September 1, 2011 is the 14th anniversary of starting the company. 14 years. Considering I was unable to hold a single job for more than 2 years before this (if you exclude teaching on and off at a gym in college) this is impressive for me to stay focused for 14 years. But my job has changed. Years ago I realized that the company had grown to the point that I, me personally, was no longer the one building web sites. Rather my job transformed into growing people. And I enjoy and try very hard to surround myself with brilliant, hard working people with positive attitudes. Turns out they make great employees and they challenge me to grow at the same time.
14 is kind of an awkward age. I think if you are married there isn’t even a recommended gift from de beers given it isn’t a multiple of 5. (Wait. Sheesh, I just looked it up. 14 years is traditionally ivory? What the heck? Do NOT send me any ivory people. Really. Elephants look better with their tusks IMHO.)
And this is my second blog post on blog.schipul.com. I have submitted other posts, but as I was reminded when I mentioned to Katie that I was writing this post, apparently “snark” isn’t appropriate on blog.schipul.com. I must reserve that for my own blog or the Chron. Thus my previous posts were rejected by Katie for official publication. Hopefully this one makes the cut!
Back to the 14 year thing. Obviously I am incredibly grateful to my family and friends who helped me start the business. There truly is no such thing as a self-made-man, woman, entrepreneur, whatever. We ALL get a TON of help in both sweat equity, money, advice, support and every other type of help imaginable. Nobody can do it alone. The media likes to tell the story of a modern day Galt charging forward solo against the odds. It doesn’t work that way. It takes a network of support to start a business. And I had that network 14 years ago and I still have it now. And as I have said many times, the biggest supporter I have ever had is my wife Rachel. If Rachel had not gone back to work in 1997 when I quit my job the company wouldn’t exist at all.
In the early days, huge thanks to Paul Bieniawski, Scott Pederson and Javier Avellan as well. Starting a company is like moving apartments when you are young; everyone says they are your friend, but suddenly they are busy and can’t help on that particular Saturday. Rachel, Paul, Scott and Javier freed up the time to help me and were truly paid in pizza and beer (yes really). Our first server was built on the floor of Scott’s kitchen using left over alpha hardware and a case, motherboard and CPU purchased on Harwin. (Tip for future entrepreneurs – NEVER use “alpha” hardware. Uuuugh, that server was rough. But it got the job done.)
Employees – the team – the heart of the company. I appreciate Jennifer, Rodney, Aaron, Jenny, Katie, Eloy, Kerry, Lyndia and the entire team. We definitely would NOT be celebrating 14 years without all of them. And that’s not even listing some of our former employees who made huge contributions, helped the company move forward and then went on to follow their own path. Their impact was felt and moved the ship forward. And a special shout out to Ellen M, my very first employee, who is awesome despite having gone to t.u.
Clients – we are here to serve our clients and without clients we wouldn’t exist. Saying thank you to our clients, letting them know we understand we work for them, and that we appreciate them, can’t be repeated often enough. So if you are a client reading this – THANK YOU!
I have a lot of history of the company to write. Forgive me if I am missing something and I’ll try to get it all organized by the time we hit 15 years.
So if I didn’t write a blog post at year 10, if I didn’t write one at year 11, 12 or 13, why now? Because 2011 is different for us. We have not had a year this transformative in the company’s history since 2001 when we shut down network consulting services and started programming codebase (now called Tendenci.) In fact our theme this year is “Go Big or Go Home” which I borrowed from Aaron’s team goals. That Aaron is a wise man.
“Go Big or Go Home” is definitely not a typical theme for a conservative businessman running a company during a recession. But in 2011 we effectively “doubled down” as they say. Instead of running from a recession, we charged into it and reinvested while cutting costs and reinventing our products. Go big or go home in 2011 means this year we:
- Tendenci – Finished the rewrite of Tendenci version 5 on the Amazon server cloud. The rewrite started in January of 2009 and we had a few clients moved onto the new version in 2010. But only in 2011 has our dedicated team of programmers started to really build the recurring revenue and functionality to rival Tendenci 4. I can’t speak highly enough of the team. Writing software ALWAYS takes longer than you want and costs more. That has been the case for us with the rewrite of Tendenci. But it IS done and live on client sites like Discovery Green and ThinkLA. We look forward to converting our other 400 clients to the latest version over the next few years.
- SchipulCon 2011! – We had our first Tendenci user conference in 2007. We tried to do it again in 2008 but Hurricane Ike had other ideas and instead we cancelled and had a giant party. I know, a dot-com kind of thing to do, but if you remember the time after Ike we all needed a bit of healing and beer heals. In 2009 we renamed it SchipulCon and had a great event at our long time client the Houston Zoo. Well, you guessed it, we are DOING IT AGAIN! Please check out our speakers and register for SchipulCon October 6,7, 2011 at client Norris Conference Center at CityCentre in Houston.
- Silicon Valley – we opened an office in Silicon Valley in March of this year led by April Kyle. We are learning to speak Californian and finding they aren’t so different from us! West coaster? Give us at call in the valley at 408-430-3137!
- Business Processes – kind of boring to talk about, but we have completely reengineered our internal processes from accounting procedures to better utilization of SugarCRM and switching time tracking and moving our email to the cloud. It hasn’t been completely smooth, but it is building a foundation for us to continue our growth unimpeded. Thank you to the team for moving with the cheese in 2011 as we grow! And it helps our clients by improving our efficiency which allows us to reinvest in YOU!
- Tendenci self-signup – by the end of 2011 smaller organizations will be able to self signup for a much lower cost Tendenci site for their organization. We have lowered our costs by moving into the cloud and we are passing those savings on to our clients to enable more and more small associations to take advantage of our technology at an affordable price. (Special shout-out to former employee Glenbot who has moved on to a VC backed firm. Without Glen’s contributions to Tendenci 5 over the last few years we wouldn’t be this close. Thanks Glen. I appreciate the beautiful code dude.)
And to our competitors who told our clients we had “stagnated” and had “stopped updating Tendenci,” … um…. ooops, meet T5 baby! Rockin the cloud for a bigger and better future. Two and a half years of serious double-down and rebuilding was hard to endure, but we are near the finish line to the ultimate benefit of our clients.
And the team has done all of that in the fourth year of a recession. Call us crazy, but we figured there would never be a good time to do any of these changes, so why not do them all at once? Why not Go Big or Go Home in 2011?! And we are doing it. And I couldn’t be more proud of our employees or more grateful to our clients and everyone who has helped us not only this year, but every year for the last 14 years.
Please join us for SchipulCon and get some brain candy. We are here to serve you. We are reinvesting to serve you better. And as always, we are appreciative of Houston and the community and friends that have supported us for so long. Thank you!