For husband and wife team behind Alphanumeric, the key to success is compromise

dranii@newsobserver.comApril 19, 2014 

Alphanumeric Systems CEO Karen Braswell and her husband of 33 years, Harvey Braswell, president, have led the Raleigh company for five years.


After nearly 33 years of marriage, Karen and Harvey Braswell have figured out how to make decisions jointly.

“The good and bad news is, we are both very strong people,” said Karen Braswell, 59. “One isn’t being run over by the other. … So we have to know when to back down and come to the middle and talk and compromise.”

It also helps that both of them believe in making a decision quickly rather than agonizing over it.

“The worst thing we can do is not make a decision,” Harvey Braswell said. “If you make a decision and it’s wrong, you can change that decision.”

They decided to purchase Alphanumeric Systems from founder Darleen M. Johns in 2009 after Harvey Braswell retired from his job as executive vice president of global sales and marketing at Affiliated Computer Services.

“I failed retirement,” said Harvey Braswell, 68. “I was bored. … I can’t play but so much golf and serve on boards and all that.”

Being engaged in running a business has been especially important for Harvey Braswell lately. He’s been awaiting a kidney transplant for six months.

“Other than needing a kidney transplant, my health overall is very, very good,” he said.

Karen Braswell has talked to her husband about backing away from the business a bit to focus on his health, but he would have none of it.

“I’m glad I have the company, because it gives me something to focus on,” he said. “I have to do something. I have to be challenged.”

Together the Braswells own 100 percent of the company, but Karen Braswell, a former systems analyst for Exxon and Electronic Data Systems, is majority owner and CEO. Harvey Braswell is president.

Johns, a former president of the National Association of Women Business Owners, wanted the company to remain woman-owned “if at all possible,” Karen Braswell said.

In addition, a company owned by a woman has its advantages as businesses seek diversity among their vendors.

Being “a woman-owned business was something that allowed us to compete with larger companies,” Harvey Braswell said.

Ranii: 919-829-4877

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