Black Mountain Software, a Polson-based company that creates accounting software for municipalities, counties and school districts in small to mid-sized towns, is celebrating 30 years in business.
President Heather Neff has been with the company for 20 years. She said a lot has changed in the software field and in their business during that time.
“I saw the transition to Windows,” Neff said. “When I started we had about six schools in Montana and now we have about 146. I’ve seen our client base grow a ton over the last 20 years. There was about six employees when I started, and now there’s 50.”
Polson isn’t normally thought of as a hotbed for tech companies, but Neff said being located in a town of similar size to those they service makes sense and has been a natural fit.
In 1991 Helena resident Wayne Carriere began collaborating with Polson-based Jack Liebschutz, who was based in Polson and worked on similar projects. In 1993 they combined and incorporated as Black Mountain Software.
Since then the company has seen steady growth, Neff said. It adds two to three employees each year to accommodate a client base that expands by 20 to 30.
Maintaining the qualities that made them attractive as a small-town company despite their growth has been critical to its success.
“We get to know our clients really well,” Neff said. “We call in and many of them we know their kids and grandkids and know when they are having new ones and when they are retiring and changing jobs. We have really close relationships with many of our clients, especially our Montana clients.”
Neff said a big part of maintaining their successful customer support team — which has expanded to about 30 in recent years — is hiring applicants with promising character traits over existing knowledge bases or skill sets. Even as technology advances, those traits remain relevant.
“When we are hiring, we are looking for people that are problem-solvers, not necessarily people that have a bunch of letters behind their name,” Neff said. “We look for people that are good with people, that are good with numbers, and do well on their own as well as being part of our team. I think it’s accurate to say about half of our staff has a four-year degree. It’s certainly not a requirement, but of course it depends on which department they work in.”
Tech talent in Montana often concentrates near Bozeman, but director of marketing David Tyler said they leverage Polson’s unique recreational opportunities on the shores of Flathead Lake, what he calls an excellent work culture and a beautiful building perched on top of a hill above town, to recruit new employees. He said they have never had a hard time finding qualified people when they have an opening.
“The attractions are pretty mind-blowing when we do bring people in. It’s a pretty fantastic place, and the physical location of Black Mountain is pretty appealing as well. I think the culture is terrific,” Tyler said. “The team is terrific, ownership is fantastic and it’s just a really great place to be.”
Black Mountain Software has nearly 600 clients in 23 states and Montana. More information can be found on their website at http://www.blackmountainsoftware.com/company/.
Reporter Peregrine Frissell can be reached at (406) 758-4438 or firstname.lastname@example.org.