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2.22.03 Stutzman: Making a fresh start

[ This article originaly appeared in The Boulder Daily Camera on February 22nd, 2003. Copyright 2003 The Daily Camera ]

picturePart of the silver that lines the current gloom billowing around the technology sector is the propensity of many executives to strike out on their own and make a fresh start.

This year we've heard of a number of managers and entrepreneurs picking up the remnants of their declining or soon-to-close businesses to set up shop on their own.

Two recent examples: International Approvals Laboratories, a testing facility, was established in Boulder by two executives who bought the business from a former parent firm; and Imulus, an Internet strategy and branding firm created by three workers who worked for a Web design shop that shut them down.

For local technology executive Sheila Paxton, tough times bring a natural opportunity to launch a brand new business.

"I'm not ready to stop working; I'm not even 50!" said Paxton, a well-known speaker and executive coach.

Paxton has founded ami group, www.amigroup.biz, a coaching and consulting firm — the lower-case letters are part of its brand. The name "ami" is not to signify anything friendly, but is an acronym for accountability, mastery and integrity, which Paxton says are the pillars of successful businesses and business leaders.

"My business is high-tech and high-touch," she said, saying that she will work closely with executives to improve their skills. The values she preaches aren't feel-good measures — she insists they will increase revenues for technology firms.

Paxton founded e-learning firm IPX in Boulder in October 1998 with just $5,000 and a ton of energy. It was acquired by the Frontline Group for an undisclosed sum in 2000.

Things were going great at Paxton's 94-employee, multi-million-dollar division, until the economy and events of Sept. 11, 2001, greatly hampered the business. It filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in October — listing debts of $10 million to $50 million — but was immediately snatched up by Nashville-based Little Planet Learning.

The firm kept a handful of Boulder employees, but after the transition, Paxton started looking around for something new.

"My job was to assure a smooth transition," she said. "I was glad to, it was my baby. But after that was done, the company had gotten so small, it was time for me to move on. ... It's in really good hands."

She thinks the time is right for her new firm. After an era of dot-bombs and corporate crooks, she said the values her company is named after are more needed than ever.

"It started with the ideals that are the main drivers of successful businesses," she said.

Contact Contact Erika Stutzman at stutzmane@dailycamera.com or (303) 473-1354.
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