Executive Suite: Bob Burns, Floral Park
As a child, Bob Burns was the kind of kid who felt compelled to take everything apart, from the television set to the blender.
After becoming a whiz at writing computer programs to solve problems, the founder and chief innovation officer of Osmosis Development Corp. turned his quantitative analysis degree and love for people and technology into a business.
Now, 20 years later, the technology consulting and computer manufacturing firm competes directly with Dell and HP and partners with Microsoft and Intel. His consultant niche is to custom-design computers as a tool to improve a company's bottom line.
In October, after many of his customers' computers were infected with something that anti-virus software couldn't manage, Osmosis released a "self-healing" computer.
Burns says it can't be damaged by hard drive failure, viruses, or a corrupted operating system, because it backs up all files each night and has a spare hard drive.
What does it take to get a technology company off the ground?
Constant learning. The hardest part about this business is that the second you become an expert at something, it is obsolete.
What's in your sights right now?
Disaster recovery: focusing on what a business would do in case of a disruption and how to manage that. No one really paid attention to it until recently. Now everyone's talking to me about it.
We have clients that are set up where if their building were to burn down to the ground, we have replicated all of their systems in a different location, so within a half an hour's time they can be fully functioning again . . . we can virtualize an entire network infrastructure in the cloud.
What causes most people's computer problems?
Not looking at the big picture . . . like buying computers that don't have the right operating system or the right software, so they end up costing several hundred dollars more per computer.
How do you build your business?
I sell by having an open-door policy, and whether you're a customer or not, if you need some advice, I'm there to give it. I [also] really want to make sure that [my clients] get the tools that are going to help improve their bottom line, because if I can do that for them, they're going to come back to me year after year.
How do you get people to update their technology?
I'm in an industry where change is the norm. Most people don't like change. If you've got a large organization and I were to show you how we can increase your bottom line by 20 percent, but if your employees don't buy in, then we have failed.
NAME: Bob Burns, founder and chief innovation officer, Osmosis Development Corp. in Floral Park
WHAT IT DOES: "We are essentially two separate companies. We are a computer manufacturer, competing with Dell & HP. And we are a technology consulting firm, providing guidance and support to our clients."
ROLES THEY PLAY: Enable clients to be more technologically efficient
REVENUE: $1.5 million