Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How two brothers founded more than a dozen companies and made hundreds of millions along the way

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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. But Glen, who had recently returned from a fellowship at Oxford University in England, soon discovered that Howard had set up meetings with CCC's directors about his coming on board. Glen did so, and the experience whetted his appetite for a management career. It also brought the brothers closer together. "We were a great complement," Glen says. "Howard didn't have a lot of patience and wasn't as focused on execution as I was. It made for a great working relationship."

Both men were born in St. Louis, to a women's apparel salesman and a stay-at-home mother. In 1959, when Glen was an infant and Howard a high school sophomore, parents Ervin and Jeanette packed up the kids and moved to Highland Park, Ill. Nine years later, Dad got promoted and the family moved to the suburbs of New York. The brothers say their father's enterprising spirit and mother's can-do attitude and perseverance explain their career paths. Warren recalls that when they lived in a heavily Republican part of New Jersey, their mother repeatedly ran as a Democrat for city council in New Providence. "She lost every time but never gave up," he says.

Meanwhile, with Howard at college, Glen had inherited his oldest brother's magic kit. The two say that performing magic showed them how to deal with business mistakes, as some of their tricks invariably flopped. The practice also taught them the art of salesmanship and public presentations.

After founding CCC in 1980, Howard took it public in 1983 and left in 1989, when he sold it to a private company. Since leaving CCC, Howard has dashed from founding a venture capital firm, a CD-ROM video game maker, a marketing company, and an online music site, among others. In 2003 he raised $60 million in 90 days to relocate and rejuvenate an ailing Kendall College, turning it into a state-of-the-art culinary school in Chicago by cutting out noncore programs such as athletics and law enforcement. Then, while still Kendall's chairman, he launched Experiencia, a for-profit outfit that introduces disadvantaged school kids to careers.

After the sale, Glen stayed on at CCC, moved up to president and chief operating officer, and helped lift sales to $100 million in 1994. He then become CEO of another startup, Enterprise Systems. When he came on board, the health-care information management company had revenue of $20 million and 150 employees. Three years later, with sales of $70 million and a staff of 250, Glen sold Enterprise to a rival for $250 million.

Glen's next CEO gig was at Allscripts, which was then a 10-year-old company in a rough patch. The turnaround took several years. But in 2007, after a series of acquisitions, Allscripts netted $20.6 million on $281.9 million in revenue. The merger with Misys Healthcare Systems should keep Glen on the fast track. Based on 2007 figures, the combined companies would have had roughly $85 million in earnings on sales of $720 million and 3,600 employees, triple Allscript's current headcount. The deal is expected to close before fall.

Howard gives himself seven years, max, at Flashpoint, whose 75,000 square feet of soundproof taping rooms, movie sets, and computer labs excite even the most disengaged students. "I like to stay through the point when the day-to-day management can be turned over to people who are better suited at it temperamentally," he says.

Glen hasn't lost the entrepreneurial bug, either. His mother, who died in 2006, would be proud to know that the hole he cut in the roof 35 years ago for a solar water heater wasn't for naught. Moonlighting from his day job, Glen launched SoCore Energy in January to provide solar energy to businesses. As he put it: "Some ideas take time to incubate."

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