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Starting Your Own Tech Business: A Conversation with Alison Balter about Founding InfoTech Services Group

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In this series, InformIT sits down with authors who have founded or co-founded their own companies to discuss the challenges and triumphs of creating a technology-centered business. Today, we talk with Alison Balter, who has owned her own business, InfoTech Services Group, Incorporated, for over twenty-three years.
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InformIT: What’s the name of your business, and what do you do?

Alison Balter: The name of my business is InfoTech Services Group, Inc. We are a full service computer consulting firm. The IT support arm of our business provides maintenance, support, email, Exchange Server, networking, and other services to small and medium sized companies. The software development arm of our business provides custom software development and website design to medium and large corporations and government agencies.

InformIT: Why did you decide to start your own business?

Alison Balter: I decided that I wanted to start my own business for a few reasons. The most compelling reason was that I get bored very easily. I wanted the variety I believed that I would experience as a consultant. The second reason was that I had reached the corporate salary ceiling. I wanted to be economically rewarded for my merits. Finally, I was planning to have a family and wanted the flexibility that self-employment brings.

A rare glimpse of Alison's office

InformIT: What makes your business different from other companies?

Alison Balter: There are two main things that differentiate us from other companies. First, as authors, we are able to communicate to our clients at a level that they can understand. Additionally, we have found that many computer consultants are unreliable. We do whatever it takes to get the job done and do it right.

InformIT: What are the best things about working for yourself? And the worst?

Alison Balter: The best things about working for myself are that the sky is the limit as far as income goes, and that I get to attend all of my children’s important events and milestones.

The worst things about working for myself are that the work never ends, making it difficult to slow down and relax. Furthermore, fluctuations in receivables can at times be quite challenging.

InformIT: What advice would you have for someone who wants to create their own business?

Alison Balter: To own your own business you need to be self-motivated, confident, and a risk-taker. You need to be willing to do whatever it takes to make your clients happy. You need to be reliable and trustworthy. Finally, you need to be a business person as well as technically astute.

InformIT: How has your industry changed since you started?

Alison Balter: When I first started my business the internet was not being used by the general public. This meant that people needed to get their information through books and training classes. I made much of my money from onsite training classes and book royalties. Today, with the resources available on the internet, books and training classes make up a small portion of our revenue.

InformIT: What has been the greatest challenge you've faced in owning your own business?

Alison Balter: The biggest challenge that I’ve faced is balancing my business with the rest of my life. Having a very successful business makes it easy to get buried in work. I have to keep things in perspective and make sure that I have time for myself, and for my family.

InformIT: What has been your greatest accomplishment since starting your own business?

Alison Balter: I would have to say that my greatest accomplishment is the fact that I have authored 15 books and over 300 training videos on Access and SQL Server.

InformIT: What are your favorite applications or web products?

Alison Balter: My favorite applications are Microsoft Access and Microsoft SQL server.

InformIT: What technology trend in the last five years has taken you by surprise?

Alison Balter: Not much has surprised me. I expected that internet development would be an ever-increasing portion of my business. What I didn’t expect was that desktop development using Microsoft Access and SQL Server would remain such a large part of my business.

InformIT: What do you think is the most exciting thing happening in tech right now?

Alison Balter: The most exciting thing happening in tech right now is the fact that web development is becoming so much easier.

InformIT: Where do you see technology going in the next ten or fifteen years?

Alison Balter: I see all of our household devices, computers, mobile devices, and the internet even more integrated. Your oven, alarm system, lights, and most other household devices will all be controlled via mobile devices and over the internet.

InformIT: Can you describe a typical work day at your business?

Alison Balter: My day usually starts quite early. My office is in my home, but you will often find me out at networking and client meetings first thing in the morning. I spend the rest of the day programming and managing client projects. I usually take a break from work from 4pm to 8pm so that I can spend time with family. I then go back to work until 10:30pm or 11:00pm. During that time I either program, handle email, or get organized for the next day.

InformIT: Did your business help you write the book, or did the book help you start your business?

Alison Balter: My business definitely helped me to write my first book. I had quite a bit of experience writing programs in Microsoft Access when I wrote my first book. I used all that real-life experience to write a practical book that real-life developers could benefit from.

Alison Balter: I must say that the success from my books helped to propel my business. I have received many training opportunities and software development projects from readers of my books.

InformIT: What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Alison Balter: I would say that there is absolutely nothing like owning your own business. If you are hard-working, self-motivated, technically astute, and business savvy, you will reach heights you never dreamed possible!

InformIT: Thank you so much for being a part of this series. I'm sure that your advice will help others who are looking to start their own businesses in the technology industry.

If you want to read Alison Balter's latest book, you can pick up Access 2013 Absolute Beginner's Guide right here on InformIT.

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