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The Slingshot and Success

  I'd like to wind up with one of the most obscure metaphors I've ever used in one of these letters. In celestial mechanics there's a concept known as gravity assist, or the cosmic slingshot. It's how the Voyager probe got to Saturn.

If you take a satellite and drop it down very close to a planet, then fire its engine, the power of the engine is multiplied by the gravity of the object you're whizzing past. Any effort made at that peak point, at the ragged edge of plunging into the pit, is multiplied thousandsfold versus efforts made in the calm void, far removed from risk and turbulence.

We're in the heart of the maelstrom now. We're growing so fast we can hardly keep up. We're becoming known, and how we treat people and how well we meet their needs now will determine how we're perceived for years to come. The reputation of our product is being made on a day to day basis. One major screwup and we can lose it all--overnight.

What you do now in this crazy environment will cast a long shadow on the future of this company, on your career, and on all of our hopes to share the rewards of success.

This is not the time to coast. This is not the time to let growth squeeze out innovation or our ability to take a risk or grab for the main chance. Today, this company looks awfully goddam respectable compared to where we were, say, last May. The trappings of success are everywhere. But remember, if we get to where we hoped to be when we started this venture back in January of 1982, we'll look back on these as the ``old days''. To coast now will make this the peak, not the stepping stone to where we want to be.

Every dollar we spend, whether for salaries, rent, raw materials, or advertising, was generated because somebody chose to buy our product. That person looked at the fruit of our labours, looked at our company and our commitment to help him after he bought the product, at our future and the promise that held for future development and additions to improve what he was buying, and decided that what we had to sell, which is nothing more than a great idea written onto a $5 floppy disc, with a manual, was worth more than $1000 or $1500 in his pocket.

Whether we have the resources to continue our growth, whether we survive or join the ranks of the software companies that ``drop from sight'' depends on whether people continue to value what we have to sell as worth more than that money in their pockets. Buying anything, but especially something as intangible as a computer program, involves putting your trust in the person who's selling it.

If we continue to deserve that trust, we'll do very well, indeed.

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Editor: John Walker