Off-the-shelf software programs often just don't do the trick. A company has tomake an investment ? either by hiring consultants or by devoting personnel time ? in customizing a product. One way to dilute the costs is to resell the newcustomized product to other companies with the same demands.

That's what Paric Corp., in St. Louis, did when it was a $40 million construction company. Prepackaged software couldn't meet the growing company'sspecialized demands, so CEO Paul McKee hired contract programmers to set up and continually refine a customized software package for functions includingsubcontractor bidding and accounting. The finished product, as it turned out, generated interest from other local construction companies. So Paric set up anew division, Paric Computer Solutions, to market the program. With two salespeople and five programmers, the division sold $500,000 worth of softwarein its first full year alone.