Top award-winning executive in Networking shares her views...
This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with
Trish Gulbranson, President and CEO of NetPro Computing Inc.,
Ms. Gulbranson was named Technology Leader of the Year and sits on
the Board of Directors of the Arizona Technology Council. She has
co-chaired the Investing In Innovation Venture Capital Conference
for six years. Prior to joining NetPro, Ms. Gulbranson was a CPA
with the “Big 4” accounting firm of PriceWaterHouseCoopers.
NetPro is the leading provider of directory assurance software and
delivers the only comprehensive suite of solutions designed to
manage network directory services 24x7. NetPro’s partners include
Microsoft Corp., Novell, Inc., and Hewlett-Packard, and its customer
list features such respected companies as DaimlerChrysler, Wells
Fargo, Bank One, EDS, and General Motors.
NetPro has accumulated more than 35 awards and recognitions
including: Soft-Letter’s Top 100 Independent PC Software Companies;
Software Magazine’s Software 500; GSPED HTIC Innovator of the Year
Award -- DS Analyzer; Network World Magazine -- Top Ten Products;
AzTech 50 Fastest Growing Technology Firms, and many more.
Q: Trish, with all the time demands, thank you for coming in to do
this interview. Your many years of proven leadership, software and
financial industry success will be of great benefit to our audience.
A: Thank you for your interest in NetPro. I am thrilled to share my
Q: Your record of accomplishment provides many valuable experiences.
Can you share some stories and lessons from your challenges and
A: The core lessons I would like to share speak to my extensive
background in finance. And the first is: Cash is king. Growing fast
and gaining market share is great, but what difference does it make
if you run out of cash? Make sure you raise enough funds to hold
you over while you grow quickly. At some point, get back to
profits; after all, that is why shareholders invest. It also helps
create discipline for you and your organization.
The second lesson is: When you do have cash, watch how you spend
every dime. Measure everything, from employee productivity to
return on marketing campaigns. It’s tempting to spend when you have
money and are trying to gain recognition in the marketplace, but
small companies must spend in areas that can be tied back directly
to revenue. How many companies did we see in the dot com era that
blew through $20MM, $30MM, $40MM in money in one year? Always stay
with the basics of business.
For example: While NetPro built cash reserves in 2002, it was
difficult for the company to understand why we were building a big
reserve of cash and taking so much to profit when the goal was to
grow quickly. Later, when sales results failed to meet
expectations, we needed it. Because we had ample cash reserves, we
were very secure and able to weather the rough times.
Lesson three is: Be sure you have the right people in place – ‘A’
players. You would be surprised how many successful people want to
work for a small company where they can truly make a difference. My
recommendation is, recruit people who are smarter than you are.
Remember that people work hard when they believe in the company and
care about the people they work with. Create an environment and
culture that honors its employees.
Q: As president, what are your top ten qualities and processes that
make for great leadership?
A: The first responsibility of a leader is to define a vision.
The last is to say “thank you.” In between the leader is a
servant. -- Max DePree
1) I hire smart people. (Hire smart as opposed to managing hard.)
2) I fire people quickly.
3) I recognize that everyone recruits. (It’s about people more than
4) I empower people. We work very hard to honor our employees and
care about them. If they’re treated well, that’s the way they treat
our customers. It’s contagious. An empowered employee does not
need to be motivated, managed, or leveraged with top-down power.
5) I coach at the top and the bottom will spring up.
6) I know that it’s not about my personal ego and me.
7) I have enthusiasm and passion for life and what we do.
8) I implement accountability. (Talented people like to be held
accountable. Things that get measured get done.)
9) I exhibit and promote honesty and integrity in everything we do.
10) I laugh as often as I can and encourage others to do the same!
Q: From a context of past, present and future, what drives you to do
what you do?
A: People. I’m very social and like to be with others. My philosophy
is that life is about relationships. Business is a side game, or
what we do in life while we build relationships. And those
relationships are built on trust. Customers buy from us because they
know us and what we stand for; we’re passionate about technology,
efficiency, and providing only the best for our customers and
Q: Can you detail the history of your company and what five business
and five technical factors plus practices make your company so
A: NetPro was founded in 1991. We began with Banyan network
management products, then added Novell and Microsoft products to our
solution line up. We’ve evolved from what was once a “network
toolbox company” to what is today a true enterprise software
solution provider with an emphasis on business-critical network
By way of additional background, NetPro reinvented itself in the
mid-90s as “The Directory Experts.” We worked with the analysts to
educate the market and create a category for directory management
that we could own. It was key, at that time, to establish a
leadership position and differentiate NetPro from other mainstream
network management vendors. The directory management space was a
niche we could claim and own, and one where we could truly excel as
a result of our core competency in managing widely distributed,
It worked. We never waivered from our focus, and over time, we have
established an exceptional reputation in the market, not only for
our technically superior products, but also for our directory
expertise. As we grow, we will expand beyond this focus, but today
it is a great position to be in.
Q: What are your corporate vision, mission, strategies, goals and
values? How will your strategies evolve over the next two and five
years? What advice would you give to other corporations?
A: My advice is simple: Don’t overcomplicate things! My practical
experience is that everyone has a different definition of what
vision is and how to define it. And, over time, all the rules and
regulations regarding how to build a vision, mission and strategy
have a tendency to take all the creativity and personality out of
The vision, mission and strategy describe who you are and who you
want to be. They keep you focused.
So, in my opinion, there is no right or wrong answer. My style is
to build the vision, mission and strategy with my team and then
communicate it down to the employees. Come up with a common
understanding together of definitions and then give context for your
thought process when you present it.
I love our vision now: Networks that run themselves. I use
the analogy of a dial tone. When you need to make a call, you
simply pick up the phone and service is always available. Our
vision for the network is much the same. We believe that when
problems occur, the network should automatically detect the problem
before it impacts the end user, and make system repairs
automatically, without human intervention. Coined “autonomic
computing” by industry analysts, it’s the ultimate goal and is much
bigger than who we are today. It will take an industry of players to
get there – to networks that heal themselves. But, it’s a perfect
vision for us because it leaves plenty of room for growth. It’s
where we see the industry going, and it describes what we’re about.
NetPro’s mission is to provide best-of-breed software solutions to
drive the availability and security of the network and the directory
at its core. It is our mission to offer these solutions as both
stand-alone software and as a complement to existing network
The strategy today is to dominate the Microsoft market, fulfilling
customer needs in the Microsoft Windows Active Directory space by
providing a full suite of directory management solutions for Global
2000 companies and government agencies.
I look at the mission in a five-year timeframe. At any given time,
the product strategies are 18 to 24 months out and are reviewed
quarterly as a result of fast changing technology. We’re continually
Q: What are your current products and services and how can they
A: NetPro offers solutions to help keep directories up and running
and secure, regardless of the management console or framework the
corporation has implemented. We provide solutions for Microsoft
Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003 Active Directory environments
as well as Novell eDirectory implementations.
Our Active Directory Lifecycle Suite (ADLS) and Secure ADLS feature
five solutions including: DirectoryInsight for change management;
DirectoryAnalyzer for monitoring and troubleshooting;
DirectoryTroubleshooter for troubleshooting and diagnostics;
DNSAnalyzer for comprehensive DNS monitoring and diagnostics; and
DirectoryLockdown, the only Active Directory security monitoring and
intrusion protection solution designed to mitigate certain attacks
on Active Directory.
Our solutions for Novell’s eDirectory include DS Expert and DS
Analyzer. DS Expert monitors eDirectory 24X7 and proactively alerts
on all key points of failure, while DS Analyzer enables
administrators to troubleshoot and optimize the directory quickly
and easily by gathering directory traffic data from across the
Q: What new products and services are you planning in the short,
medium, and long term?
A: We will continue to solidify our product offering in the
Microsoft market, introducing solutions to assist customers with
critical auditing and change management functions, as well as
security. Once we have achieved our goals in the directory
management space, we will leverage our core competency in directory
and distributed services management to build solutions for meta
Q: What direction, best practices, and tips can you provide to
corporations based upon your company’s past experience in the
A: Our industry is a partner-friendly environment. I would highly
recommend that companies leverage the opportunity that powerful
partners represent. Work with other vendors and bigger players, much
like we did with such industry giants as HP, Microsoft, and IBM.
Stay close and complement their offerings instead of trying to
compete with them. It’s a big industry. In the end, it’s all about
giving the customer the best possible solution and driving
Q: What do you see on the horizon that businesses and IT
professionals “must” be aware of to be competitive?
A: While IT is more critical than ever to the business, the wild
days are over. Discipline and Best Practices are under way. And IT
spending may climb slightly, but it will never again reach the
spending levels we have seen in the past. ITIL is the standard that
most Global 2000 companies are adopting. IT departments have to be
held to the same financial standards as all departments within an
organization. The internal department will be compared constantly
to outsource options and must prove that they can run the company’s
technology initiatives more efficiently than a managed services firm
For software vendors, that means integrated systems, enhanced
network simplicity, fewer vendors, and more automation.
Q: What do you feel are the top five hottest topics of interest to
both businesses and IT professionals today and what will be the
topics in two years and in five years?
A: 1) The economy, the economy, the economy.
2) When will IT budgets recover?
3) Talent. Ferreting out the best talent and empowering them to do
great things will be key to success in the future.
4) Engineering outsourcing.
5) Unique ways to build shareholder value and restore the confidence
of consumers and the investment community.
Q: Who/what do you think are the winners and losers in IT in the next
five years? [This could be companies, technologies, …and so on.]
What advice would you give to enterprises in their adoption of
technologies in the next five years?
A: Microsoft, HP, and IBM will be the winners in our business.
They will own everything -- hardware, software, and services.
They’re industry behemoths with lots of R&D. What will be
particularly interesting to watch is the battle between the three.
Microsoft’s XBox will be the big winner in technology over the next
five years. It’s going to become the next console for your
household (television, stereo, computer, electric, etc.). It will
allow you to manage your home life from one central console and
manage it remotely as well.
Also, as a side note, I see a great deal of turmoil and change
underfoot in the airline industry. Air travel will change
drastically. Everyday flights have almost reached the point of
being comparable to riding the city bus. Companies will begin to
move to more efficient means of transportation, and as a result, air
taxis, private jets, etc. will become more commonplace.
Q: What would be your recommended top references for the business
professional, IT professional and everybody?
A: Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by
Larry Bossidy, Topgrading by Radford D. Smart, From Good
to Great by Jim Collins, and Jack: Straight From the Gut
by Jack Welch.
Q: What are the top challenges facing businesses and IT departments
in the next five years and what are your recommendations to
meet/overcome these challenges? Can you provide specifics…
A: The U.S. is becoming even more of a services economy. As an
example, businesses such as software development are moving their
operations overseas to drive down costs and to increase
The global economy is no longer just an option for companies like
ours. As a response to that, we have placed key executives in other
countries. Some of the bigger organizations have had them for
years, but the small businesses must do the same to remain
Also, as I noted previously, IT departments are becoming more
integrated into the organization and must prove the benefits of
maintaining the function within the company.
Q: What do you foresee as the next “killer app?”
Q: What predictions do you make about the future of computing in
A: We will see dramatic consolidation in the coming years. And the
backlash from years of excess will have a lasting effect on
businesses worldwide – especially the IT segment. To survive and
thrive in this climate, you have to be exceptional. That means
hiring the right people, building powerful relationships with the
right partners, and taking advantage of market opportunities with
untold enthusiasm and aggression.
Q: After the dot com implosion, there was a strong decline in IT
spending. A strong business case now has to be made for new
expenditures. Do you foresee a turnaround and if it comes, when? Do
you see the structure of IT changing within corporations?
A: I see IT turning around in the coming years, but only slightly.
We won’t see the excesses we’ve seen in the past. By the end of
2004, we should begin to see growth in the sector, but it won’t
likely exceed 3% or so. As I’ve mentioned, I do see managed services
playing a bigger role as companies look to drive IT cost and
resource efficiencies, etc.
Q: If you were doing this interview, what three questions would you
ask of someone in your position and what would be your answers?
A: I want to hear their thoughts on industry issues over the next
five years. I view such opportunities as great ways to get new ideas
and look at issues and concerns in different ways. So tell me, what
do you think about:
1) The push for industry outsourcing?
2) Industry consolidation and where small vendors will fit in the
3) The possibilities for driving untold levels of innovation, given
the current climate?
Q: Trish, “If you had to do it over again ….?”
A: It’s a journey. I never look back. Everything happened just as it
Q: Thanks again for sharing your years of successful leadership and
wealth of knowledge and experiences with our audience.
A: It has been my pleasure. Thank you.