The short version reads something like this…
I’ve had nothing but great experiences in all the companies I’ve worked at, and all the positions I’ve been in. If I had to do it all over again, would I change anything? If it meant not meeting and working with all the people I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with, the answer would be no.
In 1982 I started as a software developer at Micro Education Corporation of America (MECA) Software. MECA was a startup funded by its parent, Marketing Corporation of America (MCA). MCA made the majority of its money by selling coupon space to individual companies in the weekly food section of newspapers around the country. MCA would buy, say twenty pages of space in various newspapers, and then sell one quarter of a page at a substantial (read huge) profit. When you first learned how the process worked, dumbfounded you would ask, why didn’t I think of that!
I was employee number four or five at MECA, I don’t remember exactly. We set off to change the world of course, and soon enough released MECA’s first commercial product, Basic Building Blocks. Technically, it was a cool little product. Burrowing into the BASIC language interpreter on various machines, we “taught” you the BASIC programming language and allowed you to step through your program one line or instruction at a time. Sadly, the market for aspiring BASIC programmers was not as large as we hoped.
Then, nearly as brilliant as selling coupon space in newspapers, someone had the idea of soliciting well known personalities to align with software programs. Yes, MECA pioneered the concept of celebrity software authorship!
The two primary programs that MECA released were Andrew Tobias Managing Your Money and Jim Fixx The Running Program. If you’re not aware of the history, the Jim Fixx program didn’t do so well (he died while out on a run). Managing Your Money however, was a phenomenal success.
The current H&R Block TaxCut solution also had its humble beginnings at MECA. Combining the TaxCut name (purchased) from Best Software with the innovative for its time tax solution Ask Dan About Your Taxes, MECA had another winner on its hands. The “new” TaxCut would be the impetus behind the H&R Block acquisition of MECA.
As the organization grew, so did my level of responsibility. Moving from developer to project lead, I eventually ended my tenure at MECA as Director, Technical Development.
During my time at MECA, I had the very good fortune to meet the folks at Teleware, Inc. Teleware started life as software development house, working for organizations like Charles Schwab and of course MECA. However, they wanted a bigger piece of the pie and rightfully so. There were a talented bunch!
Teleware entered the publishing arena with a product called MYOB. An acronym for Mind Your Own Business, the product was the first, full—featured small business accounting solution available for the Macintosh. Although available initially on the Macintosh, a release for the Windows platform followed soon after. The real beauty of MYOB was that it was one of the first solutions regardless of segment, to truly take advantage of the non-modal, event driven interface of the Macintosh. Apple and others took notice.
In 1993 Teleware was acquired by Best Software (yes the same Best Software of TaxCut fame above, an incestuous industry this software). Our name changed to BestWare. Then, nearly as quickly as we were acquired it seems, we were divested by Best Software. This as it turns out, was a good thing!
The president of Teleware and BestWare at this time was an individual by the name of Chris Lee. As an aside, Chris and I first meet in the mid 1980’s and I’m delighted to say that Chris and I remain friends to this day. Chris was the driving force behind the company’s products and its growth. By chance or design (does it really matter?), a company in Australia, DataTech took an interest in the MYOB product. DataTech was a collaborative effort between Craig Winkler and Brad Shofer. When Best Software went looking for a buyer, they found a suitor in DataTech. Eventually the company took the name of the main product and became MYOB.
As the saying goes, the rest is history. Driven by the Australian conversion to a GST based tax system, MYOB emerged as a dominant player in the Australasian technology sector. As a company, MYOB and the products we produced went on to win numerous industry awards, accolades from the likes of PC Magazine and MacWorld.
When I started at Teleware we were selling a few hundred units of MYOB and I was managing a staff of four. A few years later (or so it seemed, time flies when you’re having fun) our customer base was over 500,000 small businesses and as Group Manager, Product Development, I was managing a globally dispersed staff of 200. I’m similarly proud of the fact that I was asked to be a member of the senior management team. From revenue of a few hundred thousand dollars, we grew the company to $180 million USD.
I had two positive experiences in companies that went from startup to successful public companies. I believed then, as I do now, that I have the knowledge and experience to help others who face problems similar to the ones I solved. Problems such as managing company growth, mentoring employees, understanding what customers really want and developing software products in an accountable and predictive manner. I hung my shingle out just in time for the great recession. Yeah, that didn’t work out too well.
In retrospect, heading back into the corporate environment was a welcome restoration. I came to realize I missed the daily interaction with my colleagues, and the challenges, quick thinking and necessary problem resolution associated with that interaction. And, what a great group of colleagues I discovered at TM Forum. Although my tenure was not as long as I would have hoped, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at TM Forum and remain in close contact with many of the people I worked with.