Excerpted from Business Pulse, June 2003, p. 25-26
Not Everybody Got Voted Off the Island
Bob Pritchett was working at Microsoft in 1991 and writing Bible software of the side. The sideline was successful enough that he incorporated Logos Research Systems in 1992 with some help from his father. Originally, the company had offices in Kirkland and New Jersey, where dad lives.
"We eventually consolidated the operation in Oak Harbor because that was the only place we could all agree on." Pritchett said. "We were there for nine years and grew a lot."
Last year, the whole operation moved to Bellingham.
"We needed a larger community with good transportation, a big labor pool and, of course, the university," Pritchett said. "It’s been a wonderful year. We’ve been very well received in the community and hired some great people."
Pritchett claims the company is driven by the search for a better mousetrap rather than marketing.
"We focus on a quality product and customer service," he said. "We do things the right way, investing more in technology and putting more resources into development. When we started, we were way down on the list. Gradually we worked ourselves up until now we’re the industry leader."
Their unifying principle is to create software that helps people study the Bible and it has become and indispensable research tool for many clergy.
"The majority of our customers is Protestant and lean toward the evangelical," Pritchett said. "That’s where our market is. But we sell to mainstream denominations, as well. There are liberal and conservative commentaries, but out main goal is to encourage people to study.
Pritchett believes one of the reasons high-tech companies failed is because their promoters thought the basic laws of business had changed.
"They were wrong," he said. "The bottom line is still, buy low, sell high. We made some terrible mistakes before the boom. We couldn’t afford to make mistakes during the boom because we were still trying to heal ourselves. We couldn’t buy any overpriced domain names. It was partly a matter of timing. Everybody else went stupid while we were licking our wounds. We learned to focus on the real needs of our customers and not buy stuff that didn’t apply to the bottom line."
Bible study is a relatively recession proof business, since many people do not see it as a discretionary item.
"The heart of our market is the pastors," Pritchett said, "and they’re not going anywhere. Some of the older ones are a bit resistant and will never stop using the old ways. But every year there are new seminary graduates and almost all of them use computers. The market is coming our way. E-mail and the Internet introduced people who said they would never use computers."
Part of Logos’ secret of success lies in how they approach their product.
"We don’t develop content," Pritchett said, "we lease resources. We just build the tools and license 112 resources from across the spectrum. We’re also successful because we offer a larger library than anyone else. We now reference 3,000 electronic books."
The company employs 65 people in Bellingham and five at a branch in Johannesburg, South Africa.
"I’m amazed at the people we found in Bellingham," Pritchett said. "We have some unusual needs, like people who are fluent in Greek and Hebrew. We found most of them right here. Our employees have a strong identification with what we are doing, perhaps more so than in most companies. We are a family in operation in every sense of the word. We have five husband-wife pairs working here along with some other people who are related."
© 2003 by Whatcom County Business Pulse. Used by permission.