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Programming Self-Employment

Preston “Paul” Parks is the President of P2 Programs located in Dripping Springs, Texas. P2 Programs, started in 1986 as a part-time by writing barcode applications (inventory and process tracking applications) for various barcode suppliers in the Houston, Texas area. After four years of construction experience and another four years manufacturing operations experience, Paul founded P2 Programs and began full time operations in 1992. Based upon our experiences with construction and manufacturing process tracking, P2 Programs had the technological expertise to present customers with an affordable and successful solution to the data collection challenges they faced in their manufacturing operations.

When and why did you join the NASE?
We first joined NASE in 2003 in order to participate in the NASE HRA 105 program. We have since taken advantage of several other benefits including the discounts on Constant Contact, Turbo Tax On-line, Office Depot and UPS.

What inspired you to enter the field you are in?
I took my first programming class senior year of high school. When entering college, it was not my intent to be a programmer. My degree in Engineering Technology from Texas A & M combined with my mostly self-taught programming knowledge made the way for what P2 Programs does for their customers today.

When and why did you start your business?
I started my business in 1986, in part to make my job easier. I wrote the software to streamline my job. At that time, the extra money I made by writing custom software outside of regular work hours was used for vacation money. I then became so busy with my “side” job of writing software that it became apparent that I needed to do this full-time. In 1992, I was laid off from my full-time job. It was then that my wife Sherrie and I decided to see if I could make this side gig work as a full-time venture. Although there have been some very lean years, I haven’t regretted making that decision.

How do you market your business?
We attend one trade show a year — NASCC: The Steel Conference to market to steel fabricators. In addition to the NASCC Trade Show, our main marketing is by word of mouth.

What challenges have you faced in your business?
The main challenge has been making it through a depressed economy — a couple of times. The best advice we received is to stick back 3 months of funds when you are in a good economy so you can make it by during the tough times.

Another challenge has been figuring out what, if any, type of advertising works for your business. For our business, the best advertising is word of mouth. We have wasted a lot of money on print and other advertising. It just doesn’t work for us.

Do you have any employees?
My wife Sherrie is an employee of the company and handles all of the administrative work. We have 3 contract (1099) employees — a salesperson, a software developer and a trainer. We do not plan on adding any other employees in the near future.

What’s your schedule like, what’s a typical day for you?
P2 Programs is open 8:30am – 5:30pm Central Time. Since we have customers all over the United States and internationally, we monitor our calls evenings and on weekends for when our customers have a software issue that is keeping them from working.

What’s the best thing about being self-employed?
The best thing about being self-employed is having a flexible schedule. I can be with my kids on their schedule. The second-best thing is that I do not have to fight traffic to get to work.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received from a client?
“Have worked with P2 Programs for several years now. P2 Programs is an expert in the field and I have and will continue to recommend them over and over again. I cannot express how much P2 Programs has helped me over the years and consequently streamlined my fabrication making us much more efficient at our job.”  ~Ted Mannstedt & Sons — La Crosse, WI

What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to someone starting their own business?
Join NASE and join your local chamber of commerce. NASE can provide needed information for getting started and making it through the challenges. Your local chamber of commerce will give you a local community to connect with and for them to help support your business. And see if you have a local SCORE representative in your area. They have retired executives who will give advice and counsel at little to no cost.

Which NASE member benefit is most important to you?
The NASE HRA 105 program. It has saved us a lot of money being able to claim our medical expenses as a deduction on our taxes every year.

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