CEO by Sandra L. Kurtzig


Building a $400 Million Company From the Ground Up
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 A nicely realized business memoir that suggests there re no glass ceilings for enterprising women. Kurtzig is the founder and guiding light of ASK Computer Systems, Inc., a California software house best known for its expertise in manufacturing/management programs. Although long a leader in the widening world of advanced technology, the firm had decidedly humble origins. Indeed, when she struck out on her own as a 24-year-old newlywed in 1971 with $2,000 in severance pay from GE, the author set up shop in the spare bedroom of her Silicon Valley apartment. Persevering through such initial assignments as automating the circulation department of a suburban newspaper publisher, Kurtzig made a crucial connection with Hewlett-Packard, which not only enhanced her credibility with prospective customers but also afforded the company access to promising industrial markets. Building slowly but surely on early successes (without benefit of a master plan, she wryly recalls), the author fashioned a fast-growing, debt-free business. While ASK went public in the down market of 1981, its shares performed strongly. About this time, Kurtzig shed her engineer husband without evident regret, albeit at a community- property cost exceeding $20 million. Determined to spend more time with her teen-age sons, the author resigned as ASK's CEO in 1985, severing all ties to the company four years later. Unfortunately, her designated successors played it a bit too safe in the marketplace where today's breakthrough can be tomorrow's Smithsonian exhibit, and the board called Kurtzig out of retirement. Back on the job, she's directing a recovery/expansion effort whose outcome is by no means certain. A smart and knowing first-person accounting of the risks, rewards, profit, and inevitable losses attendant to the entrepreneurial life.

Pub Date: May 20th, 1991
ISBN: 0-393-02963-8
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1991


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