From Working In His Father’s Hardware Store, James Goodnight Grew Up To Own One Of The Biggest Analytics Software Firm In The World.


James Goodnight

Success is built on consistency, and consistency requires dedication. It takes genuine passion to fuel dedication. Once the passion gets weak, the dedication towards a vision gets drained of its energy.


James Goodnight had a passion, and he took his time to learn all about his passion till he was able to discover his full potential.


This is the inspirational story of James Goodnight, the co-founder and former CEO of SAS. In this story, you would learn how James found his passion, how he was able to develop his dream, and how he was finally able to achieve his dream.




James Goodnight was born in Salisbury, North Carolina on January 6, 1943. He was an exciting baby boy born into the family of Albert Goodnight and Dorothy Patterson. James grew up like every little child in Greensboro.


The only difference between James and other kids was that he was a bit smarter than his peers.


James lived a comfortable live with his family in Greensboro until he turned 12. His family decided to move out of Greensboro to find better comfort in Wilmington.


James intellectual advancement at a young age didn’t come from any generic inheritance. He was exposed to certain knowledge because he used to work at his father’s hardware store.


This experience didn’t just expose him to a foreign knowledge; it also sparked a passion for technology in his heart. James found himself learning more hardware and software even before his University education.


When James Goodnight eventually got an admission to North Carolina State University, he continued his technology journey by applying to study a computer course.


Since James already had a basic knowledge before his University level, studying became a lot easier for him. In fact, he already started getting jobs to earn a living while in school.


One of his first jobs was writing software programs for the agricultural economics.


While working on different projects, James always ended up discovering new things. He kept this up till he finally graduated from North Caroline State University.


As much as James Goodnight had loved technology, he wasn’t eager to start a company or sort out for a white collar job just yet.


Maybe he didn’t have any sort of plan at that time, and he refused to be pressurized to making any hasty decision.


So instead of walking down the career path, he decided to increase his knowledge in computer.


After his University education, James went ahead for his master’s degree in statistics, and graduated distinctively in 1968.


He took a quick break after the completion of his master’s program to quickly work a job. He started working for a company where he was tasked with electronic equipment for the ground stations that communicated with the Apollo space capsules.


After working at this company for a while, James realized he still had more to learn before deciding to handle his career effectively.


In 1972, James Goodnight started his Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University where he had earlier completed his University education. In 1976, he earned a PhD degree in statistics, and was finally able to progress his career at a turbo speed.



James Goodnight

At a point in James Goodnight’s life, he would have figured that clearing the hurdles of education is not a guarantee that he would be given a free pass to success.


He knew he still had to work hard, and luckily for him he has been doing that even before completing his education.


James was working with a faculty at North Carolina State University during his PhD program. He worked on a research that concerned the creation of a general purpose statistical analysis system, which would be used to analyze agricultural data.


The project was termed SAS, and it was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture.


While James Goodnight was heading the project, he used the opportunity as a medium to gain all the knowledge and experience he needed to start his own company. He took his time to understand the pros and cons, so he could calculate the potential of his success in the business.



James Goodnight

It took James many years of patience and analyses to finally kick start his vision. At every point where he could have chosen an opportunity to execute an idea, or start a career, he took a step back till he was finally ready to face it.


After staying with the faculty for some time, James left the University with three of his colleagues to form an analytics software firm of their own in 1976. They retained the name they had originally used during the project at the university, and named the company SAS Institute.


They didn’t have the facilities to afford a big space yet. So they started small, using an office that was across the University’s street.


James Goodnight managed the company as the CEO, and he was able to use his accumulated experience to lead the business to success.


– SAS institute was able to grow its worth to $138,000 in its first year. This gave them the chance to expand that space, and develop their facilities.


– In 1981, they started increasing in size, and reached their 100-employee milestone.


– In 1993, SAS institute grew its market capitalization to $420 million. It was now looking good for James and his company. The company was already brought into the public market, and they were accepted almost immediately.


– In 2010, the company was already worth $2.43 billion. This growth was due to James’ good work in the company. He served as CEO of the company for 35 years before stepping down to oversee other things.


– The company’s products are used by over 80,800 organizations, and in 2021, the company recorded revenue of $3.2 billion.


– James Goodnight’s current net worth is estimated at $7.3 billion, giving him a position as one of the richest men in the world.


While running the company, James received offers from various bodies who wanted to acquire the SAS. However, James refused to give out the company because he already saw the potential of the company had in future.


After James stepped down from being CEO he focused on his other interest, which was education. He wanted to significantly contribute to this sector, as education has been part of the determining factors that helped him to success.


The story of James Goodnight started with patience, which is just one of the virtues he possessed in achieving his goal. There’s a level of dedication that comes with actualizing your goal, and James carried out each level with focus.


– Patience is a golden rule to achieving your goal. Rome wasn’t built in a day, just as your dream won’t be fulfilled from the moment you have the vision. You need to wait and watch the seed of your hard work germinate.


– Expand your knowledge. Read books, go out and connect, watch videos related to your vision. An isolated idea won’t get you far. You need to be open-minded and be ready to gain new knowledge. This would help speed up the development of your startup.


– Make up your mind and be firm on your decisions. The more loose ends you leave the more weak the foundation to your vision becomes. Exert authority, and don’t show off your weakness or insecurities.


– Do not wait for “a right time”. To be honest, there is no such thing as a right time. The more you wait, the more time you waste. If you keep waiting for the right time, that time might never come. Instead of waiting for the right time, why not just start now? Make that move before it is too late.


– Follow your passion. You must have passion for what you. The journey will be tough, and only your passion can keep you motivated. If the passion doesn’t exist, then you’re liable to give up faster when the trials become overwhelming.


– Avoid limiting your dreams to your comfort zone. It is better to fail in your originality, than to succeed in limitation. If James had wanted, he would have found a job after his University education, and lived a normal life.


However, he didn’t want to be chain himself to limitations.

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.


James was tough, and he remained unscathed despite the hard work he had to put into his vision. He would appreciate his young self for the dedication that was invested in his vision, because today, he is reaping the harvest bountifully.


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