Hiring a COO

I was not sure I was well enough to go back to the punishing schedule I kept before I got sick. I decided to hire an experienced Chief Operating Officer. Dennis Edwards was a Vice President at Distributed Logic, a DEC compatible controller manufacturer. I was familiar with him from my days as a consultant to Western Peripherals. Distributed Logic was in trouble, as were all the old line DEC controller manufacturers at that time. The PC was beginning to kill their business. Dennis told me he wanted to move back east, but I convinced him to join Future Domain.

I hired Dennis in April of 1990. I had Al Pease, Tom Miller, and Dante report to him. Dennis and Patty reported to me. Within a month of coming on board Dennis told me he felt that I needed to step back in and run the company. He was unhappy with both Al and Tom. The first thing I did on Dennis’ recommendation is take Product Marketing and Technical Support away from Al. I had Technical Support report to Patty and Product Marketing reported to Dennis. Al was now responsible only for Engineering.

Dennis tried to right the ship for another five months, but at the end of 1990 he left. He did strengthen the sales team considerably. He fired Tom Miller and brought on Steve Sullivan, Dave Schachner and Bill Prosnick. Unfortunately Bill Prosnick, ended up being a disaster and very costly for us. Dennis brought on Bill is as Vice President of OEM Sales after we let Tom Miller go but Bill’s attitude was not much different that Tom’s, and he was running a manufacturers rep business out of the office we provided for him in San Jose so Dennis let him go. On balance sales were stronger when Dennis left. He did not make changes directly in Engineering. In November of 1990 Dennis told me he had had enough, and was giving four weeks’ notice, he would be gone by Christmas. He wrote a detailed memo to me, it basically said I needed to fire Al and get a more experienced person to run engineering, that I needed to get involved in OEM sales again, and that all managers should report to me. Engineering was still not delivering the products we needed. I was reluctant to abandon Al. In September of 1990 I asked Dennis to send Al to Europe to talk to customers. My thought was he would understand better what our customers needed. The reports I got back from this trip were not good. After that trip it was clear to me that a change was needed.

On January 25th of 1991 we had a board of directors meeting, and that is when everything changed. I relieved Al Pease of his board position and did all but fire him, I put him in charge of “Strategy”. I put Mehran Ramzani, our head of Software Engineering, in charge of Engineering, I put Mark Zadeh in charge of International Sales, Madonna Saxton in charge of Distribution Sales, and Steve Sullivan in charge of OEM sales, with all of them reporting to me. I had to let Terry Green and Dave go because of budget constraints.