July 5th, 2017 - CRC's Managing Partner ERIK GAGNON FEATURED IN VOYAGEATL MAGAZINE
VoyageATL magazine published an interview today with Chi Rho Consulting's Managing Partner Erik Gagnon. The article profiles the genesis of our firm and recognizes our contributions to the Atlanta startup community. The full article can be viewed here. Excerpts from the interview follow:
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story. I graduated from Princeton University in 1993, worked for the investment banking firm William Sword and Company for two years and then joined GE Capital’s Leadership Development Program during the Jack Welch era. After graduating GE’s program, I spent the next seven years with GE Capital, progressing steadily through the mid-management ranks in strategic roles. More than anything else in life, the GE experience shaped my leadership style and my overall approach to business. In short, I was taught to take ownership over my teams’ performance, I learned to take calculated risks, and I learned how to evaluate strategic opportunities,
During the dot com hey day of the late 90’s, I was recruited by Advanta Business Services to head customer acquisition for their newly formed small business division. We doubled revenues within a year through online marketing programs and aggressive direct marketing. Success there led to more calls from recruiters and I changed jobs a couple of times over the next few years with a steady progression of responsibilities.
In 2003, I was courted by Delta Air Lines to head their Customer Relationship Management group. At the time, Delta was spending an exorbitant amount of money outsourcing their database and direct marketing programs. I was charged with bringing these functions in-house, cutting costs, and increasing revenues. Shortly after I started there, the company filed for bankruptcy.
I survived the resulting layoffs but decided to move elsewhere principally for financial reasons. The next company I went work for, Ashworth College, also headed into bankruptcy shortly after I started. Both of these experiences led me to burnout on the corporate track. I decided to reevaluate on what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and took a couple of months off in 2008 to travel and reflect. When I returned from travel, I started organizing a collection of sports memorabilia I had accumulated over the years. As I was doing so, I began to wonder what it was worth. I searched online for answers and was surprised to find that there really wasn’t a comprehensive an online resource for this type of information at the time. I decided to start my own company to provide this service to collectors. I called it CollectCentric.
I jumped into the endeavor with both feet and a good deal of my own money. To my dismay, I was beaten to market by another Atlanta based startup called WorthPoint. They locked up an exclusive arrangement with eBay to aggregate their sales data and I really couldn’t compete. I sold my intellectual property and contemplated what to do next.
I had met a few fellow entrepreneurs through the Atlanta startup community and through my church. I began to advise a few of them on marketing and operations issues as well as on startup funding strategies. I’ve been doing that since 2009 and have really developed a passion for startups and entrepreneurship. Today, Chi Rho’s clients include a proximity payment startup, an entertainment company, a real estate management company and a handful of non-profit cause organizations.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way? I like to say that I’ve lived more life than most men twice my age. True adversity started for me with the Delta bankruptcy and the nearing Ashworth College failure. Up until these points, I really haven’t experienced any professional setbacks in my life.
Getting beaten to market by WorthPoint was another hard pill to swallow. I spent a small fortune of my own money to get the concept off the ground, only to have another Atlanta startup lock up the principle data resource with their eBay arrangement.
On a separate note, I had a personal tragedy in 2013 that nearly cost me my life. I was visiting a construction site in Denver, CO in June of that year and I fell from a four-story construction platform (over 40 feet). I was in a coma for two and a half weeks, I broke most of the bones in my body and damaged internal organs. My doctors told my family that my chances of survival were slim, and that if I did in fact survive, I would likely be in a vegetative state the rest of my life.
Through the grace of God, I survived the fall and, miraculously, had no damage to my spinal cord or neck. I spent over four months in the hospital and an additional two years in physical therapy. I can walk and talk and generally function as well as I did before the accident. My doctors refer to me as a walking miracle.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Chi Rho Consulting – what should we know? We are a strategic consultancy that specializes in capital formation, strategic planning, marketing and business analytics for startups and nascent stage organizations. We pride ourselves on developing strategic solutions to difficult challenges that fit with our client’s culture, values and capital resource constraints. We also leverage our private equity network and angel investor relationships to help our clients bring their products and services to market in an accelerated time frame and ahead of their competition.
We are selective with our clientele and only accept projects with leaders and entrepreneurs who share values and principles similar to our own.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role? 1) My family – Strong support and encouragement throughout the years.
2) I have had a number of mentors throughout my career. GE’s Leadership Development Program strongly encouraged me to seek out mentors both in my professional and personal life at all stages of my career. The words of my first two mentors at GE, Keith Carroll and Glenn Walters, still resonate with me to this day.
3) Close friends I’ve developed throughout my career – both colleagues and clients. There are a number I’d mention but I don’t want to leave anyone out.
4) Above all else, God and his grace.
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