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Return to: 2001 Feature Stories

CLIENT: ADVANCED PERSONNEL SYSTEMS, INC.

AUG. 10, 2001: San Diego Daily Transcript

SOFTWARE COMPANY FOUNDER STAYS COOL IN ROLLER COASTER ECONOMY

Doug Coull is as composed and collected a character as the pronunciation of his last name.

As founder and top executive of an Oceanside-based software company that serves employment agencies and corporate human resource departments, Coull's company has been put through a roller coaster ride unlike he's seen in sometime.

Coull's company, Advanced Personnel Systems Inc., offers an application that stores resumes and ranks them based on given commands for large employers. APS' database, which is in Oceanside, has more than 500,000 resumes on file.

Yet, since the technology bubble burst in April 2000, things haven't been all roses for the privately held firm.

While APS has met Coull's goals every quarter, he said, April produced no new business, but rebounded in June when the company posted one of its best months ever. Clients of APS include Sharp Healthcare, Copper Mountain Networks Inc., and the staffing service, Adecco International.

"I think that in general the impact (of the economy) has been more psychological, like people were afraid so they pulled back," he said. "But what they then came to realize was OK, the economy's bad, but we still need to recruit people, we still have employment needs, we still have a need to find people quickly."

Now Coull is ready to roll out his software to Europe. He recently hired Leavitt Communications of Fallbrook to market the company in Europe through the firm's partners in Germany and France. APS already has sales offices in Los Angeles and Arizona.

It's Coull's wit and humor that belittles the risk he is about to take head on.

"I try not to sleep here anymore," he said from his office. "We used to pull a lot of all-nighters, but we try not to do that anymore. I hire people now and they do that."

Coull, 45, is the older of two boys from a military family that spent time in Spain before settling in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota when Coull was 9 years old. His father was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force.

Throughout high school, Coull was deeply committed to his school's debate team.

"I think it's helped me because debate hones your competitive edge. It teaches you to think on your feet," he said. "I'm a glib person, so it came naturally to me."

It also determined his decision on college. Coull received so many scholarships from universities as a result of his skills in debate that the college he eventually attended -- small Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. -- waived his entrance exams. At the time, Augustana had 2,000 students.

"Another thing was that because they were small I knew I'd be on the top team and I wouldn't have to wait. I wanted to be the big man on campus," he said.

Coull's need for words is also evident at APS. The company has about half a dozen sales people, but the clients rarely see them. Instead, Coull prefers they make sales pitches over the phone. It's harder to close deals that way, Coull admits, but the time they spend in the office allows them to make additional pitches and complete other tasks.

"So, it's a numbers game and we might not be able to close as many as we could, but we do a lot more," he said.

In his spare time, Coull works on his cars. He has six in all, including three convertibles, and he always finds time to take them out.

"One of them I consider my daily driver -- I don't drive it that much," he said. "I like to get out the other ones a lot more."

Coull's favorite car is a 1971 Plymouth Barracuda. Although Coull doesn't belong to a car club, he and his boys, ages 10 and 8, do attend car rallies in and around their home in Vista.

"My kids really like that," he said.

It was shortly after Coull graduated from college that he moved to California from the Midwest. The idea of moving, however, was something he had been contemplating for some time.

"A lot of my friends that were in (debate) were going to go on to become attorneys and a lot of the guys that graduated before me seemed like they didn't really like what they were doing," he said. "So when I got out of college, I was like, I could do that but I don't know what I want to do.

"So one day I just threw everything in the trailer and drove to California. I was tired of freezing my butt off all the time and that was my decision. And I've never regretted coming out here."

Return to: 2001 Feature Stories