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GLEN'S STORY

Early Years

Glen's inspiring personal story of perseverance and growth begins in suburban Detroit, where he started his adult career on a Ford Motor Company assembly line. His next step, as a test-driver for Jeep, led to a succession of promotions in managing the Jeep fleets for the executive, marketing and public relations departments. At 26 he was recruited by the head of Jeep marketing for a role in that department, but when the executive found that Glen had not attended college, he told him, “Oh, that’s too bad, company policy requires a 4-year degree. You would have been great.”

Determined to grow and further his career, Glen decided to leave Jeep to aggressively pursue a college degree. With the recommendation of a former Jeep CEO and Chairman, Glen was accepted into the University of Michigan.

Three years later, after working nights to pay his way through, he graduated with honors. He had always envisioned returning to the auto industry but considered broader industry horizons after one of his professors, who specialized in food marketing, pointed out to him that when times are tough, people don't have to buy a new car, "but they'll always need to eat."

Valassis/NCH Marketing 1990 - 2009

 

Glen was initially recruited and offered a choice of several roles by Procter & Gamble, but accepted a position at Valassis Communications, a smaller company but one with large ambitions and a strong company culture.  He felt he could make a larger impact there.

He worked there for 19 years, starting in sales and working his way through a variety of jobs, many of them he now sees as being highly “intrapreneurial.” If Valassis was getting into something new, something risky, he wanted to be a part of it. When the company acquired a dot-com startup during the late 90’s bubble Glen went to work for them.

Later, Valassis acquired NCH, a company that had small subsidiaries in five different countries in Europe. Glen was tapped for a role working directly with the management teams of these five, small, entrepreneurial companies to launch Valassis products in each country.

Glen returned to the U.S. in 2007. Valassis had grown into a multi-billion-dollar company, far larger and more bureaucratic. Within a year or two, he found himself missing the fast-growth experiences and the risks and rewards, of a smaller, more entrepreneurial company environment. According to Glen, “As I looked back on my career, my greatest contributions and happiness in my role were when I was working in high-growth areas or turning around struggling business lines and clients.”

Insignia Systems, Inc.  2009 - 2015

 

In 2009, Glen found himself across the table at an after-work happy hour with the CEO of small-cap public company, Insignia Systems, located in Minneapolis. During the conversation, the CEO asked Glen if he would like to join Insignia as the Marketing Vice-President, with the ultimate goal of eventually succeeding him in the CEO position.

 

At the time, Insignia was embroiled in a multi-year legal proceeding with a major competitor that was depleting the resources and focus of the company. The suit was settled in Insignia’s favor in 2011, but the company was struggling with its business model. Sales revenue had declined almost by half, down to $16M annually. The company was drowning in operating losses, losing cash each quarter.

The CEO and Board appointed Glen to the COO role to lead a turnaround effort, which proved highly successful. Soon the company was profitable once more. Glen was handed the reins as CEO, to continue the growth trajectory, and soon annual revenues approached $26M, then $28M. It then became a takeover target and was ultimately taken control of by an activist investor with a vision for the company’s future that conflicted with Glen’s.

Searching for his next venture, he realized how much his experience at Insignia Systems had shaped him. "I was the boss, at the top of the pyramid, with an executive team and employees all answering to me. I expected that pressure, even relished it, as part of the job. What I didn't expect was the pressure I'd get from the other direction. Above me, was another triangle – upside down and pointing at my head – the Board of Directors and thousands of shareholders. As the CEO you feel intense pressure from both directions. No matter how good your leadership team is, you're the one making the decisions. No one else is really feeling that same pressure. There's no one to talk to."

After leaving Insignia, he launched and spent the next two years as co-owner of SuiteHaus, a General Contracting and real estate investment partnership, but kept coming back to the Insignia experience. He saw an opportunity to help business leaders who were going through the same types of issues he struggled with. "I wish someone had been there to help me. That's why I decided to start Apex North.”

"I love the challenge of growing a business. I’ve always had a knack for visualizing the end result, then helping people, teams and companies work through a plan to get there. I am excited, motivated and confident that this is what I was meant to do."

GUIDE & MENTOR

As a strategic business coach and advisor, Glen has all the skill and acumen you could ask for, and more. What sets him apart from most in the field is that he’s ‘been there, done that' as a public company CEO and entrepreneur. If you are looking to ‘cross the chasm’ to high growth for your company, you would be lucky to have Glen as your coach.

Tom Kippola,
Co-Founder & Managing Partner The Chasm Group

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