Going Against the Flow: Sabrina Parsons, CEO of Palo Alto Software

Sabrina Parsons is the CEO of Palo Alto Software. Her team develops software and tools like LivePlan for entrepreneurs and small-business owners. Sabrina blogs at MommyCEO.org and Forbes Women, where she writes about running a business while balancing her business life with her husband and three young sons. When Sabrina is not at work she can be found chasing her kids all over Oregon: biking, hiking, swimming, skiing, and anything outdoors that uses up a lot of little boys' energy. She is a graduate of Princeton University.

2016-02-14-1455411343-4054530-1383680520sabrina_560x280.png
Sabrina Parsons

What does entrepreneurship mean to you, and what underlying characteristics do you see in successful entrepreneurs?

Sabrina: Entrepreneurship is about having a vision and implementing it. It is about figuring out how to do something that is useful, and has value, and going after it no matter what. Entrepreneurship is innovation, creativity and the constant search for better ways to do things. A successful entrepreneur has the following characteristics:
1. Perseverance
2. Tenacity
3. Creativity
4. The ability to problem solve
5. Focus
6. Energy
7. Need to call the shots
8. Risk-taker
9. Hard working
10. Flexibility

What are you most proud of in your professional career? If you could do something over in your life, what would it be?

Sabrina: In my professional career, I am most proud of what I have done as CEO of Palo Alto Software. We have completely changed the business model and technology for our core products, all the while staying profitable, cash flow positive and growing by double-digits year over year.

If I could do something over, it would be to better understand hiring and people management earlier in my tenure as CEO. Strategic, vision, product implementation - all of that is easier that being a good boss and a good manager of people. As a CEO, people are my most valuable asset, and through mistakes, I have learned how to be a better people manager. It's all about the people and providing the right team environment to make everyone successful.

Tell me about an instance where you had to go against the flow to realize your goal.

Sabrina: Launching our SaaS cloud product LivePlan was not easy. We did it without taking on debt or investment, which meant keeping cash flow positive and profitable while we transitioned from a transactional model to a subscription model, while also changing our core technology. When we started to transition our sales, we had an 18 month period of time where we brought in less revenue than the previous 18 months. We planned this, and were purposeful about it, but it was still tough to wait it out our strategy to where we got the growth we have had for the last few years. No CEO wants to run a company that makes less revenue in one year than the previous year.

What is your favorite success story of a fellow entrepreneur you have helped.

Sabrina: One of my favorites is about Mandy at Lucky Dog. She has been a customer for about 10 years and has used our products to start, run and grow her doggie day care and boarding business. She runs an awesome business and has expanded and opened more locations, all while providing the best of care for dogs and their owners. She has worked super hard to do what she has done, but she has also been very savvy about planning and managing her business. We use her services for our dogs, and I just love Mandy and Lucky Dog.

If you were to give advice to your 22-year-old self, what would it be?

Sabrina: Be focused, work hard, and don't be afraid to do your own things. People always try at that age to get you to be "responsible" and get a job. I wish I had started a business sooner than I did.

Follow Sabrina Parsons at @mommyceo, check out the other interviews in Going Against the Flow series at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charu-sharma/ and join this movement to empower 1 million female entrepreneurs on goagainsttheflow.com.