by Tina Manzer
Jan Rogers built a global company from a paperplate prototype. The former stay-at-home mom believed her invention could help people, and it is; it has been helping people for 25 years. Time Timer is used by millions of people worldwide, from learners of all ages and abilities to busy adults striving for efficiency and focus.
The road to market wasn’t easy for a woman with zero business experience. She didn’t even balance her own checkbook! But every time Jan heard “no” in reference to her simple, problem-solving idea, she became more resolute to produce it.
We call her the Timeinator.
What risks are worth taking?
Those that you are 100-percent committed to. Anything less is not worth it.
When people come to you for help, what do they usually want help with?
If it is with regard to building a business, they want to know how/where to start.
Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?
I think I had to be both when I started Time Timer. As a hunter, I had to find my market and beat the bushes to find an engineer and fabricator. As a gatherer, I had to parcel together all the information I gained through market and product research into a workable design and implementation plan.
What is something your friends would consider “so you”?
Most of my friends still don’t really know I do what I do because in my home context, I don’t talk about it much. It would be a surprise to them that my little idea has grown into the successful company that it is.
But if they knew my company culture, I think the part they would consider the most typical of me is that even my business relationships are very important to me, whether they are with staff, distributors, manufacturers or direct customers.
What gets you fired up?
In a negative way, manufacturing glitches or delays. In a positive way, conversations with customers about how our products are making their lives easier. I love the hugs I get at conferences from the folks who have used the Time Timer for years and are meeting me for the first time. Their gratitude and enthusiasm “fire me up.”
What challenging thing are you working through these days?
The most challenging part of my life right now is semiretirement. I do go into the office every day and insert myself where needed, but occupying myself out of the office is a new process. So much of my life for the last 25 years has been devoted to Time Timer, both in the office and travel, I have to learn how to be a member of my community again. Though I am still involved in the creative collaboration and problem solving in a limited way, I do miss putting out fires. That said, the fires are so much different now and require a skill set that is way beyond flying by the seat of my pants!
What book are you currently reading and why do you like it?
I’m embarrassed to say that my book reading has not returned to the level of pre-Time Timer – yet another way I need to ease into my retirement activities.
The last big reading project I had was assigned to me by my grandchildren – I was told I needed to read the Harry Potter series so they could talk to me about the books that they had all read multiple times. I got to book five and hit a wall. I will pick it up again this summer … maybe.
What I enjoyed the most about the books was the creativity in the word pictures of the creatures and complex “wizarding.” I still haven’t seen the movies and am anxious to see how true to the book’s descriptions they have portrayed the monsters.
What is your favorite movie of all time?
Oh my, how to pick just one! There are those that made me laugh out loud like “Airplane” and “Napoleon Dynamite.” Those that are beautiful and poignant like “Dr. Zhivago,” and those that taught us how to “make every moment count” like “The Notebook” or “Cocoon.” Then there are all the wonderful Disney and Pixar movies that became favorites just because I was with my grandchildren.
What are some of the events in your life that made you who you are?
I had a quiet, middleclass upbringing with traditional values and education, surrounded by a loving family. Those were the building blocks which are the foundation of who I am. The main life event that led to the pursuit of the Time Timer as a product and business was the impact music had on my self-discovery. As a very low-key girl with little self confidence, I tended to stay in the background. When I auditioned for a volunteer choir as an adult, I was encouraged to develop a talent I didn’t know I had. As a novice singer, I studied voice and learned how to read music, which built on a vocal instrument that I thought was commonplace.
As my voice grew stronger I became part of a professional, classical vocal group. The confidence I gained in this process and from a mentor who kept pushing me to stand out from the crowd, was the foundation I needed to begin the Time Timer evolution. The persistence and stubbornness that were part of my character were then backed up by the knowledge that I could stand in front of one person or many and project a confident message.
The gratitude I have for the part music has played in my life is great, and I am a strong advocate for the importance of the arts in the education of our children.
What inspires you?
Seeing a need that I think has not yet been filled. I don’t always have the answer, but I love the pursuit of an idea.