Remembering Pete

Years ago a foolhardy crew of publishing folks, including a wonderful mentor, Tom Southwick, decided to start a weekly industry magazine that would compete with an established, dominant rival. We were too young then to know it was almost certain to fail. Which was a good thing, because somehow we actually made it work, sold it for real money, and went on to new adventures. Anyway, one of the reasons we made it was because of entrepreneurs like Peter Szabo, who, operating purely on a hunch, decided to support us with meaningful advertising dollars. Pete was this instinctive fellow with a twinkle in his eye…as if he knew a secret you didn’t. Pete died in 2006, and he’s missed. Here’s a bit about his professional life: this brief profile was, as you might imagine, no fun.

A telecommunications turnaround

When I wrote this profile of then-troubled Qwest Communications, the stock traded at something like $1. By summer 2006 it was up to $9. Credit has to go to in large measure to chairman/CEO Richard Notebaert, who I described in this December 2004 ColoradoBiz article this way:

“The Qwest chairman will earn $4.6 million in compensation this year, but there is a quality of earnestness about Notebaert that makes it possible to imagine him as the union laborer he once was. The former Chicagoan is an animated conversationalist who peppers his language with phrases like ‘My gracious!’ He makes a point of replying directly to e-mail messages he receives from customers and employees alike.”

Pretty doe-eyed stuff, I suppose. But he had me at “hello.”

An industry in transition

Didn’t know much about Colorado’s software industry before taking on this assignment for ColoradoBiz. I do now, thanks to the mag’s willingness to provide something unusual: enough time to interview gads of people. Biggest takeaway: It’s a sector typified by small, inventive companies with a keen knack for identifying niches.

Sidebar: One of the rewards of journalism is getting to talk to people you wouldn’t otherwise – like Nadine Lange, a fiery, candid, wonderful entrepreneur who bet her career on a hunch having something to do with the arcane world of mailroom processing. She seems to have won.

Sticking to the schedule

One of my favorite SportsBiz columns for ColoradoBiz Magazine provides a behind-the-scenes look at how sports leagues figure out which teams will play when, and where. From June 2005, here’s a profile of a math genius and his work.

Puzzle Flickr Olga Berrios 4-16

The Nuggets couldn’t play at home during the last weekend in February because of back-to-back Freestyle Motocross events at Pepsi Center. Instead, the team was in Memphis on Friday and in New Orleans on Sunday night, the latter game dictating the Nuggets couldn’t play a day game Monday. Which was perfectly fine, because the players had to travel back to Denver anyway for a game Tuesday night. Which would have left Wednesday available for a home game, except that Pepsi Center was reserved for an Avalanche-Predators game that night.

A Rubik’s cube is child’s play compared to the computational puzzle that surrounds sports-league scheduling. Trying to squish thousands of games into the calendar while accounting for everything from Paul McCartney concerts to network TV demands is about as easy as nailing a three with Allen Iverson in your face. Scheduling means diving into a muddy brew of restrictions, parameters, rules, quirks, unanticipated changes, divisional conflicts, travel limitations and dozens of other ingredients that clamor for consideration. Continue reading Sticking to the schedule