Progressive Computing, Inc.

June 27th, 2012 by Ken Categories: 4) Other No Responses

I consulted for Tom Blog’s start-up while he was still holed up in his apartment creating one of the first PC-based wide area network (WAN) protocol analyzers. At the time, I was living in West Lafayette running my consulting business and teaching at Purdue’s School of Technology.

When Tom finished the product and had some initial sales, he  wanted to build a team. In 1989, I moved back to Glen Ellyn and became VP of Marketing, joining Bob Everhart running sales and Tom Stelter as President. I was accountable for product management, pricing, distribution and marketing.

Under my leadership, we increased prices and focused on building more niche-driven specialty products for which we could generate more pricing power. This led to our “LM1 Olympic Edition.” ISDN tel/scope ISDN analyzer and CompaSS7 SS7 analyzers that drove profitability and complemented the original more volume-driven flagship analyzer, the LM1.

I ran our international distributor network. One quirky accomplishment was that I wrote a help system in C that could plug into the executable so that Tom’s engineers didn’t have to be bothered with writing help screens. We used that to translate the products into French and German which gave us an edge in those markets. At the time we sold the business, international contributed about 40% of our revenue.

We had pursued a project to develop an ISDN terminal adapter (the “tel/adapter,” a PC-based ISDN telephone) and won the PC Magazine Editor’s Choice, which was a big deal back then. It was a tough choice, but we divested it to Digi International so we could focus on the protocol analyzer business in which we had our core advantage.  The funds from that sale helped us accelerate our growth.  We also launched a patented, hand-held protocol analyzer called PocketScope that operated via the parallel port (remember those?) of any PC-compatible computer.  This product won “Product of the Year’ honors from Data Communications Magazine, further credentializing the business, not to mention our marketing communication chops.

We sold the business in 1992 to Network General (later: Network Associates) having increased sales five-fold in 2 1/2 years. We correctly anticipated the convergence of WAN and LAN testing. The value of our $10m in NGC stock quickly grew as NGC’s stock price soared from $9 per share to $40-something.

From Chicago, I served a one-year employment contract as Director of WAN marketing, managing the now branch office and spearheading the integration of the PCI product line into the Network General product line and authored the firm’s WAN strategy. One of my product managers, Bakul Mehta, relocated to Menlo Park and eventually became president of the Sniffer Technologies division until its spin off in 2004 as a reborn Network General.

In 1993, I decided to ‘retire’ to focus on home life (Soren and Eric, at the time 9 and 11), involve myself in the local school system via school board leadership and pursue musical interests. I did occasional consulting for projects related to the Progressive Computing experience, but ultimately NGC phased out the WAN analyzer software products and closed down the WAN operation around the time of their own acquisition by Network Associates.


April 13th, 2012 by Ken Categories: 1) Professional No Responses

A Place to Make and Honor Commitments

I am lucky to work at Geneca.  It is a rare consulting firm that invests more energy in figuring out how to ensure client success than maximizing its billings. Geneca has absolutely unreasonable hiring standards and thus we are always starved for talented people who understand teamwork and what it is to work in a commitment-based company. The flip side is that Geneca has the most talented group of software consulting people I’ve been around.

My role is to ensure that the people who do the client work have what they need to succeed and focus their energies on client success. In addition, I do my best to contribute to the ongoing development of commitment principles I co-authored with Bob Zimmerman in 2002. My current focus is on deepening our understanding and execution of what it means to be a Commitment-based company.


April 13th, 2012 by Ken Categories: 1) Professional No Responses

Raising the Bar for In-home Sales

I consulted with Luna Carpet in 2006 and then joined as its CIO. I assumed the additional title of COO in 2007 assuming oversight of sales and customer service. It was my first experience with a B2C company in a leadership role. We accomplished a whole lot while I was there and I thank Morrie and Steve DeZara for the opportunity to contribute to a big change in how the state-of-the-art of that business was conducted. Luna won the Chicago Tribune ‘Best Workplaces’ award for 2010 which was a terrific accomplishment for a company in that industry as well.

I played a key role in bringing to life Steve’s idea for an in-home tablet-based selling tool. This is years before the ipad was in the picture. Together he, I and the IT team delivered Luna’s ‘SureQuote Technology‘ which proved to be a difference maker for Luna and a breakthrough in the field of in-home sales. We also brought analytics to the assignment of inbound leads which had a substantial impact on profitability. During my time there, we opened Luna’s first expansion market in Baltimore and exceeded expectations in that market by a wide margin. After I left, Luna continue to open new markets and the success of the expansion plan ‘encouraged’ arch-competitor ‘Empire Today’ to finally just buy out Luna at the end of 2011 and remove the persistent thorn in its side after many years of competition.