SAS Co-founder on Management, Best and Worst Decisions

November 22, 2010
By Chris Richter

The Wall Street Journal sat down recently with Jim Goodnight ’65, ’68 MS, ’72 PHD, co-founder and chief executive officer of Cary-based SAS, the largest privately held software company in the world. In the interview, he discusses the outlook for his business in Asia and his view of management:

I believe management must trust the people who work for them. You have to treat people like they make a difference. And if you do, they will.

Here, he talks about his best and worst decisions as a manager:

WSJ: What’s the best decision you’ve made as a manager?

Mr. Goodnight: Back in the mid-80s, we rewrote our source code, which gave us what we call our multivendor architecture. It was a huge investment to rewrite everything. But after, our systems could now be portable through all computers. It gave us tremendous flexibility as we migrated off mainframes to minicomputers. We could use the same software on all machines.

WSJ: And the worst decision?

Mr. Goodnight: I bought an airline once. [In 1997, Mr. Goodnight and SAS co-founder John Sall bought a majority portion of now-defunct Midway Airlines.] Bad decision. We had a little airline that everyone was trying to get rid of in Raleigh, N.C., and I bought it because I wanted us to maintain the hub in Raleigh. There’s no money it. Don’t ever buy an airline. Waste of time.

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One Response to “SAS Co-founder on Management, Best and Worst Decisions”

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