Allen Paschal Discusses Plans for the Gale Group

Article excerpt

Paula J. Hane is contributing editor of Information Today. Her e-mail address is paula.hane@mci2000.com.

IAC's president will lead merged companies

Allen Paschal, the former founder and CEO of DataTimes, joined IAC in the fall of 1997 as chief operating officer and in January 1998 was appointed president. He's now had a busy year at the helm of this Thomson company, and is about to lead a new initiative as IAC merges with two other Thomson companies to form The Gale Group. In a telephone interview in mid-September, Paschal discussed the announcement, his vision for the company's growth, as well as his views of the information industry.

Q. Tell us a little about your background. Are you a techie, a business management type, or a visionary? What are your leadership strengths?

A. It's a little hard to describe yourself-a rather humbling experience--but I'm actually a mix of all three. I think I have unique skills and understand enough of the technical derails to be dangerous. Certainly my technology officers would vouch for that. It's important in our business because being the best-quality and lowest-cost producer is increasingly important, and technology plays an important part of that. Anyone who knows me would tell you I'm a big-picture guy. I can see the whole industry. And, it's not magic; l listen to customers pretty hard. They say what they want, even though they may not know exactly what it should look or feel like. Then, I can get in their shoes. And, I can come from the other side. I understand the technology and applications side and can come up with the big picture of where we need to drive products. That's really my skill set. You also mentioned business management. I'm kind of what I call a Nike-style manager-Just Do It. I don't believe in a lot of committees or wast ing money on consultants. We make sure we get the right people and we get in there and produce results.

Q Do you feel that this skill set was part of your success with DataTimes? You must take a certain amount of personal pride in what you built in that company. [Note: DataTimes was sold to UMI in the fall of 1996.]

A Absolutely. Going from scratch to where we went was a lot of fun. We did it and we were able to take on companies with a lot more capital and resources. It's like wringing a towel. We wrung every bit of resources out of the great people we had and we believed in it. If you believe you can do it, you usually succeed.

Q Talk a bit about your transition to IAC. You came in first as COO, then president, and it looks like you've had a busy year. Did you also bring in your own management staff?

A I inherited some very talented people-and I mean that very sincerely. I only brought in a few people. Wes Crews was my right-hand guy at DataTimes. He was running Hogan Information and I convinced him we had a bigger opportunity, so he came over to be my right-hand guy at [AC. There are just a few others that I knew could get projects done. During the year my executive team has remained pretty stable. Just before I came, [AC had done some extensive recruiting and brought in some very talented people, both from inside and outside of Thomson

Q What's your assessment of IAC's current state of affairs?

A We're extremely profitable. Financially we're in great shape. But, there are some dynamics in the marketplace that are cause for concern for any company in the industry. It's due to the impact of the Internet on the expectations of our customers, They want free information. We sell a lot to public libraries, academic libraries, and schools. At issue is a unique set of products and how you organize data to make them more compelling than the Internet That's not that hard an equation, but there's a perception there that we have to battle. Information is now a commodity. The question is, what is the value of information? The real impact on the business has been the consortia movement among libraries. …