When Sara Silver started her career in the ’80s, she was usually the only woman in the room. She was also a recent college graduate, so she kept a low profile, focusing on learning as she began to navigate her career. “I never really thought much about it,” says Silver. She admits, “I don’t really consider myself a woman in tech — just a person in tech.” However, Silver has made a point to mentor other women in an industry that remains largely male. (Women make up less than 20 percent of U.S. tech jobs, even though they make up more than half of the U.S. workforce.)
Working as a pricing analyst, Silver needed access to information. When she requested a report from the company IT department and was told it would take six months to produce, Silver purchased a book on FoxBASE programming and taught herself. This eventually inspired her to leave behind corporate life and go out on her own. In 1988, she founded Silverware, Inc., a business management solutions firm, which specializes in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). Headquartered in Phoenix, Silverware Inc. has an office in Seattle, as well as employees working remotely in several cities across the United States. Currently, 13 of Silverware’s 30 employees are female.
In 2015, Silverware purchased the practice of one of its competitors. Silver and her husband, Bob, were good friends with the owner of the company and they had collaborated on projects together several times. “The conversation started because he wanted to retire,” explains Silver. “We needed a big boost and that was not going to happen without a big move.” Since the acquisition, Silverware has almost quadrupled its revenue and the growth has allowed it to increase its traditional business services, while also diving into the Cannabis ERP software market. “We wanted to explore a new vertical industry so that we could gain expertise and implement repeatable — rather than custom — software solutions,” says Silver.
Through extensive research, Silver and her team were able to configure its traditional ERP solution specifically for the cannabis industry. “I must say it has been quite an education,” acknowledges Silver. Many of Silverware’s customers in the cannabis industry have bootstrapped their business thus far. Now, Silverware can provide a world-class ERP supporting audit requirements that investors require, while also streamlining their business processes. The software is also capable of helping to automate state compliance requirements, which is necessary to maintain licensing.
Silverware is embarking on its 30-year anniversary and many of its employees have been with the firm for more than 10 years. Silver’s secret to attracting and retaining employees is, she tries to remain human in her relationships with her employees. “We have eight habits that we always focus on,” she explains. “As long as we follow these habits, we are successful. This has become part of our culture — and, although everyone is tired of hearing me preach the habits, it seems to be working!”
Silver explains the competitive nature of her industry and the challenges Silverware overcomes when looking for talent. When they are recruiting, they set up peer interviews so the candidates can learn what it is like to work at Silverware. “There are many people who are qualified for the job — but they have to understand our culture,” says Silver. “It’s not a fit for everyone.”
She is most proud of the relationships Silverware has with its employees and long-time customers. Silver’s first client is still with the firm today.
“I love to be at a grocery store and see a line of bottled water that was manufactured via our software,” Silver says. “We might not be saving the world or curing cancer, but we are helping many companies succeed in their business.”
In addition to running her business, Silver has helped lead an annual team that is consistently a principal fundraiser for the Arizona “Walk MS” to end multiple sclerosis. More importantly, the team walks to support Silver’s brother. The “Smilin’ Phil” team has raised $70,000 through the walk over the past few years. “Teamwork requires a variety of qualities — trust, commitment, cooperation and support,” she says. “Whether we’re working with a client helping to select and implement the optimal ERP solution or gathering to walk for MS, the motivation is one and the same.”
- Silverware Inc. specializes in business management solutions and is a reselling partner for Microsoft Dynamics Business Central, Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP and Sage Intacct, with offices in Phoenix and Seattle.
- The eight habits that make Silverware successful at what they do are communication, fact checking, a focus on teamwork, building relationships, getting to know the customer, owning the work, following up and optimizing the experience.
- Sara Silver is a Two Pups Wellness Fund board member.