Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer
As the CEO of SAS, the world’s leading business analytics software vendor, Jim Goodnight has led the company since its inception in 1976, overseeing an unbroken chain of revenue growth and profitability that is unprecedented in the industry. Under his leadership, SAS has become renowned for its innovation and corporate culture. His commitment to work-life balance has made SAS a fixture on best workplaces lists worldwide, including No. 1 on the Fortune list for the US and No. 1 on the Great Place to Work Institute’s multinational ranking.
SAS® software was originally created by Goodnight and North Carolina State University colleagues to analyze agricultural research data. Four decades later, a solid reputation for innovation has secured SAS among the world’s largest software companies. Goodnight continues this commitment to breakthrough technology by reinvesting about a quarter of total revenue each year in research and development, nearly double the percentage of other large software companies.
The company’s strategy to provide an environment where employees can reach peak performance has been showcased in Harvard Business Review. Goodnight co-authored “Managing for Creativity” with author Dr. Richard Florida, asserting that companies prosper when they make the best use of their creative capital. "Innovation is the key to success in this business, and creativity fuels innovation," he said. "Creativity is especially important to SAS because software is a product of the mind. Ninety-five percent of my assets drive out the gate every evening. It's my job to maintain a work environment that keeps those people coming back every morning."
Born on Jan. 6, 1943, in Salisbury, NC, Goodnight has strong and dedicated ties to his home state. He earned his bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics and his master’s in statistics from North Carolina State University (NCSU). He also earned his doctorate in statistics at NCSU, where he was a faculty member from 1972 – 1976. His passion for learning led him to endow several NCSU professorships and make education the focus of SAS' philanthropy. In 1997 he co-founded Cary Academy, an independent college preparatory day school for students in grades six through 12, with the goal of creating a model school for integrating technology into all facets of education.
A champion of education reform, Goodnight spearheaded the creation of a national Business Roundtable report calling on business leaders to support and advocate for efforts to improve early learning and third-grade reading proficiency. In North Carolina, he rallied a group of CEOs to the cause, which contributed to increases in funding that allow more eligible children to enter the state’s high-quality prekindergarten program. Under his direction, SAS has focused on helping students, educators and independent learners develop sought-after skills through innovative programs, partnerships and technology offerings.
Harvard Business School named Goodnight a Great American Business Leader for his role in making SAS a business that changed the way Americans lived, worked and interacted over the last several decades. He was also named one of America’s 25 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs by Inc. magazine. Goodnight is an active participant in the Business Roundtable and the Business Council, where CEOs address global issues and business concerns.