Education: California State University - Bakersfield
First job: Cleaned swimming pools at Worthington (Ohio) Community Pools
Career moves: Manager of a chain of Nautilus of America health clubs in Texas before founding CheckFree in 1981
Boards: Metatec Corp. board of directors
What is the greatest business lesson you've learned?
I'd go all the way back to the reason why we were able to survive through the craze of the Internet era, which was -- despite what people might think -- it was not any fun for us because everything was out of control. We have always been in the business of building new markets, and we invented the national electronic billing and payment market.
What we constantly referred back to is the earliest, most important lesson, and that is you always have to make sure the company is positioned to survive because you can do great things, but only if you survive. We never got so carried away or allowed anybody else to get us so carried that we got too far ahead of ourselves.
We spent a ton of money eating up a lot of things that we were doing because the Internet allowed us to do so, and investors at that time allowed us to do so, but we never lost sight of the fact that it was unreal.
What is the greatest business challenge you have faced, and how did you overcome it?
Without question, the biggest business challenge was the craze of the Internet. On every front it was challenging. The number of people, shareholders, who were clamoring for you to spend crazy amounts of money to do crazy things, and they'd throw the money at you to spend it.
The amount of money that was being poured into stupid ideas that, competing against us, had no right to even exist, and yet we had to deal with it because they were muddying up the market, they were slowing down rational things that we were doing, they were confusing our customers.
When we came out of it, we always kept track of exactly how we would cut our costs back to a rational level. When we came out of it, we came out of it three generations ahead of where we otherwise would've been in terms of the technology we had in the marketplace.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
There are lots of people doing a great job. I'm in a pretty heady class in that, early on, one of my early deals was with America Online. Steve Case is about my age, and I got to watch what Steve Case did, and he ultimately bought TimeWarner.
I'm doing OK, but I'm pretty far behind that.