The Gerber Alley HIS-tory is so rich it is taking 3 episode; this second part starts at Dorenfest & Associates in the late ’70s…
Wait a minute: Urban & Terry formed Gerber Alley in 1984!
Trust me, it started when Sheldon Dorenfest hired Betsy Hersher...
Your out of your mind, Betsey Hersher!?… Ah well, go on.
Thanks, now here’s the story: Betsy was one of Sheldon’s hard-working interviewers, who regularly called his 250 clients to glean data for his original market research efforts (before the “3000”)
So? What’s this got to do with the price of eggs?
Betsy learned a lot from Shelly about the HIS biz, and left to form her recruiting firm around 1980.
I didn’t know that – over 30 years ago?
When I left SMS for McAuto, I met Betsy as part of my recruiting efforts (eg: Larry Ferguson…)
What might have been…
We became good friends, and Betsy found me several good jobs in the 1980s; one “might have been” interview leads to Gerber-Alley:
In the mid-80s, she got me an interview at the Hewlett-Packard offices in Andover, Mass., where a fascinating Frenchman (named “Giles Merme?” – it’s been a long time...) was interviewing for an exec to head up their US Healthcare operations – big opportunity!
H-P was one of those techie firms where everyone has a cubicle, no offices , not even for Giles, the VP of their whole US mini division.
Made for a weird interview, as anyone walking by could hear us chatting about the salary, benefits, etc.,
And how Giles was interviewing outsiders like me to compete with inside candidates, like his VP of Sales, some guy named Mike Brown…
Caught in the act!
So we’re sitting in Giles’ cube, and I’m lying about my background, when in walks a heavyset guy who sits down in the next cube and who Giles introduces me to - guess who? Mike Brown!
Mike had been on a sales call, came back a bit early, and was all ears listening to the rest of my interview telling Giles about how I would make such a great exec, had been so successful, etc, etc.
After finishing with Giles, I then had to interview with Mike, since he was right there and had heard my story.
Mike grilled me like a fine steak, uncovering every weakness I had (which were many!). Needless to say, he got the job, became VP of H-P’s US healthcare ops, and later CEO of Gerber Alley when HP partnered…
Back to Urban & Terry
So we last left Urban Gerber & Terry Alley when they started GA in 1983, after bolting from HBO, who had bought IFAS from them.
Brian Robson remembers the first 11 employees by name & title:
“ Urban – CEO - Founder of GBA/IFAS, originally from McAuto in early years
Terry Alley - VP R&D/CTO (co-founder) - worked at GBA and then HBO
Alan Cooper - VP Sales (came from HBO)
Dan Jesson - VP Implement/Client Services (had worked at GBA and HBO)
Michelle Alley (Terry's wife) – nice lady and quite competent.
Patti Burnette - came from HBO/IFAS team
Brian Robson - hired by Terry at HBO in April 1982 (was 25 w/ 3-4 yrs exp)
Bill ??? - brain lapse on last name... Sharp programmer with no healthcare, he ended up leaving within 1-2 yrs
Bonnie Wynn – no previous healthcare experience.. knew Michelle
Pete Clarke - hired and no previous healthcare experience”
What a memory, Brian! Remember, this was 30 years ago!
The Early Years
Again from Brian’s amazingly indefatigable memory:
“ Terry had left HBO in August 1982 - hence, Gerber Alley formally started on August 1, 1983 after their 1 year non-compete agreement expired
Urban left HBO before Terry and convinced Terry to join him in founding Gerber Alley & Associates (original company name)
Urban & Terry used the proceeds from the sale of Gerber Brehm & Associates to HBO for IFAS to fund the roughly $1M they jointly put up to start Gerber Alley
- Will always remember Terry's shiny Corvette “Indianapolis 500 Pace Car” that he drove every day to our new office digs in Norcross, GA…”
Early Years, cont’d
Brian could probably write a whole HIS-tory book an G-A alone!
“ Terry provided the technical architecture vision:
Using 4GL tools to make it easy for clients to get to & use their data
COGNOS tools Powerhouse suite - Quick, Quiz, QTP with Data Dictionary
Bill ?? was the only programmer experienced with the toolset...
Other 5 programmers learned from a COGNOS trainer we brought in
Followed up training by designing and developing a Project Control System that we ended up using through FDC days
All programmers were made Project Lead for 2-3 modules
Most modules had 2 programmers assigned
Tiny modules (i.e. Bad Debt) had only a lead
Large ones (i.e. Census) had 3 programmers
Terry established design "methodology”
based on the “Warnier Ohr” method
More from Brian:
“ Terry & Urban had spent the 1st "quiet" year (1983) designing the company and developing a "conceptual model" of the system involving text file docs with Screen & Report "mock-ups" and some general bullet points on functionality
We consistently celebrated milestones at our "Mandatory Friday Meetings" with beer, wine and Jack Daniels for Urban…
- Alan Cooper VP of Super-Sales (sadly RIP) sold 3 customers within the 1st year, while product was still "in development" - talk about vaporware... But demonstrates the level of trust and relationship Urban inspired:
#1 Spohn Memorial (Corpus Christi, TX)
#2 Pekin Memorial (Peoria, IL)
#3 NW Texas Hosp (Amarillo, TX)”
More of Brian’s Total Recall:
Leading edge technology at the time for sure...
Cognos and the Powerhouse toolset was initially a Canadian company named Quasar (Ottawa I recall)...
Well before they began to focus on reporting/analytics tools...
All were very easy to use and quickly created "prototypes.”
“ Over 95% of system was developed using Powerhouse 4GL tools: screen & report generators, batch TP based off Data Dictionary...
Intense programs like Charge Posting, Insurance Proration and message queue utilities were in COBOL or assembler...
where performance was critical.
(I’m sure this guy forgot something about G-A!?) :
“ We designed, developed and implemented initial core modules in 11 months.. A pretty amazing feat in my opinion.
(Mine too, Brian, mine too…)
Included: ADT & Financial apps with modules for:
Census, Patient History, Billing, Revenue Control, 3rd Party billing, AR, Bad Debt, GL, AP, Inventory, Fixed Assets... I'm forgetting 1 or 2....
(I doubt it Brian, I doubt it…)
- Bottom line is Spohn Hospital was the first "Live” on all initial core applications in about 11 months.
- Pekin Memorial Hospital in Illinois followed 3 about months later.
- Northwest Texas Hospital a couple of months after that.
Early Success & Rapid Growth!
Brian’s display of total recall of early GA days continues:
“ We started growing, growing and growing…
Jim Bodenbender (now top leader of Relay Health) was first "installer" hired under Dan Jesson – who was the Project Mgr for NW Texas.
Fred Leezer (sp?) was hired (previously from GBA & HBO) as installer and Project Leader for Spohn
Mark Edelstein (now VP Strategy at Relay Health) was hired from SMS and focused on Patient Care apps (Order Entry & Results Reporting)... he had been install Project Leader for Pekin Memorial
Company Christmas parties grew from about 25 (15 or so employees plus spouses & etc.) in year #1, 1983
to 43 (25-30 employees) in year 2, 1984
To ≈75 in year 3, 1985
To over 125 in year 4, 1986
Amazing Revenue Growth
Karen See (former GA Director of Marketing) dug into her treasure trove of GA archives to share these gems.
At right are financial growth charts from GA’s 1990 Annual Report.
What a ride!!
For part III of Gerber Alley next week!
What ? Another episode on GA?
Don’t blame me, blame all those GA alumni!
It’s their fault you can’t tell a short story?
No, they just have so many wonderful memories to share…