Saturday, September 20, 2008

How Glen and Howard Tullman Became Entrepreneurs

How Glen and Howard Tullman Became Entrepreneurs

Two of Chicago's leading entrepreneurs happen to be brothers. But it's a good thing they didn't actually grow up together. Howard Tullman, 14 years older, already had left the nest when Glen, the baby of the family, persuaded their mother to let him cut a hole in the roof of the family's New Providence (N.J.) home to test his ideas on solar energy. Mom never said no. But Howard, born bossy, wouldn't have let Glen experiment on his own. "He would have wanted a bigger hole," says Glen. Admits Howard: "I was an overpowering presence."

These days, the brothers communicate regularly, often e-mailing each other in the wee hours, when they're not focused on running their own businesses—Glen at Allscripts Healthcare Solutions (MDRX), an electronic records and medical software outfit, and Howard at Flashpoint, The Academy of Media Arts & Sciences, a for-profit digital arts school in Chicago. The two share more than chief executive titles. They're creative and competitive, and in their off hours both have developed a love of magic.

Anyone who wonders how entrepreneurs come to be should consider the Tullmans. The same ambition that drove Howard to start CCC Information Services in 1980 and later head 11 other companies rubbed off on Glen, who grew up hearing nonstop about Howard's successes at college, law school, and in business, and went on to run three companies himself after working for Howard. "If you've ever played a simple game with either of these guys, you would think it's life and death—and it is for them," says Warren, their brother, who works in Denver as Allscripts senior vice-president for sales. "At a recent Thanksgiving, they were competing on carving the turkey."

Those who've known Howard for years say that actually, he's mellowed. But his hard edge still surfaces, even in his uniform of T-shirt and jeans, and he's known to bark orders to get things done his way. It's his ability to think strategically and make myriad decisions quickly that make him ideally suited to startups. "He is very passionate and decisive. That's what makes him successful," says T. Scott Leisher, executive vice-president at Allscripts, who worked with both Tullmans at CCC.

Glen, who prefers a traditional charcoal gray suit, has a gentler approach. "Glen is a strong decision maker, but the people feel they have a voice and they have an impact on the decisions," Leisher says. "He listens."

Both brothers have prospered. Glen, 48, is merging 1,155-employee Allscripts with Misys, a London multinational. Misys will offer its health-care division plus $330 million in cash for a 54.5% stake in the united company, with Glen at the helm. Howard, 63, who sold CCC for almost $100 million, is CEO of Flashpoint Academy, which opened last September. "The energy is incredible with both of them," says David Mullen, the chief financial officer of Navteq (NVT), who knows them from their CCC days. "Self-confidence is not lacking in them, either."

The Tullmans credit each other. Glen learned strategy from Howard, while inspiring him to work harder on consensus building and empowering employees. Howard is trying to do that at his new school, which will have a staff of more than 40 and enroll 250 to 300 students this fall. That's double last year's figures. Howard is targeting revenue of $8 million to $10 million for the 2008-09 year, up from $2 million to $3 million in its inaugural year.

Neither brother set out to become an entrepreneur. Howard started off as an attorney in a law firm but after ten years didn't think he was learning anything new. But he had made a boatload of money and thought computers could transform auto-insurance claims processing. He rented an 8-by-10-foot office and started writing the system diagrams that got CCC off the ground. "Building your dream and your vision into a reality is an incomparable sensation," he says.

Glen became involved in startups at his brother's urging. Howard invited Glen to Chicago in 1983, ostensibly to hang with family.

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