The Second Act: Life After Running a Company

There was nothing more satisfying than starting and running a company. Indeed, I liked it so much, I kept doing it for almost 40 years. Every day, I was energized to come to work, full of ideas of what to do, how to do things better, and eager to chat with “my folks” about their ideas as well.

My overall aim was to design and build the best, most advanced, most clever, products and to try to center on the one major feature that defined its brilliance. I'd meet with our customers, sales folks, and engineers to press them on what was needed in the world of data acquisition. How could we astound them?

I never centered on price or on the lowest cost. Sure, our products had to be competitive, but the world of design was the key. How could we meet the next generation so that we could be proud, as well as our customers be proud of what they were buying? After all, our products would be incorporated in their end product, and they needed to know that their product was using the best. Here's an example of an early product, the DT2801 board for the IBM PC.

Well, all good things in business and life come to an end. There is a natural stopping point when economics, technology changes, and age start to signal that the time has come. All this came together recently. But rather than dwell on that, my mantra is to move to what's next.

At this point after the sale of our business, I don't have the foggiest idea of what that next second act will be. There is a certain beauty in explicitly making such a statement. Let me explain.

I see myself as a marketing/technologist. Perhaps this term is a bit high-minded, but one has to figure out a label and it combines 2 aspects of my work-life that I adore. Marketing as the conception of new products for a particular set of users, and Technologist as the use of technology to “wow” those users.

You have to start somewhere. Self-assessment sounds like a good place to begin.

I never really had to figure out a self-assessment. In an established company, you just proceed to the next product—define it, design it, build it, and most of all, sell it. For example, we were the first to develop a data-acquisition board for the PCI bus. Here's what Test & Measurement World published about it in 1995. Click on the image to enlarge.

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