Palo Alto Software Wins Business of the Year

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), November 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Palo Alto Software Wins Business of the Year


Byline: Ilene Aleshire blue chip

When Palo Alto Software was named Business of the Year by the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, chamber officials said it was because the company excelled across four categories that contribute to business sustainability: community caring, environmental values, growth and innovation.

The way CEO Sabrina Parsons sees it, the efforts the company has made in all these areas are smart business moves, as well as being the right thing to do.

The family-owned company, which was founded in California in 1988 and moved to Eugene 17 years ago, has an intensely local focus combined with a global reach. This is reflected in Palo Alto's decisions about where to donate time and money.

"A lot of the big national organizations, you give your money and you don't know where it goes," Parsons said. "We want to give the money locally. We want to be able to see where it goes. ... And it makes you feel really good to see that."

The key factor in deciding where to contribute, Parsons said, is choosing "causes that are important to our employees."

That means supporting programs such as Race for the Cure, Smart Reading and FOOD for Lane County, for example, with time, money or both. And it means donating to projects such as the wetlands preserves in west Eugene.

"Our employees are able to go out to West 11th and see what (the money) is doing," she said.

Even the company's most high-profile project this year - the donation of $3.2 million of business software to Oregon entrepreneurs - started at the most local level, before company officers decided it should be expanded statewide.

When it comes to environmental values, Parsons said, "It's a function almost of living in this community,"

"In Eugene, people are very environmentally aware," she said. "We've always tried to be ahead of the game in terms of all the recycling we do. Every time we can, we try to take the next step.

"Last year, we switched to a cleaning company that uses all eco-conscious products. That has health benefits for our employees, as well as being the right thing to do."

And the company seeks providers who can offer other eco-conscious options, such as recycled paper and soy ink, whenever possible. Palo Alto also has cut down on packaging for its products and tries to educate customers about how to avoid waste by downloading products.

All of which, Parsons said, "Makes us feel good as a company, but it's a smart business decision, too. Customers will appreciate this, will buy into it, and will be more loyal to us."

The investment firm that works with Palo Alto on its retirement plan, providing socially and environmentally aware options, has convinced her, Parsons said, that "companies that are more socially aware and eco aware, over time, are doing better." They don't end up fined for environmental violations, and they don't suffer a backlash for things such as using sweatshop labor, she said.

Parson fought hard to avoid laying off employees during the recession, a position that sometimes put her in opposition to the firm's co-founder - and her father - Tim Berry, Berry said. But both said the end result was to put the company in a strong position for the recovery.

When the economy started to sour, Palo Alto executives built various scenarios, from best to worst case and started planning. …

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