Over the past three decades, serial entrepreneur Rob Gierkink, founder of DataLogix, also co-founded ventures that became three of the world’s largest cross-merchant loyalty programs. Under his leadership as CEO, Loyalty Management Group (LMG), grew to over $400 million in revenues in under six years and was later acquired by the Canadian Group Aeroplan for $750 million cash transaction. Now an Executive-in-Residence at General Catalyst Partners, Gierkink uses his operational experience and domain expertise to support data analytics businesses. In an unabridged conversation, Shikhar Ghosh and Gierkink discuss common challenges CEOs face when scaling their ventures. Gierkink shares his observations on how the CEO’s role evolves, focusing especially on the areas of hiring wisely, leadership challenges, and managing your board. Faced with the task of letting go of those who, over time, proved not to be a good fit for the venture, he provides tactical advice for CEOs about how—and when—to fire. A lightly edited transcript follows the video.
Rob Gierkink interviewed by Shikhar Ghosh on October 18, 2018, at Klarman Studios, Harvard Business School.
Practical Tips for Scaling CEOs: Rob Gierkink on Evolving Roles, Managing Your Board, Recruiting & Firing
SHIKHAR GHOSH: So Rob, tell me something about your entrepreneurial journey so far.
ROB GIERKINK: Sure. So, I graduated from the business school here in 1991, and at that point, it was a little unusual to become an entrepreneur right out of school. I think like much less so now. But I started a company with two other guys, out of school here.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: And so you decided not to do McKenzie or any of the standard stuff.
ROB GIERKINK: Yep, yep.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: But just went straight in.
ROB GIERKINK: Yep, and then floated the idea off a couple of professors here and talked to them about it, it was a company– And I wanted to find something that I found an interest in, but also that I felt had, a lot—a bit of a runway. So I ended up joining a company that was already established in the UK but was starting a new business in Canada. I’m Canadian, so I went back there, and it’s a business branded Air Miles. It has about 65% of Canadian households now actively collecting its currency at grocery stores, gasoline stations, and the bank.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: It’s like green stamps almost, right.
ROB GIERKINK: We took, basically, the idea of green stamps and turned it into an electronic version with a database and the ability to market the customers based on a database. And the original reward, if you wind the clock back to, to the value of air travel back in the early ’90s, the original reward was just, just free air travel. It’s expanded to a whole bunch of other things now, but it’s turned into, you know, a large business and a big brand in Canada. And I’ve stayed with that theme for 26 years now. I’m not the most creative person. So I decided to kinda stick with one thing so I did Air Miles in Canada then moved to the Netherlands and launched a program branded Air Miles in Holland and then did one in the U.K., a different branding called-
SHIKHAR GHOSH: Nectar.
ROB GIERKINK: Nectar, yep, which is identical in terms of its content but each time we did it we got better and better at doing it. And we kind of, you know, took the best things of each past program and, and, and utilized those. And then in, having a lot of experience with large retailers and with item-level data that consumer packaged goods companies are interested in, when I moved back to the U.S. in 2006, I parked myself at a D.C. firm here in Cambridge, called General Catalyst Partners. And worked on this idea where we would take skew-level data from large retailers and then help those retailers to market to their customers in a one-to-one manner, by utilizing digital marketing and digital targeting, and then help the P&G’s of the world be able to reach their customers with a display out on the web or some messaging on Facebook based on the customer’s purchase behavior at Wal-Mart or, or Kroger.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: So you’re combining the off-line with the on-line.
ROB GIERKINK: Correct, ’cause nobody ever done that. People had done it in small—kind of experiments—but nobody had really done it at scale before. So we worked on that as an idea. I spent two years at General Catalyst. A lot of that, because I’d spent so much time in this, the supermarket world. It was talking to potential customers, talking to supermarkets. Say okay, “If we could solve this problem, and allow you to, when you wanna speak to a customer, based on their purchase behavior in your store, right now, your only tool is direct mail, we’d like to, to allow you to be able to do that with a digital display add at, like, 1/40 the cost.”
SHIKHAR GHOSH: Right.
ROB GIERKINK: The interest-level on that was very high, and the resulting interest-level, from the likes of P&G, to do that kind of targeting was, also, very high. So we looked at doing that as a startup. The people at GC I was working with were very interested in having us buy a company to, kind of, accelerate things. I’d only ever done startups before so we found a company to buy in Colorado that was doing the exact same thing but with catalogers.
ROB GIERKINK: So, taking item-level data from 1,200 different catalogers, analyzing and selling it back to them to make their catalogs more targeted. So, basically, 175 people working at this 27 million dollar, top-line company in Colorado that could do exactly what we wanted to do. We just needed to point it at a different opportunity that was much bigger than catalogs. We’re talking of P&G and CPGs and supermarkets. So, we had some conversations with that company. The recession came along, and you know, the operating leverage is a wonderful thing when revenues are going up. It’s a really bad thing when revenues are going down. And I think catalogers running into the Great Recession– the revenues fell 40%, year-over-year.
So we, we were able to buy the company at a very reasonable price but revenues had fallen 40%, year-over-year and we took it from 18 million in revenue to, in subsequent years, 28, 35, 54, 83, and, then, 134, when we sold it to Oracle about three-and-a-half years ago.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: Great.
ROB GIERKINK: But all of these things are in the same space, so I’ve kinda stayed in the same space for a long time.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: You must be the world’s top loyalty expert. Literally.
ROB GIERKINK: I don’t know. There’s a lot of people in loyalty. Funny enough, a lot of people that have gone on to careers in that space have come from a handful of companies like the Canadian Air Miles business and the Dutch business and have gone on to do other things in different countries. But there’s a fair number of people but I’d be in that group. I guess.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: So, you know, one of the things that’s unusual about your career, is you picked one field and you’ve done this now for 30 years or so.
ROB GIERKINK: Yeah.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: How do you contrast that? You know, what’s the benefit and the cost of that versus someone who says, “I’m an entrepreneur, I’m gonna start a space company and a solar company and a payments company.”
ROB GIERKINK: Right.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: Something else.
ROB GIERKINK: Well, I wish I could say it was all planned. But, you know, I did find when I was leaving school here that I wanted to work in a space that had a long runway and potential to kind of grow for a long period of time. And the loyalty and particularly the data side of that has really turned out to be true.
So, the huge advantage of that is—I’ve found that as I’ve gone through my career, I’ve been through six companies now and six assets, and each time it’s gotten easier and easier. Because, you know, with data logics I was able to get meetings with the largest retailers in the country because of the track record I’d had with Air Miles and Nectar in the UK and people would want to have a meeting with me to see what I was working on next. So, getting me to.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: So, it’s possible that a lot of the people that you started with, who were sort of junior or mid-level are now running their companies?
ROB GIERKINK: For sure. Yeah, yeah. And the credibility that goes with, you know, getting meetings, getting funding, hiring, you know, people– they see that you’ve had a track record in that specific space, and as I say, in my opinion, it’s gotten easier and easier, although the exits have gotten larger and larger. So that, to me, it wasn’t planned. But it certainly worked out that way. And it would have been much more difficult to go from one industry to the next, to the next and try to continually build new relationships, new expertise, new pathways to higher quality people. All those things, in my opinion, would be much more difficult.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: So, if you were advising somebody who’s, you know, out of school, starting something new, what would you, given your experience, what would you say to them?
ROB GIERKINK: Something with—you know, as I say, a long runway—something with a lot of growth in front of it. Try to avoid industries that are very mature, but look for something that you think is going to have a tremendous amount of growth for ten, fifteen, twenty years, and obviously something you enjoy too. But, if you can keep buying those things, a real enjoyment for the industry or the space that you want to get into, and it’s something that’s promising, that’s gonna run for a while, it’s just everything gets easier.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: But that’s true when everything is worked out well.
ROB GIERKINK: Yeah.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: If you’ve had a couple of big blowups and so on in the industry, then that would have been a lot more difficult.
ROB GIERKINK: For sure, without question. But growth in an industry covers over a lot of mistakes. You know, you can as an entrepreneur make a lot of mistakes or make mistakes and they get covered by the fact that things are growing so quickly. That you don’t have to be as precise in all of your decision-making, I think because the opportunity just keeps getting better. And you know, I’ve been able to go from country to country to country, and do a lot of the same things. Just, without– and, as I said before, I’m not the most creative person, so for me this was a great way to be an entrepreneur without having to come up with a huge idea that nobody ever thought of before. It was really about implementing and getting from A to B efficiently and quickly and faster than anybody else.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: Great. You’ve had a couple of companies that have grown really fast, right? Nectar just took off in the first three or four months.
ROB GIERKINK: Yeah.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: I think you said 50% of households.
ROB GIERKINK: Yeah, yeah. Collecting, yeah.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: What’s the experience like, to be scaling that fast?
ROB GIERKINK: It’s helped that I’ve been through these kinds of businesses before but what I found was, first of all, you’re always recruiting. Every single meeting I had, it didn’t matter whether I had nothing or a meeting with a potential customer. At the end of the meeting, I would always ask if they knew somebody if we had several important roles, one or two in particular roles that were really critical, we were having trouble feeling. At every single meeting, I’d ask if they knew anybody with that background.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: So, you are always building up a backlog of people.
ROB GIERKINK: Or trying to fill the void that’s there right now. But every meeting, always asking if you know somebody in this area. You’d be surprised even potential customers, everybody is flattered when you ask their opinion about, like, a hire or who you want to fill a role. People are and they’re very willing to help most of the time and I’ve had great experiences with that.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: ‘Cause they’re helping both sides. They’re helping the person.
ROB GIERKINK: They are.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: And they’re helping you.
ROB GIERKINK: Often, I’ve had people recommend other people within their companies, saying, you know, “I know they’re looking for something else. That person is really good. I’ve worked with him for five years. You should talk to them.” And I would. And that has resulted in several key hires and senior roles at the company. So, that I think is the fact that you’re recruiting all the time and the other big thing about scaling from a startup that– the first business that the Air Miles Canada business was evident and I learned from was that the people that you hire at the beginning are almost– most of them will not work out through the scaling process.
Because the people that– when you’re a startup, the people that you’re able to attract are really drawn to a more entrepreneurial environment and they don’t really want to be there through the scaling period. And the people that can scale a business don’t necessarily want to take the risk of being involved in a startup when it’s just three people or five people or ten people.
So you know, it’s a natural thing to, through the growth of the business, have people move along and do other things and bring another set of people in and sometimes it’s a whole scale change but that’s a very natural thing that. Yeah and the people that are there in the early days are often the ones that do the best financially because they’re the ones that are getting equity grants and options grants and stuff, earlier on.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: Isn’t it pretty hard though, you know, someone who has been with you in the trenches, has been doing the all-nighters, to tell them at some point, “you know where we’re going, your skills don’t matter.” It’s sort of, “you’ve done a really good job, but my judgment is that you won’t make the next step.” How do you do that?
ROB GIERKINK: Yes, it is hard. Often they know though, right? Like they’re not as satisfied with the job anymore. There’s still a lot of more people at the company, their role was this broad, they were working on everything, and now they’re working on this. So, often you’ll have those conversations and you’ll go into them really fearing the conversation but you’ll find that people are aware of that and they know when it’s time for them to go into something else. And you can help them get a soft landing. Help them find something else. You know, have a really amicable kind of separation. You know, virtually all the companies that I’ve been a part of, the percentage of people at turnover is from the beginning stages through to the scaling stages is pretty dramatic.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: Like 60%, 70%?
ROB GIERKINK: Yeah, yeah, easily. And, and sometimes you have to say to yourself– One of the things I’ve recognized is, as I’m working as a, you know, general manager of a company and it’s growing quickly, you’ve got to realize what your strengths and weaknesses are. Maybe you need to be replaced at some point too. You’ve got to be really open to that if you’re a founder. You’re typically a big owner of the company and you’ve got to be really honest with yourself about whether you’re the right person to be running the business at some point. And there aren’t a lot of people that can go from startup through to massive scale business. That’s a real special person.
So, what I find myself doing quite frequently is, sitting down when I’m doing work, and, and the business is going really quickly and we’re hiring a lot of people. And I would often have to say, “Well, I’m working on something, and should I really be doing this, this right now. Is it something that I could be delegating and developing, somebody that works for me, and have them do this?”
And, I find that it’s not, kind of, a linear path, but it’s almost in steps. Where every once in a while you sit down and you’ll say, “I really shouldn’t be doing these five things that I’m doing. I should turn those over to somebody else, and start taking a different role and coaching people more frequently.” And that’s something, I think, if you’re going to be a leader of a, of a fast-growth business, you have to ask yourself those questions quite frequently.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: And how can you ask yourself the really hard question of, am I the right person to take this to the next phase?
ROB GIERKINK: You look around and see if there’s anybody else that you think would be better. You know, with data logics, I started the company. I was the CEO. We made this acquisition of this company called Rato and the guy who was running that was a total superstar. Like everything, you’d ever want in a CEO. His name is Eric Rosa and I felt he was the right person to run the company, so I became the executive chairman and I helped as much as I could but, you know, that was pretty easy. I was the very large shareholder, and the business had this great opportunity in front of it, and he was the perfect guy to run it, so that’s not uh-
SHIKHAR GHOSH: You know, you’d mentioned the star step process.
ROB GIERKINK: Yeah.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: Are there particular points that you’ve noticed when, sort of the world changes and the scales required change? Is there any sort of rule of thumb or something?
ROB GIERKINK: Yeah. I think when you have to manage large groups of people that some people don’t adapt to that as well as others. That’s the days when you’re doing a whole bunch of things yourself and then you’ve got to start hiring people, and then you’re hiring people that are good at hiring people, and good at coaching people and good at managing people. It’s the doer versus the team leader where I think a lot of people don’t make the leap.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: I’ve looked at a bunch of companies and came up with this very rough role of three. Which is that at every power of three things change.
ROB GIERKINK: Right.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: You know, one to nine, nine to 30, or 27 to 80 or 100.
ROB GIERKINK: Right, right.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: Because the shape of the company changes, and the things the leader has to do changes pretty dramatically.
ROB GIERKINK: Right. And that’s a very good point. I would say that managing a company when it gets over 200 employees is very different from managing a company with under 200. There’s something that happens there that is a different scale and you can’t spin around as quickly and maybe you can’t get everybody in a room, but there’s something that happens when you get beyond 175 and you get to 300. It’s a very different type of business to manage.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: Yeah, if you go 80, 240, 6-700, you know, something sort of powers of three.
ROB GIERKINK: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. That’s why you’re the professor.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: And you talked about your recruiting all the time.
ROB GIERKINK: Yeah.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: ‘Cause you’re getting people in and they have to fit certain roles. Overall, of this recruiting, what have you learned about or what are some of the things that you’ve learned that early on you might have made mistakes, but later in the process or in the way you choose.
ROB GIERKINK: So, if you’re recruiting all the time the only thing you’re doing more frequently than that is selling and that includes recruits. So, when you’re recruiting somebody, you’re selling them more than– The way I try and sell them on the company more than I have them try to sell me. Usually, the person, by the time they get to me, has been through a bunch of layers of recruiting or has come from somebody highly recommended and I really try to get them excited and get them interested in the company and sold on this idea that the business is going to be successful. Because of that, often when they get to the general manager of a business, you’re really trying to close them, and you’re not so much testing them anymore.
And that selling, I would say is true for– You know as a CEO of a startup, you are always selling. You know, whether it be you’re [trying] to get funding, new customers, you know, recruiting, you’re always in at some level selling people on the vision of the business and what it could become.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: So if you, if you, sort of, flip that around and say that, when people think of interviewing, and you are the interviewer, normally, people’s mindset is what I’m doing is testing this person and seeing if they fit and what you’re saying is just the opposite.
ROB GIERKINK: Just the opposite. Because typically by the time I would see a person, when I’m a general manager of a business, they’ve been through three or four interviews and at that point, you just really want to make sure. I’ll test them a little bit but you’re really trying to make sure that that person is hired. You’re trying to get them excited about the opportunity and that they’re going to say yes when an offer is given to them. You know, if at that point, you know, I’m still testing the person I’m interviewing then there’s been a problem further down the chain, kind of you know, where people have done the interview process previously.
Because by the time they get to the CEO or the general manager, they should be, you know, the best candidate should be coming forward, should be somebody you’re ready to hire.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: What about when you’re hiring, you know, a chief financial officer, chief marketing officer or something?
ROB GIERKINK: Yeah.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: What are you looking for most in that?
ROB GIERKINK: Really, people whose opinion I highly respect who’s worked with that person before. You know, you can interview them. Headhunters are great but, again if I’m looking for a CFO, I’m asking everybody. Every board meeting we would go through the talk, people that we’re trying to hire at the company, and keep asking board members, “do you know anybody?” Board members typically– a lot of them sit on a lot of boards. They’ve seen a lot of CFOs, you know. So, we at Datalogic, we had a CFO leave, two weeks’ notice, and it was a real problem. And we had a board member who had been previously– Actually it was an HBS grad who had been in banking and at a BC firm. He was on our board. He put up his hand to take the job because he was excited about it.
But, always, always, always asking people, and I love to hire people that are highly referenced by people who I know really well.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: Yeah, you know, what’s really interesting is, in both these answers, you’ve talked about the task of creating a big poll of people, letting people know that you need them, and then the task of references, with less emphasis on the direct interview.
ROB GIERKINK: Yeah.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: Is that accurate?
ROB GIERKINK: Yeah. Yeah, no. It’s, it’s exactly that. It’s having a poll of people you go to, and when you’re with recruiting in particular, you’re selling as much as you’re interviewing. So, that to me has been very important in terms of getting the right people.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: Yeah, but somebody calls me for a reference or somebody just calls me or referencing somebody, I have no upside in saying anything bad about that person. So, how do you get people in the reference interview to give you sort of the real profile of this person?
ROB GIERKINK: Well, you ask them. You don’t wait to get a reference from somebody you’re interviewing. You ask them for somebody they think is world-class in a certain role. “Do you know a world-class CFO for a high growth company?” or “Lt me think about that. I know this guy would be great.” Now you’re not asking for a reference, you’re asking them to tell you—give me somebody you think would be a great candidate.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: Right.
ROB GIERKINK: ‘Cause you’re right there. There’s zero upside for giving a bad reference. You know, most references are very blunt. Almost useless right there, very blunt, but you’re asking for somebody that they would know, that they think would be a great person for a role.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: And when you’ve made a mistake with somebody, you’ve brought them in, you thought they’d be one way and for whatever reason, they’re not working out, how have you handled that?
ROB GIERKINK: Fix it quickly. You know, in days of necessity, and I’ve had that experience too, where you will– The one thing that’s certain about hiring is you would make mistakes and sometimes if it’s a direct report and you’ve been the person that’s said to the board, this is the right person to hire. It can be embarrassing to say I was wrong, but you just got to fix it. The more it lingers, the worse it is, right?
SHIKHAR GHOSH: And how much data experience do you need before you can just make that decision? ‘Cause it’s never black and white.
ROB GIERKINK: It’s not. But you get a gut feel pretty early. and then you have to let it play out a little bit. But if you pretty early on have a, you know, kind of a bad feeling in your stomach about this person you’ve just hired, in my experience it almost always doesn’t work out.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: Right. And it’s really something that’s in your gut, right? It’s just the way in which they answer the question, or
ROB GIERKINK: Yeah. How they fit in with the culture of the company, what they say sometimes. You just get a feel and I’ve almost always been right when I’ve, after hiring somebody, said,
“I’m not sure if that person is going to work out.” And then, usually, you know, it might take several weeks. It might take a couple of months but you lingering on it is never a good thing.
And it’s not the right thing for the person either, right? ‘Cause they’re not gonna be successful in that environment where they’re, you know, it’s not a good fit for them. And typically they know. Sometimes people don’t but it’s not the right thing for the person either.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: You’ve managed or been in a number of boards. You know, what have you learned about how to manage a board and how to work well with the boards, you’re getting the most out of it, and not getting surprised by that?
ROB GIERKINK: I think it’s very helpful to start from having– You know, a lot of companies raise a lot of money from a lot of different VC firms or PE firms and it’s much simpler to have money from fewer parties and know the firm really well and have the partner of the firm on our board because you’d have far fewer people to go to on every major decision. You’d have far fewer people in the background, saying “this shouldn’t be this way” or “I don’t like the way the company is doing this.” So, you know, smaller board with people that are active, and understand the business are far better than-
SHIKHAR GHOSH: And the small board is roughly?
ROB GIERKINK: Five.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: And a big board is eight or above?
ROB GIERKINK: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But, you know, too many firms, private equity, venture capital firms, invest in a business, [it] really complicates your life. You get to spend a lot of time explaining things that you’re doing to people, and everybody wants a board sit, and before you know you can’t get consensus on anything, and you want to do something major, you’ve got to call five different people to do it. It’s so much simpler to call two or three people and say “here’s what’s going on. I’d like to do this. Are you going to be okay with that?”
SHIKHAR GHOSH: Any rules for managing a board? Things that you’ve done over time that you’ve just said, “this is the way I want to manage this.”
ROB GIERKINK: Just always, always bring up bad news fast. If you’ve got bad news don’t hide it. That is, I think, death for a CEO.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: Before you have a solution to the problem. You know, something has gone sideways, you tell them, as soon as it’s gone sideways, you tell them when you’ve worked out what you’re gonna do.
ROB GIERKINK: Well, you might want to approach it this way and say, “look, this has just happened. I’m thinking of doing this or this, but I need to do some more research, but this has just happened, and you need to know about it” and people just don’t want to hear bad news like late. You know, because they’ve got their own people to report to on things, right? And, they don’t want to look silly. So, I just try and do it quickly and say, “we’re looking at this and this but I’ll keep you posted,” and people, I think, by and large, respect that more than– Nobody has got the right answer as soon as something goes wrong. It, you know, it takes a little thought.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: So, what about the board meeting versus, some people have said, at the board meeting, everyone should know everything that’s been discussed, and so you submit them before
ROB GIERKINK: Yeah.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: Do you do that, or, or once you’ve developed the relationship it’s more efficient to just use meeting?
ROB GIERKINK: You know, I find board meetings that are often useless might be too strong a word, but everything is so polished. So, back to the example with Datalogics, when I turned over the CEO role to this Eric Rosa, this great general manager, I became the chairman and, you know, by the time things get to the board and somebody is coming in to present to the board, maybe a mid-level manager, they’ve practiced their presentation for a week and everything is perfect and you don’t hear the things you want to hear as a board member. What I found to be much more helpful, as the chairman, was to, when the company had offsites, so they had a two- or three-day off-site, I will go and sit at the back of the room for the whole two or three days. Have dinner with people and stuff but just sit in the backroom and listen.
Not say a word, not undermine the credibility of the CEO by speaking all the time but sit in the back room and listen. I learned more about what was going on at the company. The true pulse of, you know, the sales. The woman who ran sales would get up and talk about customer experiences. I knew exactly what was going on at the company by just sitting back and listening. And then when you come to board meetings you’re so much more informed.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: And that doesn’t defect the quality of the management discussion, because you’re listening?
ROB GIERKINK: No. They forget you’re there. And they get to know you over dinner but if you just sit in the back, they really forget you’re there. And they do, you know. If you’re just at dinner and you’re a person and you’re talking with the kids and stuff then you’re not that board member who’s spying. You’re Rob in the back of the room, who doesn’t say anything.
You know, and that, to me is– because, it’s hard to show up at the board meetings four times a year or five times a year and really get the feel for the pulse of the company because you just won’t. And it’s hard to tell when to sell a company. If you don’t– So, with Datalogics, we kept it a lot longer than we planned because I really knew that company was gonna continue to grow at a very fast rate because I just listen to people talk about what customers are saying. Talk about it in an open environment where it wasn’t a board meeting where they had to impress people, but honestly, enthusiastic, what meetings they were having with new customers. And that’s one of the reasons why we held on to that company so long was because. . . You know, when people would talk about selling—“We can get a lot of money now, and it’s a really good time to sell,” I’d say, “No, there’s more left in this thing. We need to hang on to it longer.” And that was not because of board meetings, that was because of going to the offsites.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: So, thank you very much. You are one of the few people who’s taken one industry and really mined it multiple times, but every time done better at it. You’re also one of the very few people who’s gone from beginning to really big companies. So thank you for that.
ROB GIERKINK: Well, great. Thank you very much for having me. This school changed my life, so I’m happy to do whatever I can to help.
SHIKHAR GHOSH: Thanks.
ROB GIERKINK: Yeah.