Peter Hanson and Ian McKilligan, principal shareholders of Up and Running, met in Husky Tae Kwon Do, and trained together for years, earning second-degree black belts. Besides Tae Kwon Do, software and business were common topics of conversation. Ian soon joined Up and Running, and together they've been growing the company since. Mark Leibowitz, another Tae Kwon Do practitioner, joined in 2016 to help scale the company further.
Peter Hanson, CTO
I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (100% pure Yooper here, such that I’m often mistaken for being Canadian and I know too many words for "snow"), spent some years in Missouri, and moved to Ames, IA to be closer to extended family and because my business partner moved here. My wife (a red-headed Alaskan Texan—don't ask) and I have a boy and a girl who keep our lives extra interesting. Outside of family, business, and technology, I enjoy playing tennis (3.5 and getting better!), reading, cooking, and woodworking.
Academically, I earned a degree from Michigan Technological University in Management of Information Systems while nearly earning a Mechanical Engineering degree as well. Since then, to stay in the details, I've become certified in Scrum and many other software development language certifications that I use when I'm architecting systems and helping the team to build them. I also read quite a few books each year about processes, business, and IT-related topics.
Professionally, I started my business in 1995, and, in that time, I've helped over 500 customers at my last count to achieve their business goals using technology. Up and Running Software now has about 80 team members who serve about 125 customers per year with their custom software development needs (the engines of websites, mostly). We serve predominantly repeat customers. I know tech and business, and I enjoy talking about both in an approachable, open, and solution-oriented manner. (Informally, I've earned the moniker "Smiling Pete.") Some recent highlights are that we helped: a Fortune 10 company manage nuclear inventory and procurement processes; a company help states of our nation help individuals earn their GEDs; an entrepreneur quit his day job; an established logistics SaaS B2B company reorganize its architecture, and approach programming in a more cost-effective manner; a railroad reduce its costs while increasing its compliancy score; and a client create a system to manage schedule II medications, approved by both the DEA and FDA for use. As you can see, I like helping many companies and people, and the skills—which I have learned largely thanks to the great customers who've taught me what I know over the years—transfer across industries and contexts. There should never be a dull moment for those of us who program until the AI takes over.
Now, onto the most important matters:
- My first piece of hardware was a 486SX 33 MHz with 4 MB of RAM. It ran DOS 6, and didn't have Windows. I had a 14,400 modem as well, which made browsing the BBSes in the area nice and fast. With that, I could download a 200K file in about 3 minutes, and quite a few larger files overnight with the right auto-dial/reconnect software running. For the first two years of my computing experience, I just used a DOS environment. I was a teenager when I got this machine, and it was near top of the line then.
- The first software program that I wrote was a batch file that used decision logic and a menu structure. The neighborhood kids would come over to play games on the 486SX computer described above. Since they didn't know DOS commands, they would constantly ask me to start a new game for them. That got tiring so I wrote a batch file that would present a menu of games that they could play. After a selection was made, it would modify any system parameters needed to play the game, and launch the application. Saved me a lot of time. Lesson learned: give recurring issues to a software developer or systems administrator. : )
- Right now, to my wife's annoyance and my amusement, I'm figuring out how to automate my home as much as possible.
If you want to talk tech, whether it's for fun or business, I hope to hear from you.
Ian McKilligan, CEO
As the Owner and CEO of Up and Running Software, I am always looking to better myself and apply the learnings of those I have a great deal of respect for. I try to apply business concepts that I have learned from the likes of Peter Drucker, Tom Peters, Marshall Goldsmith (met him once at the Ross School of Business), Jim Collins, and more. I also blame and thank my grandfather who bought me a subscription to Forbes when I was around eight years old.
Besides hoping to help others through my company, I've tried hard to help people within my company with whatever they might need. Every person is different, and I view it as my job to help them do what they want to do how they want to do it. With most people, I just need to provide the means, education, or resources, and then get out of their way. By design, we have a very flat organization, and anyone may contact me for any reason at any time, which is the same approach we take with customers.
I started out in Finance, but quickly realized my path was intended to go in a different direction and changed to MIS after taking a COBOL course, which my programming time on my TI85 and Commodore 64 lightly prepared me for. Software was interesting then in what it could do at the time. Now, IT is even more interesting and evolving so fast and we're experiencing the effects of that in such an accelerated manner that it's just amazing to be a part of it. We used to have to run our systems in a rack, and I personally bought the air conditioner and UPSs for it. Now, we're helping clients make IoT systems that help anyone in the world communicate with devices to do just about anything they want to have happen; helping clients with chatbots, AI, and VR; and putting our time into making custom systems that sing just as our customers want them to. The problems are not systems now or even the Hows usually, rather the more nebulous and tricky people and organizational issues that education, processes, and good communications can lead and manage away. Once we get past those, we can make more of the forecasts of futurists and science fiction authors come true. (Well, hopefully not all of them…)
Overall, I'm a business and IT generalist, and I rely heavily on the specialists in my company to get the real work done. I'm thankful to have met some great people who want to build together. I'm also thankful to many of my professors and customers who taught us so much. If you have questions or would like to discuss anything, I'm an email or call away.
Mark Leibowitz, Senior Vice President of Sales and Business Development
Mark has over 25 years of selling software solutions to Fortune 500 customers, as well as working closely with early-stage and venture-backed startups. As the SVP of Sales and Business Development of Up and Running Software, a company that’s focused on custom technology for 20+ years, I am responsible for driving revenue growth, forming new customer relationships, and keeping current clients happy. I have been in key sales management positions for companies such as AT&T, BMW, Honda, and Nortel. I have sold custom solutions to AdForm, AppNexus, Bank of America, Cigna, eBay, Hartford Financial, Hearst Corporation, ING, JP Morgan Chase, OnDeck Capital, PlaceIQ, and more. I was also VP of Sales and Marketing for Softport Systems, Inc., where I was a partner and had a successful exit selling to BEA Systems, which was later acquired by Oracle. To enable all of this in terms of education, I attended Binghamton University's School of Management and also studied at Kansai Gaidai University of Foreign Studies in Osaka, Japan.
Now, for perhaps the most important details, the whys, the motivation…
Why do I help customers do what they want to do with technology?
-- "All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns." | Bruce Lee
-- "The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings." | Okakura Kakuzō
I have no motivation other than a client’s success and earning long-term trust. There are no hidden motivations, and we don’t fit a solution to a need. Instead, we find the best solution for what is needed, taking into account scope, budget, and timeline. I adapt to reality after learning what that reality is; I do not present hammers and nails when the client needs bronze screws that should be tightened by hand and glue. Let’s do it once together, let’s do it right.
Why do I want to help customers do what they really need to do in a custom manner?
-- "Solving big problems is easier than solving little problems." | Sergey Brin
-- "I don’t spend my time pontificating about high-concept things; I spend my time solving engineering and manufacturing problems." | Elon Musk
-- "As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death." | Leonardo da Vinci
I help serious clients who want to do great things accomplish those things. I enjoy doing it. I deliver, not only because it’s my job, but because I’m personally invested in the results, solving real problems in real ways. When I retire, I want to think about what I contributed to, not what I didn’t do. Consequently, I’m working for my clients every day they need me, and I’m a call away for any reason at any time.
Why do I do this? Why do I care?
I’ve covered what motivates me and why. As for how I came to think and act this way, I have to get a little personal. I was seriously injured in a martial arts accident when I was 21, resulting in severe nerve damage. I was just about to start my career in Japan with Honda Motor Company, and I instead went to NYC for emergency surgery on my lower spine. My world stopped suddenly, and I quickly realized that life is not to be taken for granted. I remained partially paralyzed afterward, and I was told that I would probably not walk or feel again in the affected areas. Being an athlete and headstrong, I refused to accept the diagnoses and vowed to work through it, to mentally and physically return to a normal life so I could get back to Tokyo to start my career. After four months of persistent work, enough functionality returned such that I could walk and go about my daily activities without assistance, even though I had constant nerve pain as the nerves would "wake up" at random times to repair themselves.
This was a life-changing event for me, and I gained a new and deeper appreciation for the here and now. At the age of 44, with the support of some great friends, I decided to try to become a triathlete. By putting my mind to work and adhering to a clear and precise plan of action, I completed my first Ironman in August 2012. Every moment that I have, I'm making the most of it, whether it's for me or my clients.
Though I think the above covers everything well, here’s a bit more about how I work and think:
I’m not an engineer, but I work well with engineers. I would like to think that I do two things for them in particular. First, I help to give them interesting problems to solve. Second, I reduce or entirely remove anything that might distract them. I know the realities of software development, and I help those I work with to understand them so the focus can remain on results and the work.
I love working with clients, from the initial discussion to launch number 17. I like results, and I like long-term relationships. A converted sale is not my objective, rather it’s just the beginning of something that I want to be great. My job is to ensure there is understanding, trust, and ideally an enjoyable work relationship for all parties. Software development and technology are hard; it’s a better situation if everyone is enjoying the work and working candidly and openly through the issues that will arise while our teams create great things together. Besides the work, I enjoy learning from my customers, whether it relates to business, technology, or how they prefer to spend their time outside of work.
As for my extra-curricular interests, I have always been drawn to the cultures of East Asia; consequently, I spent 12 years in Japan and am fluent in Japanese. As with the owners of Up and Running Software, I am a longtime martial artist, holding ranks in both Karate and Tae Kwon Do. (I was an international competitor before my accident.) These days, I enjoy endurance sports, participating in one or more triathlons per year. For additional excitement, I’m fond of racing; I put my Indian Motorcycle and Polaris Slingshot on the asphalt whenever I get a chance.
If you want to talk business, technology, or really anything, I hope to hear from you.
A company's foundation is what it believes in
If you've trained in martial arts in a good system under a good instructor, you get taught certain values and skills. We were lucky as we had a great club filled with great role models, including an instructor who served our country in the Army as a Lt. Colonel and has been a leader in many ways to many people.
We subscribed and acted according to the five tenants of our Tae Kwon Do association: courtesy, integrity, self-control, perseverance, and indomitable spirit. We still do today. With these, one has a framework or recipe for not only day-to-day interactions, but also a business.
In addition to these, we learned how to teach, lead, present, motivate, be an example, help others overcome their challenges, communicate, and achieve our goals by applying focus and succeeding incrementally and consistently. We apply most of these aspects everyday in our company, and help all of our team members learn the same skills. Lastly, we spent many years working towards a goal that took dedication, teamwork, the help of experts, and hard work. We apply all of these in our business today, for our team, our customers, our families (Ian's family and Pete's family), and our growth.
Everyone leads and manages
The whole company, every individual, leads some important part of the company in every action taken. We literally made our organizational chart upside down to show that the founders are in the organization to serve others, to help them succeed. Our team members are the ones who determine the success of our company because they work side-by-side with our customers. They lead efforts that directly impact people and businesses throughout the world, and we're proud of their work and the way they work.