Friends in Right Places Propel Computer Programming Firm

Article excerpt

Byline: Anne Schmitt Daily Herald Business Writer

Business profile

Name: Jeff Rudolph

Age: 40

Business: Intelligent Computer Solutions Inc. builds computer systems and software for automating an organization's processes.

Revenues: Estimated $1.6 million in 1996

Philosophy: "In our business, if you don't acquire technology you expire. We continually acquire and learn new technology so we can offer our clients what we call 'state of reality technology:' Technology that works."

A figure "8" drew Jeff Rudolph into the world of computer programming.

"I wrote a program to draw a figure '8' on the screen," recalls the founder of Intelligent Computer Solutions Inc. in Naperville. "That was it. This was something I wanted to be," he decided.

At the time, Rudolph was working as a structural engineer at a Chicago engineering company. It was during a computer programming lesson there when he designed the prophetic figure "8" program.

Rudolph decided to go to the Illinois Institute of Technology to study computer science. And there, his idea for an entrepreneurial venture - at the time he liked the name Intelligent Software Solutions - began to take shape.

He didn't act right away. After receiving his master's degree, Rudolph took a job in 1985 with AT&T's Bell Laboratories.

But a combination of connections, luck and confidence in his programming abilities merged, leading Rudolph to start the company in 1990.

In the six years since he started the business in the basement of his family home, Rudolph has taken it from a one-person shop to company with 15 full-time employees. Sales have grown from $713,000 in 1994 to $800,000 in 1995 to a projected $1.6 million this year.

His first job came thanks to a friend at High Sierra Sport Co. in Vernon Hills who asked Rudolph to review a couple of software proposals for the company's sales and purchasing systems. Still at Bell Labs at the time, Rudolph prepared a third option for the company. High Sierra liked the idea and wanted him to write the software.

He never wrote software for such a complicated system. Nor did Rudolph know much about a wholesaler's operations. He decided to take the leap anyway.

"Two weeks before my son was born, I quit and worked on that system," Rudolph said. "I wasn't nervous at all about starting the company. I was nervous about failing the company."

High Sierra still uses the system and still calls on Rudolph to program upgrades or changes to it.

"We're very happy with it," said High Sierra Vice President T.J. Thomas. "We're still using the system in all phases of the business."

Rudolph's second big break also came thanks to a friend. While still busy working on the High Sierra project, he was asked to develop a project tracking system for the International Terminal at O'Hare International Airport. …