Sung to the tune of Boozefighters – All right all you professional adventurers, this is want you want to hear. About the kind of business ventures we’ve been doing around here. They’re made way back between the city and the hills where there’s plenty of enterprising skills. Where we don’t need a bit of government bailout and recessions we just tell’em to get the hell out. They’re made out of vision, risk and accomplishment all packaged up with a good profit. CHORUS: And entrepreneurs will succeed at their ventures, when working with them Kaples. (like Maple, only sweeter!)
You’ve all heard the stories of epic battles and triumphant successes from the first three years of Integrated Management Services, Inc. Well, frankly, we were quite fortunate. Any entrepreneur worth their salt sooner or later will be tested by true adversity and some thin living. 2009 was that year for us. In 2008, we took the strategic move to cut back on the number of resources and projects partly to respond to the expected economic downtown but more importantly to begin focusing on a 3 year plan for investing and building out the business’ processes, resources and cultural capability.
Beginning with the creation of a management team which reallocated support to internal work as well as client projects, we conducted our first strategic assessment of the Firm’s client, expert and project portfolios. The results yielded a clear direction for what needed to be done to develop our client relationships further and most significantly, improve our resource quality through better roles & responsibilities, recruiting and management procedures. Of course, a bad economic cycle became much worse and as our clients struggled to cope, we felt the repercussions in both our existing and expected projects. <Insert cliche> (Its always darkest before the dawn, When the going gets tough the tough get going, The test of success is not when things are going your way but what you do when the chips are down)
While it took a tremendous amount of personal sacrifice on the behalf of our whole team, we stayed true to our strategic plan and did what was necessary to survive. 2010 was an incredible bounce back not only in financial terms but also by completing our strategic objectives with the definition of five distinct divisions: Infrastructure Technology, Risk Management, Application Technology, Legal Research Services and Performance Management. Each of these focus around a unifying theme to enhance total service delivery practices for law firms, healthcare and business services companies. At our last all hands meeting in March, we celebrated the culmination of these accomplishments and with 20 of the most capable professionals we’ve ever worked, kicked off the next three year plan to grow Integrated Management Services LLC with a roadmap that will truly make us the premiere management consulting firm within the services industry and quite possibly the nation as a whole.
Maybe less well known is the story of GAK3. Initially started as a simple holding company for my stake in IMS, Stephanie and I took decisive steps to make it into a functioning company of its own to support enterprise, micro business and charitable ventures. Stephanie had maximized her experience at Holy Family Academy in Bayonne, NJ over the previous five years teaching spanish, heading up the language department, coaching volleyball, building a young women’s leadership camp and eventually supporting fundraising for the school. With both of us commanding near 24hr schedules, the time was right for a change. She went full time with GAK Enterprises Inc. in the summer of 2008 with a simple start to provide administrative support for me at IMS and reenergize our charitable contributions to the OU Sales Centre Coach & Candidate program.
By the winter of 2009, we’d begun to significantly develop the organization’s identity as a startup incubator and Kennedy’s All American Barber Club became our first micro business venture. The opportunity came through Adam Wonus and Chris Knapik, two talented students I’d worked with at the OU Sales Centre, who’d started the venture six months prior and were looking for a complimentary business partner to help grow the business. While the franchise itself is just getting started nationally, our individual stores in Orlando, FL are succeeding nicely and who knows, maybe we’ll create the next Starbucks for hair cuts and shaves. More micro business ventures are on the docket but first Stephanie and I agreed we’d get the family venture started. Besides we have more ideas than helping hands. I expect this Kaple kid will not be our last.
GAK Enterprises evolved into GAK3 (read as GAK to the Power of 3) as our move back to the State of Appalachia began to call out a growing need for leadership, sales and entrepreneurship support. I feel a particularly strong mission to contribute to our country’s, and maybe more importantly my neighbors’, economic prosperity. The fundamental challenges to increasing prosperity are enhancing education, accelerating economic development initiatives and supporting individuals to become successful leaders and entrepreneurs. We’re addressing each directly through education initiatives with university initiatives throughout the region, communications and networking with state & private investors and coach individual businesses and entrepreneurs in the region.
I can summarize my views on the college experience at OU as four years trying to get out and the rest of my life trying to get back in. Last fall I officially made it back in teaching a revolutionary course on entrepreneurial sales for the OU Sales Centre. This spring I am teaching the senior capstone course on Information Technology. Stephanie volunteered as the Chair for the Foundation for Appalachia Ohio’s “I’m a Child of Appalachia” essay contest managing the evaluation of over 4,000 essays and distribution of $300k in awards to students and teachers through a donation by Walmart.
Throughout my travels I’ve networked with over 10 cities, 30 economic development officials and 15 angels and investment groups in OH, WV & PA. Combined I’ve been gaining traction at connecting people, regions and states for collaboration, investment and transactions. This has lead to some early successes brokering connections between Marcellus shale land owners and gas drillers; and Mobile Web App developers and seed investors. Not to be out done, Stephanie picked up our first full time GAK3 client, the Parkersburg office of Northwestern Mutual Financial, to help them recruit new financial advisors. She’s had so much success that she’s extended the service into supporting all collegiate recruiting for the NMFN offices in West Virginia.
To top this last year of tremendous activity off, in March I was recognized by the Young Emerging Leaders of the Mid-Ohio Valley as their 2011 Leader of the year and invited by the West Virginia University of Parkersburg to join their Entrepreneurship task force. Its exciting to live everyday in a world of infinite possibilities. What’s even greater is when we can contribute to growing those possibilities and making them available for all to benefit from. I’m excited about what this year and next three years will hold. You can be sure I won’t let three more go by before sharing the updates of what’s evolving.