I’ve been involved with startups for more than 30 years. I’m president and founder of Palo Alto Software, founder of bplans.com, and a co-founder of Borland International. My wife and I built Palo Alto Software from zero to 40 employees and 70% market share, and multi-million-dollar sales, without outside investment.
I also believe in business planning. I teach planning with my own company, and taught entrepreneurship at the University of Oregon for 11 years, and I teach in published books and software, and in speaking engagements for the likes of Apple Computer, Autodesk, Progress Software, USASBE, Academy of Management, and so on. I wrote The Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan, 3 Weeks to Startup, Hurdle: the Book on Business Planning and other books on planning published by Entrepreneur Press, Harcourt Brace, McGraw-Hill, and Dow Jones-Irwin. I’m the principal author of Business Plan Pro.
As a consultant I worked with Apple Computer steadily for 14 years of repeat business — consultant, not an employee — doing (among other things) 14 years of annual plans for Apple Latin America, Apple Pacific, and Apple Japan. Apple Latin America grew from $2 million to $37 million annual sales while I was doing its annual business plans, and Apple Japan grew from $187 million to $1.5 billion in annual sales while I was doing its planning (not that my planning was responsible, but at least it didn’t screw it up).
I have a Stanford MBA degree to add credibility (if an MBA degree adds credibility any more). For my long-term views on business planning, I like 10 Questions with Tim Berry on Guy Kawasaki’s blog and my post The not so big business plan on my blog Planning, Startups, Stories. Or, better yet, go to Planasyougo.com, where you’ll find the full text and illustrations, plus online videos, of my most recent book, on plan-as-you-go business planning.
I like writing. It reminds me of my first career as a journalist. I was night editor for UPI in Mexico City for three years, and McGraw-Hill World News correspondent for Mexico for five years. I wrote regularly for Business Week and other McGraw-Hill publications, and occasionally for Financial Times and others. I even wrote some published fiction — not counting market research — but it wasn’t very good. My first degree (Notre Dame) was in literature, my second (an MA from University of Oregon) was journalism.
I’ve seen startups and small business from multiple views. I’ve had the good years and bad years. My wife and I had three mortgages and $65,000 of credit card debt at one very low point, which we survived, but I really don’t recommend. I’ve landed investment from a Palo Alto venture capital firm and bought them back. I’ve consulted with venture capitalists on software startups, essentially kicking tires. I’ve consulted with startups on bringing in venture capital, and angel investors, and business loans, and friends and family.
I like to think I’ve never lost track of what’s really important. I’d have to give my wife of 41 years credit for us still being married, three companies, five kids, 5 college educations, 2 graduate degrees, 7 jobs, and I forget how many mortgages later.