Cutting costs to ensure success
Goodnight recalls trying to keep costs down during SAS's first year apart from NC State. The company did hire a sales and marketing person, however, and Goodnight himself effectively sold the product by teaching potential buyers to use it.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Jim Goodnight, July 22, 1999. Interview I-0073. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
JM: Did it already seem like this was an opportunity to grow a business tremendously? Obviously you had your core group of one hundred that you brought with you from before, but was your sense that “Oh my, we've only just scratched the surface” -- or rather, [did you think]that you'd sort of continue with the approximate market that you were already working with?
JG: I don’t think that there was any sense that this was going to be a huge company. I believe that most of us felt like we were pretty scared to be cutting the umbilical cord, because the university is a pretty safe place to work. I think our main goal that first year was to try to make it through the first year. We didn't worry about much else. I remember trying to make sure we didn't spend too much money. We had to pack books and ship books. At four o'clock in the afternoon I would quit working on programming and go back and pack books. I was just very resistant to buy what they call “tape shooter.” [It is] one of these machines that wets your tape for you and cuts it off. They wanted like $250 for it and that seemed like a lot of money. I just used a paintbrush and a can of water and wet the tape that way. That lasted about two or three months and I finally said, “We've got to have this tape shooter.”
JM: You’re cash flow positive at the outset, obviously. In those first “just finding your way” days, did you encounter critical challenges that had to be overcome? What were the key tasks in front of you to really get the business off and running?
JG: I don't really recall a whole lot. We had several extra offices. We knew the first thing we needed to do was hire somebody -- a sales and marketing person. We did that and brought in a fellow named Bill Gjertson. Bill's still with us today. Later on we convinced Herb Kirk, who was at the university, to come join us to head up our education area. We just slowly added one person at the time to take over areas that we felt like we shouldn't be spending all of our time doing. I was out on the road quite a bit in the early days, teaching. We felt like the more people that learned to use SAS, the better chance we had of surviving. I was out on the road teaching a lot.