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Solving everyday problems

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

The wisdom of Eileen Gittins is that she keeps learning.

Gittins, whose early passions included photography and technology, first talked her way into a marketing job at Kodak, where her startup—developing imaging software for the pharmaceutical industry—was too far ahead of its time.

She went on to launch two successful companies: Salsa and Personify.

Before her next act, Gittins played around with digital cameras and wanted to compile a bound photo album for a few dozen people. She talked to printers, but they were set up to produce 5,000 copies of one book, not 5,000 different books.

“That clarified my thinking,” she says. “I’m a systems person. How do you build book-designing software for people who aren’t book designers?”

She worked on the problem for two years. Many were profoundly skeptical of going “backwards” from digital to print.

In 2004, Gittins launched Blurb, where anybody can produce a pocket-size book for $2.95 or a coffee table book for about $200. Business is almost doubling every year.

Lesson: Be your own customer.

— Adapted from “Blurb: Helping the World Tell ­Stories,” Eileen Gittins, as told to John Brant, Inc.

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