John Imlay Interview Review (Part 1)

Last night, I was blessed to hear Mr. John Imlay speak to an entrepreneurial audience at TiE Vista. If you don’t know who John is, please keep reading. In a humble attempt to summarize, he is one of the founding fathers of the global software industry, the man behind the venerable MSA, and the angel partner to the Atlanta tech investment dynasty alongside Sig Moseley.

John on the left, Sig Moseley on the right
John on the left, Sig Moseley on the right

I recently read the 2005 interview of John Imlay, which can be found by clicking this link.

This is a fascinating interview, and I highly recommend it to ALL entrepreneurs. To me its a tale of composure, of intelligent decisioning, the importance of communications, tactical marketing, and the value of relationships.

Here are just a few of my favorite excerpts:

  • Rock-solid conviction– just out of college at GA Tech, John interviewed with IBM. They offered him the job but told him if he accepted, he wouldn’t be able to wear argyle socks like the ones he had on. John quickly proceeded to take his socks off and placed them down on the interviewers desk- then walked out! IBM and others never forgot this story as Mr. Inlay rose to the top of the software world.
  • Atlanta Roots– John always kept Atlanta as his home. There is a quote for a time when it was in the companies best interest for him to move to Chicago and he retorted, “what part of Georgia is that in?” Needless to say, he never left Atlanta.
  • Hangin’ tough– John bought MSA in troubled times and intentionally took them through bankruptcy. He had to let go 700 of the 750 employees as he consolidated the company to just their software offering. People called him the butcher on Peachtree street. But it was only by firing these 700 that allowed his company to survive and grow to over 3000 employees over time. Even when faced with the toughest of climates, he was able to what was best for the company.
  • Get out there and talk!– John was the “man-outside” at MSA. He spoke over 150 times/year introducing the world to software and helping people understand the future of technology. He had many fantastic experiences along the way including those that involved politicians and international icons. It was his evangelical behavior that got his company adopted by businesses throughout the world. John’s emphasis in the interview was that story telling and jokes were the key ingredients to his speaking success.
  • Maintenance Revenue– Plain and simple, John and the staff at MSA invented the provision of maintenance services and the recurring revenue that so many SW companies now focus and depend on. There are a lot of companies that owe him a good bit of thanks in that category.

I am sure that stories of John’s life could produce 100 more bullet points equally as fascinating as these above and I’ll be posting a few more of my favorites within the next couple of days. In the meantime, what are your favorite stories about Mr. Imlay? I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I have. I look forward to learning more of his story and trying to mimic his practices with my career.

  1. I don’t know if I can pull of the “socks” trick at an interview, but I love his attitude. I was not all that familiar with Mr. Imlay and his track record, but now I am. Seems like a great man.

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