Peter Coad, founder and chairman of the highly successful Triangle software company TogetherSoft, says he looked up from writing an article about strategy last Friday and thought, “Hey, I’m having fun.”

Coad, 48, tells Local Tech Wire that contrary to some rumors floating around in the Triangle, he relishes his new role and personally instigated his switch from chief executive officer to chief strategy officer in February.

Coad was out of the country at an invitation-only meeting of CEOs and chairmen from U.S. and European information technology firms in Switzerland when the TogetherSoft announced the change. His absence at the time of the announcement may have fueled speculation that the move was involuntary.

“I knew about it before leaving,” Coad says. “It was already set up. I really wanted to be away from the day-to-day running to the business.”

In January, Coad says he approached TogetherSoft’s board about the need to find a management professional to act as CEO. “I raised the issue a couple of times in the last year.”

TogetherSoft, which sells Together ControlCenter, a software development tool that helps simplify and integrate design, deployment, debugging and administering complex software applications, reported 2001 revenues of $47 million in an economy sour to technology offerings.

TogetherSoft drew $20 million in venture capital in March last year from Boston and California-based TA Associates and other investors.

Time to make the switch

With 4,000 customers, including eight of the top 10 Fortune 500, and sales up 81 percent over 2000, Coad says he told the board it was time to make the switch.

“I’m a strategist,” Coad says. “Building a company and being a CEO is exciting. But you play different roles at different times. It’s part of the process.

“I’m aware of what I’m really good at. You have to have a different role so you can do what only you can do at a world-class level.”

What he does at a world-class level is the proverbial “vision thing,” that led to TogetherSoft’s creation and will have much to do with its evolution, he says.

“I admire those who have the ability to manage the day-to-day machine,” Coad says. “I admire people who have done it half a dozen times. They understand all the patterns, which adds so much value to a company.”

Coad says he personally suggested his replacement as interim CEO, John R. “Beau” Vrolyk, a 30-year business veteran. Most recently, Vrolyk served as president and CEO of IP storage vendor 3ware, Inc. in Mountain View, Ca.

Still an insider

Coad points out that he also didn’t lose power in the move. Quite the contrary, in fact.

“The CEO reports to the board and I’m chairman. Leadership is influence, no more, no less. I have more influence in this new role at TogetherSoft, not less.”

Vrolyk, who lives in the Bay area of California, is “interim” CEO because he does not wish to permanently relocate his family from California, Coad says. “He says if he wanted to move to the East Coast he’d come here, but he’s not moving.”

But one of the reasons Coad wanted Vrolyk for the interim job is that he knows how Coad feels about his company.

“Beau has done this before. His first company was a start-up he built up to about where we are. Then his board decided to hand off to a CEO who drove it into the ground. So he has a willing ear and we spend a lot of time consulting back and forth.”

Coad is known worldwide as a business strategist and model builder. He authored six books on building better software, speaks at industry events internationally, and edits “The Coad Letter” and the “Coad Series” of books forthcoming from Pentice Hall. He is currently writing a book on effective business strategies for technology companies.

The hunt for a permanent CEO at TogetherSoft goes on weekly, Coad says. It seeks a CEO who has taken companies expand from $50 million to $100 million in sales. “It’s challenging to recruit executive talent to Raleigh,” Coad says.

Investment bankers and others often mention TogetherSoft in the financial community as a possible candidate for and Initial Public Offering of stock.

“It’s great not to be a public company at this time,” Coad says. “We’ll continue to put models and processes in place creating a reliable business. Should a real public market for technology company IPOs emerge at some point, there are lots of things we’d like to do in a bigger, broader way. The whole point of going public is that the added cash lets you move and grow the company.”

The TogetherSoft Web site: