The Betty File Featured

6:03am EDT December 18, 2003
Born: March 4, 1957 in Phenix City, Ala.

Education: B.S., Georgia Institute of Technology, chemical engineering, 1979

First job: "I cut grass. I probably made $100 a week at $5 a yard. I made enough to buy my clothes for school the following year. I don't cut grass anymore for that reason. I cut a lot of it when I was a kid."

Career moves: Prior to joining EarthLink in 1996, Betty was president and CEO of Digital Communications Associates Inc. from 1989 to 1994. Prior to that, he was senior vice president of sales, marketing and international operations at Hayes Microcomputer Products. Betty's career began at IBM.

Boards: External advisory board for the School of Chemical Engineering at Georgia Tech University. He also sits on the board of directors of Global Payments Inc., as well as the Carter Center board of councilors.

Resides: Buckhead

What is the greatest business lesson you have learned?

The importance of cash. You look at all the companies that failed during the dot-com boom ... but ultimately the businesses that thrived were businesses that had good underlying value for the consumer but also had enough capital to allow it to thrive.

We were very fortunate to have the ability to raise a significant amount of capital during our formative and growth periods before the company actually went to cash-flow positive results, which was 2002. Now we're very nicely positive. We've got almost half a billion dollars of cash in the bank and no debt.

What has been the greatest business challenge you have faced, and how did you overcome it?

That's still a work in progress. The fact that Earthlink exists, if you think about where it started as a regional, small ISP, and our then large competitors were PSINet and Netcom, and then you had this big gorilla called AOL.

The fact that we now have a big year-end for revenue and support 5 million customers, we really did beat the odds, and all the people who said we would never be successful and never create a successful business model as a no-facilities based ISP have been proven wrong. We're still proving that on a day-in and day-out basis.

Whom do you admire most in business and why?

I admire Steve Jobs and what he's doing at Apple. He's a really smart businessman who continues to overcome the odds. He consistently delivers excellence in the products he offers to users.

It's hard not to admire someone like Jack Welch, who created such a marvelous enterprise with General Electric.