How I did it: Doug Pelton
Becoming a backseat driver in your own business. The Priologic Software Inc. founder wanted to work less, so he spent the past two years building a management team to take over
Priologic Software Inc. Founder and CEO Doug Pelton
Business in Vancouver – Tue Sep 25, 2012
Business in Vancouver’s “How I Did It” feature asks business and community leaders to explain in their own words how they achieved a business goal in the face of significant entrepreneurial challenges. In this week’s issue, Victoria businessman Doug Pelton, founder and CEO of Priologic Software Inc., explains how and why he assembled a management team to take over from him so he could spend less time at work.
“We’re a dedicated enterprise software team, and we market into the San Francisco area. Our teams work from here in Victoria. Years ago, I could have gone down to Silicon Valley and probably made more money, but I made a conscious decision that I wanted to stay in Victoria.
“We build custom software for various clients. Our main client is [Cisco Systems Inc.]. A couple of years ago, I started thinking, ‘Man, this is getting really hard. I’ve got 14, 15 people, and I’m grinding away, still writing code.’ It gets to be quite a slog. I was looking for some relief. So I said, ‘I’ve got to get at least a second in charge.’
“I’m close to 55, and I have some health issues I’m working on. They’re manageable. But the business is now my largest asset, and it remains my largest asset only if it’s still operating. A couple of years ago, I don’t think the business could have continued if I had to leave for health reasons or something.
“At some point, you want to enjoy your life, too. I still have a 10-year-old daughter. I’d like to be around and spend a bit more time with her. I was working very hard. I wasn’t having much fun. It can be 60 to 70 hours a week sometimes. When you own a company, it’s really hard to take a vacation. I remember times when a two-week vacation meant a $20,000 loss. Now I’m pretty sure the business will run well if I’m away for two weeks or a month.
“It’s been about two years that we’ve been building the management team. It was really important to me that it’s somebody I can trust. I had met Miles Vasey [now managing director] years earlier, and I’ve been tracking his progress over 10 or 15 years. He was the right guy at the right time. I called Miles up and talked him into joining us.
“We didn’t just hire Miles – we hired a director of finance, a director of sales and we’re looking for technical recruiters. We now have a staff of 25. It took quite a few people to flesh out a team that I could be completely comfortable with, but at some point you have to trust your team to do it, otherwise you’re going to keep doing it [yourself].
“I’m now trying to stay out of the office as much as I can. I’m down to about eight hours a week now. I’m trying to get more exercise and get more fit, take a few vacations. I just got back from Quebec, and I’m going to Haida Gwaii for a couple of weeks.” •
Q: When you groom someone to take your job, is it hard to put your ego aside?
A: There have been a few times when I wanted to jump in and countermand, but I try not to because it’s not productive.
Q: What is the most profitable business practice you use?
A: The Rockefeller one-page plan and nailing a positioning statement.
Q: What’s the best part about having more free time?
A: I spend a bit more time with my daughter, and I’ve got time to read a book.
From building a business to building a team to building a better life
2003: Pelton launches Priority Automation Inc.
2004: Company lands first large enterprise client, Cisco Systems Inc.
2009: Pelton decides to start grooming a successor
2010: Pelton hires Miles Vasey, who makes transition from director of operations to managing director
April 2010: Company rebrands as Priologic Software Inc.
2012: Management team fully assembled, Pelton takes his first vacation in years