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The Double Play

Today SAS Institute had a huge double play of publicity. On the same day, we (1) learned that SAS was rated the No. 1 best place to work in the 2010 Fortune study and (2) announced that SAS achieved record revenues in 2009, despite the recession -- making it 34 straight years of growth. Of course, though the timing of the double play was a coincidence, it is not a coincidence that we are both a great place to work and that our business is doing very well. SAS has always been a great place to work, and SAS has always grown.

I want to highlight four keys to SAS’ success, keys that you may already know:

• a culture of change

• a culture of customer loyalty

• a culture of support

• telling our story well

SAS has always changed. Most industries need to be kicked into growing into new opportunities, but SAS embraces change. At SAS, we have new initiative areas every year, and adapting to changing needs and conditions has been critical to continue our growth. In their new book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath say that most change management consultants work by introducing an artificial crisis that forces the company to change. The Heath brothers say that this may work in the short term, but that the best change comes with alignment of our elephant and our rider, our resource marshalling and our direction focus. I think that one of SAS' secrets has been in that alignment for change.

SAS has always had a culture of customer loyalty. We pioneered an annual renewal model to force us to pay attention to retention and growing our users’ abilities. We have a technical staff base that is well tuned to listen to our customers’ needs and pains. We change in response not just to new opportunities, but in response to current customer needs.

SAS has always had a supportive workplace culture, valuing its employees and their needs. We were pioneers in supporting ourselves through day care, through health care, through wellness and fitness programs, and through flexibility, and having a supportive environment not just for ourselves, but for our extended families. We are getting much better at internal communications. We have a nice place to work -- from IT all the way to landscaping. We have it good.

SAS is getting good at telling its story. Our category, analytics, is hot, and now we have plenty of listeners to hear our stories in the field of using analytics to solve problems. We lead in a category that is hot. Last summer The New York Times told students to learn statistics if they want a good job. We now have many good books to tell success stories of analytics: Super Crunchers, The Numerati, Competing on Analytics, with more on the way, such as Kaiser Fung's excellent Numbers Rule Your World. The public has been trained to be receptive to our message, and we have been getting better at telling our customers’ stories. A key to getting the No. 1 ranking is being able to tell our story well, and the people in corporate communications, internal communications and human resources have done a great job.

Congratulations, SAS. You are a great story today, and will continue to be a great story for many years to come.

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1 Comment

Martin Owen wrote:

I participated in the JMP Discovery and Innovation conference in 2009 as someone unfamiliar with both the company and the product. I think the four things that John refers to in his posting are the things that impacted me the most.

â ¢ "a culture of change

â ¢ a culture of customer loyalty

â ¢ a culture of support

â ¢ telling our story well"

No matter who I spoke to, whether it was JMP users or JMP staff the committment to the JMP product and community was very evident. Having returned from the conference, back in the work place the culture of support for JMP is outstanding. And to me that is the hallmark of long term success. There's nothing worse than a software package that stagnates and appears designed around the needs of the manufacturer rather than the needs of the customer. It is very evident that JMP is growing in harmony with the needs of the customer