to be in the game, or just stand on the sidelines?'”
She started ADS as a supplier, selling hardware, software and accessories, but quickly shifted to “providing solutions” when custom manufacturers like Dell and Gateway began eating into the hardware market. The nine-year-old company now averages between $3 million and $5 million a year in sales by providing corporate and government clients with network design, installation and cabling, and interim IT personnel such as database designers, programmers, software developers and trainers.
Logans says the IT industry is good for women because skills aren’t gender-specific, and the demand and limited supply of these skills allow women to compete with men on a relatively level playing field.
McLaurin agrees that the field is a good one for women. Entrepreneurs usually come from a computer consulting, recruiting or staffing industry background, he says. As for start-up costs, the majority of costs will go toward payroll and other costs associated with hiring professionals. Logans’ start-up costs were approximately $15,000 for rent, office equipment, staffing and insurance. Today, she works with a full-time staff of four and from five to 30 consultants, depending on the size of the contract.
To succeed in this business, you must get on clients’ lists of preferred vendors. New companies with no track record may have to take less-than-desirable business in the beginning. And finding and keeping good consultants is the biggest challenge. Networking and having contacts are critical. While there are opportunities, it’s a competitive business, says McLaurin, so you have to differentiate your company by the level of service.
Logans’ advice for women who want to start technology businesses is to always be willing to change and reinvent yourself, your products and services at a moment’s notice.
Legal Eagles: Dispute Resolution
High profile lawsuits and large out-of-court settlements have unnerved corporations enough to create a booming business for consultants who can help steer them away from trouble, resolve issues in a fair manner and help teach their employees to work cooperatively. According to the U.S. District Courts, the number of employment civil rights cases filed increased from 15,965 in 1994 to 23,735 in 1997.
If you’re interested in consulting in the area of dispute resolution, experience and knowledge in a particular niche, such as labor law or family disputes, is helpful, says Janice Robertson, associate executive director of the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution.
Training in mediation and conflict resolution is available through various community organizations as well as many universities. Hands-on and volunteer experience go a long way in building skills in dispute resolution. The personality traits of someone interested in conflict resolution are critical, says Robertson. “Listening and negotiation skills are extremely important when you are trying to solve problems in a way that will salvage relationships.”
Marina Grant worked for several years as a prosecuting attorney and as a volunteer helping women advance on the job in the face of discrimination. She noticed in the early 1980s that employers were also having a difficult time dealing with workplace conflict and problem resolution. In