Dan Fine is one of the early Internet veterans in town and has founded multiple successful businesses using well-developed strategic plans. He founded fine.com, the first company to be named a “dot com” in 1994 without angel or venture capital funding. Dan guided the company thru an IPO in 1997 to an acquisition by Aris Corporation in 1999. He continued as VP of Global Marketing at Aris before co-founding Bot, Inc. where, as the CEO, Dan raised a seed round of $2.8 million.
In September 2002, Dan co-founded In2Gr8 Corporation with a mission to become an early leading Microsoft Business Solutions company. The company raised $22 million from four venture capitalists and merged the company with EYT, formerly Ernst & Young Technologies. At EYT, Dan founded the Axapta practice. EYT orchestrated a merger with ePartners out of Dallas.
After the merger with ePartners, Dan launched Fine Solutions. The company is focused on delivering Microsoft Dynamics AX, GP and CRM in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. In 2017, the company surpassed 45 employees, $12 million in revenue, and has over 550 clients. He sold the company to Encore Business Solutions and has joined their team.
Each year, the company has had impressive growth making the Inc.’s fastest-growing private companies list nine years in a row.
Dan has received several awards for his solid business planning, including Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and Small Business Person of the Year Award by SBA in 1999. Dan graduated from Washington State University with a BA in English, and lives in Edmonds, Washington. He is married, an avid hiker, dog lover, and has two adult daughters.
How did the concept for Fine Solutions come about?
I had started a company called In2Gr8 (integrate). This company was a professional service firm to help clients with the Great Plains ERP/finance systems. Three Microsoft employees came to me and wanted to start a company and have me be the CEO to service this market after Microsoft purchased Great Plains and renamed it Dynamics. We raised $22 million and got the company off the ground. We quickly merged with EYT – Ernst & Young Technologies. The venture capitalists brought in their own CEO and merged us with ePartners (a company in really bad shape). I left to start Fine Solutions to continue doing the same thing, but focused just on the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
What was your marketing strategy?
We wanted to be on the top rung of the ladder for the Microsoft Dynamics field in our geography. We did airport advertising, sponsored NPR, built a relational database and used direct marketing, sponsored the user groups, and we threw spectacular parties.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
The first couple of years, we doubled or tripled in size. Then, we kept up a pretty robust growth path, and made the Inc. fastest-growing companies list nine years in a row.
How do you define success?
Happy employees and happy clients.
What is the key to success?
It’s having an outward mindset, as well as attracting employees and clients that also want to have an outward mindset (see Arbinger).
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Listen to your instinct. Don’t let other’s sway you away from them when you feel that they are wrong.
What are some quotes that you live by?
“Winners never quit and quitters never win.”
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
During the recession, having to bring your managers together and tell them we needed to go without pay or we will have to do layoffs, and possibly not be able to pay our employees.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I have this weird obsession with trying to get over hurdles. The bigger the hurdle, the better. If you are creative enough, work hard enough, you can almost always succeed…and you will never succeed if you don’t move forward.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
The pool is never warm. What I mean is that if you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to jump in, no matter how cold it is. It will be up to you to get things moving forward, and it will take longer than you think. You need to keep going, no matter what gets thrown in your way. Eventually, you will build momentum and then things will start to roll.
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This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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