Reflections on 30 years at Escape

At last week’s Beyond Escape 2015 User Conference, I opened the second day’s welcome session with this remark:

Thirty years ago I started Escape Technology, and after all the great feedback and conversations yesterday, I’m so glad I did.

I suppose the one word that sums up the experience of being with 200 Escape end users and 20+ fellow Escapees over the two days is pride.  

Our people put in the extra effort to host a fantastic event for our end users. We showed ourselves just what we are capable of, both to organize the event, and to deliver high value content to our users. 

Our end users were so gracious and thankful, not just for the conference, but also for our software and efforts regarding ongoing development and support. Old friendships were renewed and new ones made! 

Within a couple of weeks, we will have a comprehensive BE 2015 Conference web page on our site with slide decks, interviews and more. It will be a great reference, not just the attendees, but for all of the Escape user community. 

“User Community” was the term used by Phil Davis of Monterey COE during a customer segment, and it really hit home for me. Our efforts have resulted in a true user community. This year the community will surpass 15,000 users, which just amazes me. Here are some other statistics I shared at the conference:

All of these statistics are impressive and speak to our success. For me personally, it has always been about the end users. What I feel, and have tried to convey to all our employees over the years, is that if we take care of end users, everything else takes care of itself.  We try to build the software and support services that we would want if we were school business end users. Period. Our mission is to make the work life better for every end user. We hope to serve as many as possible!

People that know me know that I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling in the past. But Escape crossing the 30 year threshold deserves a bit of reflection. In my opening remarks, I expressed gratitude in several ways:

  • Throughout the years, at each point where we were ready to make “the next leap,” in terms of the software we were building, someone came along and believed in us. Put their faith in our ability to deliver and signed a contract.
  • Once I had determined school business was going to be our market, my first two employees, Chad Guest and Barry Collins, became my partners. And we were so for 25 years. Then, Barry retired and our COO, Ramona Marshall, took his place. I believe the diversity of opinions, the compromises, and the strength of “three” has done well by us. A big thank you to all three of you.
  • For Escape employees - they love school business like I do, and have made it their professional career. As I watched our presentations, I was truly amazed and proud of each Escapee. And for those employees that have stepped up recently as we implement the next generation of management at Escape. And for everyone buying into “the vision thing” and achieving more and more.
  • For our sales team – the Escape family. I asked the attendees to look around the room and meet our sales team – it’s them! We have enjoyed healthy revenue growth ever since we released Escape Online 5 in 2007. A lot of this is due to our customer base sharing their Escape experience with fellow school business people.
  • COO Ramona Marshall has been a true game changer at Escape. She took over all day-to-day management from me in 2008, allowing me to focus on strategic issues. I belong to a nationwide group of technology CEOs (we meet twice a year in person, but network throughout the year). There’s a saying in our group, “are you working on your business or in your business?” Ramona’s great team leadership, project management and organizational skills have allowed me to work on Escape’s business.
  • For our 18 County Office of Education customers. We built Escape Online 5 to be the ultimate COE school business solution, including our cloud offering, Project XCOE serving smaller COEs. Adding COEs to the Escape Family is our number one goal because this enables us to serve many more end users.  
  • And for each and every attendee. They were so enthusiastic and supportive. I hope these 200 were a proxy for the other 14,000+, and our efforts are appreciated state-wide.

That pretty much sums up the past for me, I’m both proud and grateful. 

Attendees showing off their Escape Technology 30-year shirts at the evening "Beyond Appetizers" party at Rio City Cafe.

Attendees showing off their Escape Technology 30-year shirts at the evening "Beyond Appetizers" party at Rio City Cafe.

Looking forward, I confess I have never been so excited about the years to come.  At the conference, we visited several ongoing projects and plans:

  • Our most extensive 5 year strategic plan ever is in the works. We are working with a nationally recognized planning firm and we are completely engaged.
  • The Employee Online portal. This was by far the most popular session, which included attendees running the portal themselves on their smartphones.  Everyone is ready for it! Coming soon to a mobile device near you!
  • Our Escape Online 6 project, our system delivered to your computer with a browser.
  • Our strategic partnership with a couple of other companies to have more organizations like charter schools utilize our system, while allowing us to retain our focus on California K-14.

There has never been a more exciting time at Escape Technology. Myself, Ramona Marshall, and Chad Guest, thank customers and employees alike for our accomplishments to date. We are totally pumped for the future!