James “Jim” Jordan held two important positions in the emerging Computer Communications Market. The first was with Ungermann-Bass, where as vice-president of sales and marketing, he was responsible for selling local area networking products when there was barely a market for them. Next he took on the challenge of selling non-standard, high-speed modems when he became president of Telebit in 1986.
Jordan received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Business and Marketing from University of Utah. He then joined IBM where he held a succession of sales and marketing positions until he left to join Four-Phase Corp. in 1970. When he left Four-Phase, ten years later, he had risen to Vice-President of Sales and Marketing, responsible for 700 people and revenues of nearly $200 Million. As challenging as that was, he remembers himself as being “bored.” So when Ralph Ungermann approached him for a similar role at Ungermann-Bass (U-B), where he would have no direct reports in a company of basically 14 engineers, and had yet to raise any venture capital, he deliberated, but not for long, before he said “Yes.” Why? Because for the last year his sales force at Four-Phase had come into competition with Datapoint Corporation, which was selling a rudimentary local area network called ARC (Attached Resource Computer), later to be known as ARCnet. Jordan’s attempts to convince management of the need to offer networking services fell on deaf ears and he was eager to get involved in this new industry. Once Jordan was aboard at U-B and had helped to complete the business plan, $1.5 Million of venture capital was raised within 60 days. Ungermann pays Jordan an ultimate compliment in his interview when he says that for 6 years Jordan never missed a sales forecast. In 1983, Jordan and Charlie Bass were both promoted to Executive Vice-Presidents. His growing differences with Ungermann over how the company was run caused Jordan to resign in 1985.
In November 1986, Jordan became President and Chief Executive Officer of Telebit, a high-speed modem start-up founded by Paul Baran. Two years later, Jordan recruited Lewis Elmore to replace him as president and CEO and he became chairman of the board of directors.
This interview was held in Jordan’s office at Telebit. We had become friends over the previous two years for I was a working Board member for Telebit. In this interview, Jordan gives a very thorough description of the differences in the corporate cultures of his past positions and the one he faced with Ungermann-Bass. Unfortunately we ran out of time and so I was not able to ask him additional questions about his experience at Telebit. He is a very talented chief executive officer.
Keywords: Four-Phase; Ungermann-Bass, Inc. (UB); Network Interface Unit; ARCNET; Ethernet; Telebit; Trailblazer Modems