What It's Like To...Start Your Own Company

Being a CIO is hard work. Founding your own company is hard work plus. There's the added bonus of a lot of risk—and no safety net. When I started LogTech in 1997, it was dotcom time. It was euphoric. We jumped right in, never considering failure as an option.

It goes without saying that we didn't become the next Google.

At Ryder, my job was primarily development. We built optimization models and operations systems that we would offer as part of our logistics service. As part of the sales process, I'd end up meeting with customers about 40 to 50 times a year. When I started my own company, I thought that this experience would help me. But I learned there's a big difference between meeting customers as CIO of a company and meeting customers when it's your business. As a CIO, you have a captive customer base. Even when I was presenting to potential customers, sales executives had already made the introductions and done the work to get us in front of the right people. At LogTech, we were starting from scratch. It really made me appreciate sales and marketing people.

They say if you build a better mousetrap, people will beat a path to your door. Not true. You need to get your message out, and that's hard to do when there are many early-stage companies with the same objective. The other thing you realize when you start your own company is the importance of cash. When you're a CIO, most of your costs are known in advance, and funding is provided through the budget process. When you're at a startup, the availability of cash drives your strategy. And if you run out of cash, everyone goes home.

LogTech lasted three years. In the end, we sold the technology. Now I have a benchmarking practice for logistics and supply chain operations. We've been able to partner with other companies, which is great because they handle a lot of the sales and marketing for us. Overall, I'd say I've found a comfortable niche.

—As told to Ben Worthen

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Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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