Business

Building a business, close to home North Bend woman teams with husband to create software consulting company

North Bend’s Patricia Bennett, right, is a driving force behind PC Bennett, Inc., consulting company, which she runs with husband Chris, center. Staff at PC Bennett includes Crystal Miller and Tim Layton. - Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record
North Bend’s Patricia Bennett, right, is a driving force behind PC Bennett, Inc., consulting company, which she runs with husband Chris, center. Staff at PC Bennett includes Crystal Miller and Tim Layton.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

Running her growing software consulting business is a family affair for North Bend resident Patricia Bennett, owner of PC Bennett consulting.

Bennett partners with her husband Chris in the company, which helps small and medium-sized enterprises run their business software.

The office is just a few steps away from their home, in a garage which the Bennetts are completely remodeling into a new headquarters and training center.

Consulting business

At PC Bennett consulting, Bennett and her crew help small and medium sized businesses take their management software a step beyond the ordinary.

“We help them figure out a way of becoming more efficient,” Bennett said. “We do the training, we do the data conversion, and we support these people on an ongoing basis.”

Most big businesses have this type of service and support available to them, but small and medium businesses often don’t.

“Typically, you dial an 800 number and you get somebody that doesn’t know anything about your business trying to help you with your issues,” Bennett said. “What makes us different is that we know about your issues. We know how your software has been implemented.”

“I love what I do for a living,” said Bennett, who studied computer science.

“In my country, where I grew up, you go to school — it’s not an option,” said Bennett, who is originally from Colombia. “You do something with your life.”

But when you are young, you never quite know where life will take you.

“I studied computer science, and the next thing I knew, I was doing accounting, which was not in my plans. It’s one of those things where life takes you in different directions that you never expected.”

Out of school, Bennett started at a company that resold housewares, and wrote a program for them that tracked their commissions. To write the program, she needed to figure out how they kept their books.

“Suddenly, I became a bookkeeper.”

The job didn’t go smoothly at first.

“The first time I did their monthly entries, I did them all wrong,” she said. “I put all the credits in the debits and the credits in the debits. I learned something there.”

Going independent

Eventually, the time came to do her own thing — during the time of the big dot-com bubble burst. The tech boom had hit bottom, “and it was bad,” Bennett said.

“My husband and I had been working in this business for different companies,” she said. In 1999, her son was born, and she took two and a half years off.

“One day, my husband comes come and says, ‘I think I’m going to be laid off.’ He tells me what’s going on, and I go, ‘Don’t think. You will be laid off.’”

Bennett went back to work for a few days each week. It wasn’t long before her husband lost his job, and shortly afterwards, she lost her job, too.

“At that point, I decided that nobody would have that type of control in my life,” Bennett said. “If I was going to be in the dumps, it was going to be my fault, nobody else’s.”

She started up her consulting business, selling a smaller version of the business management software that’s her mainstay now.

“We started small,” Bennett said. “I could do that all by myself. I was just me, I didn’t need an army.”

At the time, her husband was still looking for a job, and Bennett needed help. Chris became busier and busier in her business, until finally, Patricia asked him to join her.

Chris was leery of putting “all of our eggs in one basket,” Patricia said. Her reply was “We have no basket and we have no eggs.”

Soon enough, he was an official member of the team.

“We have always worked together,” said Patricia, who originally met Chris at work. “We each have our area of expertise. Very rarely do we crash into each other.”

In the morning, Bennett drives her 8-year-old son to school, then drives back home to go to work.

She admits it can be difficult being a mom and a businesswoman at the same time.

“Being the driving force of the business, and a mom, it’s always a struggle,” said Bennett, who can be torn between the need to finish a project and the desire to spend time with her son.

But it’s good knowing that her son is in the same room, when he hangs out in the office after school. Bennett helps with math homework, while her husband helps with language. Once homework is done, he’s free to play games until quitting time.

“He’s so much better coming here and being with us,” Bennett said.

Their unofficial “security officer” and team member is Perdita, their 14-year-old Dalmatian. Ever since Patricia started the business, there have been pooches around.

“I don’t know any different,” she said. Co-workers are allowed to bring their dogs to work when they need to, and Perdita has her own bed in the middle of the office. The employees love her, Bennett said.

New digs

When the business started six years ago, the first employee she ever hired worked at a small desk in the family playroom.

When the second came along, the Bennetts decided to buy business space, and stop renting. Patricia sees owning your own property as an investment.

“It’s an asset,” she said. “You’re making payments on your own stuff instead of paying for someone else’s assets.”

The Bennett’s garage workspace is getting a major upgrade. New offices are being installed, and the residence’s former garage is being converted into a training area, where customers can learn about new features, relax on the patio, and all get on the same page.

The work is a huge, multi-phase project, Bennett said.

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