In one of our first interviews with Scott Cook, he
said that if he had known how hard it would be to make Intuit a successful
company, he never would have tried to do it in the first place. At a few
moments during the writing of this book, we felt the same way. Thank
goodness for naďve and optimistic thinking.
This book started with a friendship. Kathy and I met
in the fall of 1988 when both of us entered Stanford’s Graduate School of
Business. Kathy, an Indianapolis Hoosier from Ford Motor Company, and I,
a born and bred Californian from the Clorox Company, had five of our six
core classes together. Kathy is fair complexioned, unafraid to speak her
opinions, and spontaneously creative. I have dark hair and eyes, am more
introverted than not, and plan methodically. They say opposites attract,
and in our case, that is true.
After business school Kathy returned to Ford in
Michigan while I started working at a 150-person software company called
Intuit. I worked as product manager on Quicken for DOS, then one of the
best selling software products on the market. Going from my previous work
experience marketing Fresh Step cat litter and Formula 409 spray cleaner
to suddenly working on a software product with engineers, tech support
reps, and customers who felt passionately about the product represented a
Through my almost 8 years working at Intuit, I
learned about building an enduring company. New products, platforms,
competitors, distribution channels, and technologies consumed our
attention and efforts. Intuit grew rapidly, from the introduction of
QuickBooks in 1992 to an IPO and acquisition of ChipSoft (makers of
TurboTax and MacInTax) in 1993 to the almost-merger with Microsoft that
fell through in 1995 to full blown Internet businesses introduced in
1996. Working at Intuit during these years of change taught me much more
than I’d learned at business school.
After I left Intuit during the dot-com mania, I
started a marketing consulting business. Kathy had left Ford by this
time, moved back to California, tried a couple of other jobs, and ended up
working in business development at an Internet start-up. After
Kathy left that job, the two of us found ourselves at a crossroads. Our
friendship had grown and evolved over the years through marriage, kids,
house moves, jobs, and mini midlife crises.
Kathy proposed that we teach a marketing class
together as part of Stanford’s Continuing Education Program. So we did,
teaching a class called Consumer Marketing and the Internet in spring
2001. We learned that we worked well together and, being opposites, also
complemented each other quite nicely in our skills and knowledge. After
that experience, we decided to write a business book together.
It sounded fun, especially since Kathy had been honing her skills writing
fiction for a while and I’d always thought it would be a great experience
to write a book. But what the heck should we write about?
After talking to friends and brainstorming ideas, we
realized that we wanted to write the Intuit story. Intuit, almost 20
years old, had a unique and compelling business story that no one had yet
written. We also thought that we made up a uniquely qualified duo to
tackle the job. We started by fleshing out the story, talking to author
friends who had invaluable advice to share, and working up the guts to
approach Scott Cook.
We felt delighted when, during our first meeting with
Scott, he quickly understood what we wanted to do and offered his
support. Many writers over the years had approached him wanting to write
the Intuit story, but Scott had never before wanted to devote the amount
of time it would require him to help create a great book. He also
empathized with us, even comparing our venture with how he and Intuit
co-founder Tom Proulx started up Intuit together. Even though they didn’t
have experience as entrepreneurs, together they had the right skills—and
enough will—to pursue their goal.
And so Kathy and I started our research by
interviewing the people most critical to Intuit’s growth and success over
the years. These eye-opening interviews helped us see the Intuit story,
and how we wanted to tell it. Interviewees shared personal anecdotes,
diverse opinions, and an overall very positive feeling towards their
We wrote up a book proposal and the first few
chapters, and sent it to an agent in New York who had been recommended to
us. Then we waited…and waited. Eventually the call came that the agent
didn’t think our book had much potential. He questioned our ability to do
it right, and said he’d have to pass on our proposal. We felt crushed.
But a few days later I emailed an Intuit alum who now worked for Harvard Business School
Publishing. I asked her if she thought Harvard Business School Press
would be interested in this book, especially since Scott Cook graduated
from Harvard Business School. She wrote back the next day that yes, they
were very interested, and introduced us via email.
Discussions with Harvard Business School Press progressed quickly and
productively, and soon, without an agent, Kathy and I signed a contract—we
were on our way to becoming published authors! Harvard Press felt like a
great fit for us and the book. We continued to interview, research and
write, finishing up the first draft within several months. All together
we conducted 130 interviews with 70 people.
Our intrepid editor, Kirsten Sandberg, held our hand
as she helped us improve the manuscript. We held animated conference
calls to discuss the book chapter by chapter, did the necessary additional
research needed and worked hard to develop the second draft. One of the big structural changes we made
necessitated breaking up 11 fairly long chapters into 22 shorter ones. We
also cut out 15,000 words to end up with a total of about 81,000 words.
A few months later, the second draft was done. This
time we’d made big strides forward, but we needed more professional help
to take the manuscript to its final form. Enter our developmental editor,
Connie Hale, who with grace and clear sightedness guided us towards our
final draft. She helped us create more compelling scenes and character
descriptions, develop catchy titles and sub-titles, and make the writing
more punchy and easy to read. Finally, we handed in the final manuscript
and a set of photos to Harvard Press’ production group. What relief and
accomplishment Kathy and I felt that day, as we hiked in the Stanford
We then focused on a flurry of other activities.
We’d already worked with a graphic artist at Harvard Press to design an
effective book jacket cover. Next we worked both on production
issues—finding typos and inconsistencies, developing an index, and
the like—and on marketing related tasks including publicity, the InsideIntuit.com website, and co-promotions with Intuit. The book took
more than two years to go from idea to reality.
And so here we are. Hopefully if you are reading
this you have read and enjoyed Inside Intuit or plan to read it
soon. We would love to hear what you think. It’s been a remarkable
journey, from which we’ve learned about a wonderful company, interacted
with many amazing people, practiced the art and craft of writing, made our
way through the maze of the publishing industry, and built meaningfully
upon our friendship, where of course it all started.