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Spectrum Keeps Leadership in Family Hands

August 15, 2006
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Next month’s executive changes at HR software firm Spectrum Human Resource Systems are less revolution than evolution. In fact, Spectrum’s top post isn’t even leaving the family.

The Denver-based vendor, which focuses on selling human resource management systems to midsize companies, recently announced that founder, chief executive officer and chairman Jim Spoor is stepping aside as CEO effective September 1. In addition, his wife, Nancy, is retiring from her post as executive vice president and COO.

Their daughter, Sybll Romley, is taking over as CEO. Matt Keitlen, who is not a member of the Spoor family, will become executive vice president and COO.

The change should be a positive one for Spectrum clients, says Nov Omana, an industry consultant and chairman of the International Association for Human Resource Information Management professional group. Omana says Jim Spoor has established a reputation as a solid businessman and mentor in the field, and Sybll seems likely to extend the family legacy.

"From everything I’ve seen, she is her father’s daughter," he says.

Founded in 1984, Spectrum concentrates on selling HR management applications to companies with 500 to 5,000 employees. It offers to install software on a customer’s own computers or host products remotely, allowing clients access to the application via the Internet.

Spectrum employs about 110 people, primarily in Denver. It has been profitable for all but one of its years. And business is healthy at the moment. Revenue rose 11 percent last year and is on pace to grow another 20 percent in 2006, the company says.

Jim Spoor prides himself on having been a leader through various eras of HR software, including the shift to Web-based applications. Earlier this year, IHRIM gave Spoor its Summit Award for long-term contributions to the HR technology field. But Spoor, who only will admit to being over 55, says he is ready to ease back on the day-to-day demands of running the business.

"I’m looking forward to getting some more fly-fishing in," he says.

Jim and Nancy Spoor remain majority owners of Spectrum. Other family members and employees also have ownership stakes. All three of the Spoors’ daughters work at Spectrum, as do two sons-in-law.

Keeping control of a business within a family risks charges of nepotism and leadership that’s been bestowed rather than earned with hard work. But Sybll Romley, who has worked at Spectrum for about two decades, says it’s obvious that family favoritism isn’t a factor at the firm.

"Family members at Spectrum work twice as hard to prove that they truly earned the position," she says.

Romley has more work ahead. Paul Hamerman, an analyst at Forrester Research, says Spectrum faces competition from big software vendors SAP and Oracle, who are looking to serve smaller customers, and companies that already focus on midsize and smaller firms, such as Sage Software and Employease. "They’re kind of in a cauldron," he says.

Ed Frauenheim

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