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|Articles - November/December 2013|
|Monday, October 28, 2013|
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Parsons’ parents were strict Catholics, and Sabrina, one of five children, was a well-behaved, high-achieving young person. She excelled at sports (soccer, water polo, cross-country) in high school, and was elected both class president and class treasurer of the private all-girls high school she attended. Weekends were spent helping her father, Tim Berry, put labels on floppy disks for the company he started in 1987: Palo Alto Software. “In an entrepreneurial family, they didn’t have the option of not being involved,” says Berry of his five children. At the same time, Berry and his wife wanted all of their children to find their own path. “We very conscientiously avoided pressuring them to come back to the business,” he says.
After majoring in history and minoring in Latin American studies and education at Princeton (class of 1996), Parsons planned to be a teacher. But she soon realized a traditional field like elementary education was not for her. So in 1999, Parsons and her new husband, Noah, left their jobs to launch Epinions, one of the hottest new tech startups in the Silicon Valley that had hit upon a revolutionary idea of having consumers write reviews of their favorite products and services.
It was exciting to be on the cusp of the creation of the Internet — a group of young, ambitious, forward-thinking recent college grads managed to attract an infusion of $8 million off an eight-slide PowerPoint — but Parsons did not like the culture of the startup. Her co-workers would brag about pulling all-nighters and sleeping under their desks. Parsons thought they cared more about face time than results.
“They did not build a healthy environment,” she says. “People were paranoid about seeing and being seen.” So in 2001, the couple left Epinions and moved to London, where they started a software distribution company. After a year in Europe, they came back to the United States and joined Parsons’ father’s business, eventually taking the helm of the company in 2007, just before the onset of the economic downturn.
The transition wasn’t easy. A year after Parsons took over, the business practically failed. The recession put people in a panic,” she says. “People didn’t buy stuff, including our products. We suffered from the paralysis that everyone was experiencing, and our sales fell 10% to 15% below the previous year.” After working together on a financial forecast, the company’s main stockholders — Parsons’ parents — insisted on laying off employees.
Parsons and Noah, Palo Alto’s COO, balked at this idea, believing it would not be in the best long-term interests of the company to let people go. So they made a deal with Berry: If they could meet their profit and loss goals, Berry agreed to let them weather the recession their own way. Sabrina and Noah took a hard look at their expenses and renegotiated every contract, managing to cut the company’s cost by a whopping $17,000 a month and to avoid lay-offs.
The process of running a company during a severe recession gave Palo Alto Software exactly what it needed to pull the company out of its financial rut: an idea. Businesses could recession-proof themselves, she realized, if they developed long-term financial plans and analyzed their numbers every month, comparing actual earnings and expenses to what they had projected. LivePlan, the company’s signature computer program that businesses can subscribe to for a small monthly fee, was born. “If you don’t have a plan,” Parsons points out, “how do you make decisions?”
Tim Berry, who is chair of the company’s board of directors, is impressed with what his daughter has accomplished for the company. “I have a Stanford MBA,” he says. “I can read the numbers. Under Sabrina’s command, the numbers from Palo Alto Software look very good, and we’ve released a new product that’s exciting. It’s not just the touchy feely — the numbers are great.”
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN
Like all good journalists, OB editorial staff typically eschew freebies. But health care costs being what they are, digital news editor Jacob Palmer couldn't resist ZoomCare's offer of a three-in-one (cleaning, exam, whitening) dental office visit, guaranteed to take no more than 57 minutes.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
In 2014, total revenue for camping and day use in Oregon State Parks was a little more than $17 million. That figure may even higher this year "because we've had exceptionally nice weather," Hughes says.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
One year after he was appointed chair of the Portland Development Commission, Tom Kelly talks about PDC's longevity, Neil Kelly's comeback and his new role as Portlandia's landlord.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY ANNIE ELLISON
Portland tech veteran Ben Berry is leaving his post as Portland’s chief technology officer for a full-time role producing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) aimed at first responders and the military. Berry’s AirShip Technologies Group is poised to be on the ground floor of an industry that will supply drones to as many as 100,000 police, fire and emergency agencies nationwide. He reveals the plan for takeoff.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY KIM MOORE
As momentum grows at the state level to introduce far-reaching environmental regulations, such as carbon pricing and the Clean Fuels Program, Oregon employers continue to go the extra mile to create green workplaces for their employees.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT
How conservation stimulates the local economy.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR
An earthquake would completely destroy many Oregon businesses, highlighting the urgent need for the private and public sectors to collaborate on shoring up disaster preparedness, said panelists at an Oregon Business breakfast summit today.
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