Lynn Blodgett, president and C.E.O. of ACS, a Xerox company sat down with New York Times reporter Adam Bryant, discussing his techniques for running a successful company. Tip #1: Making everyone an entrepreneur:
This interview with Lynn Blodgett, president and C.E.O. of ACS, a Xerox company, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.
Q.What were some early lessons for you?
A. I come from a family of nine kids — six boys and three girls. Because it was a large family, we didn’t have a lot. One of the things that we did every Christmas was that my parents would say we had to earn our Christmas money. And so they were the venture capitalists. They’d give us $5, and then we would go buy wholesale wrapping paper and take orders and resell them and turn that $5 into $25.
It was a great thing, because you learned about customers, learned about keeping your word, getting the orders delivered on time.
Q. What about your first kind of formal management role?
A. We worked for my parents, and I did kind of supervisory things there, and then worked for the company that bought my parents’ business and actually ended up running that business.
Q. What was the company?
A. My parents started a computer business back in the ’60s and grew that into a nice little regional business. There’s a story behind that. Earlier, my mother worked for the phone company and worked at night, and she had a baby daughter, her seventh child — her name was Nancy. When she was four months old, her heart stopped. And I was 10 years old. I grabbed her and went to my brother, who was 12, and we got her to this clinic and they got her heart started again. But she had a lot of brain damage from that, so she had to have somebody taking care of her and feeding her all of the time. [She died at 13 from cardiac arrest.] My mother wanted to work, but she needed to be at home, and so she leased a key punch machine, put it in my sister’s bedroom and started to do data entry, and that’s where many of the principles that we operate on today were formed — how to compensate people, data controls and process control.
All the kids in our family learned data-entry key punching in my sister’s bedroom, literally at my mom’s knee. We grew up on a computer farm, as my parents called it, because it was back in the ’60s and it was one of those rare moments when, as key punch machines evolved into computers and our business grew, we were able to associate with these brilliant people from M.I.T. and Harvard . It was a wonderful education.
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