideas/projects to bring to life.
How much do you charge?
Skills Master Pro retails for £4.99 per employee per year.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Getting the American contract was brilliant. I hope to use them as a reference site and gain more sales in the US because of it.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
If you have an idea, go for it. I have had ideas all my life and just didn’t move forward with them. Trust me, if you don’t, someone else will.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
I would like a strong customer base that sees my company as the place to approach when they need help with the integration of a new system.