Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sitton in on class


When W. Gary Sitton was asked to teach a graduate-level course at Chico State University called Technical Startups, he insisted on a class time of 6:00 a.m. and the freedom to pick his own guest presenters. “We ended up with twenty-five registered students, mostly electrical engineering, computer engineering, and computer science majors.” The class ran on coffee and Krispy Kreme, he writes, and though the focus was on high-tech entrepreneurism many of the business lessons shared that spring of 2014 would be applicable to any startup.

So a book was born, a “translation” of the course into the written word, mixing business acumen with the personal. “Fire Up Your Startup And Keep It Up: Lessons From Twelve Business And Entrepreneur Experts” ($18.95 from iUniverse, also for Amazon Kindle) begins with Sitton’s own story.

Born in Chico, he found his calling in software development and in 1981 founded Bi-Tech which, according to Bloomberg Business, “offers software and processing solutions for financial services, higher education, and the public sectors.” Still based in Chico, Bi-Tech is now “a subsidiary of SunGard Data Systems Inc.”

Though he sold the company in 1995, Sitton continues his close ties to the industry, and the invited guests (who covered marketing and sales, human resources, customer service, research and development, going global and social media) generally had connections with Bi-Tech. Each chapter includes a list of “lessons learned.” James Bennett, Vice President of Technology at Bi-Tech, discusses the clash of cultures when companies merge. Sitton’s wife, Judy, “the conscience of Bi-Tech,” writes about creating effective customer service.

Sitton himself closes the book with a list of dogmas (that shouldn’t be) and best practices. Consider “Axiom #9: Hire a few people who tease and cut up (they keep things light.)” That’s reflected in the book, with plenty of street smarts stirred in.

Sitton will be signing copies of his book at Lyon Books in Chico on Monday at 7:00 p.m. An archive of an interview with Sitton, scheduled to air on Nancy’s Bookshelf, with host Nancy Wiegman, should be available at

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