“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race,” — Calvin Coolidge.
By hanging onto this quote, Glenn Trout, President and CEO of VelocityEHS has shown persistence in everything he has done. His tenacity and never give up attitude has allowed him to reach some rewarding peaks in his career.
An ultimate truth in life is that when you are trying to do something difficult, something that is ultimately worth doing, life gives you a million reasons and excuses to quit. However, if you are to achieve what others have not, then you must hang on until you do. Life threw some challenges at Glenn, but he kept overcoming them, and was surrounded by a team of people who were equally tenacious and unwilling to give up.
It was never a Straight Line!
Like most successful, yet accidental entrepreneurs, Glenn’s business trajectory was never a straight line. He was raised by school teachers, and had no obvious entrepreneurial role model or mentor. Just three days after graduating from high school, Glenn headed off to Air Force boot camp, which focuses on putting a lot of pressure on people to see how they react under stress, both mentally and physically. While Glenn enjoyed the physical stress, the constant mental pressure was completely new for him. They would repeatedly test him, on small, simple things, and blow up if he made a mistake to see how he would react.
In hindsight, Glenn sees why this mental pressure was so important. It is critical that people in the Armed Forces perform well under pressure and pay close attention to detail. You must challenge people and train them to do the right things, no matter what the circumstances — potentially even when under fire. It’s something Glenn has kept with him in his professional career. He believes that staying focused and keeping your cool, especially when things get tough, is a strong attribute for any leader.
During Boot Camp, Glenn got the chance to rise from squad leader to squadron commander at the age of 18, with many of the other airmen in his squadron well into their 20’s and 30’s. That experience gave him the opportunity to lead from a very early age, and taught him the value of relationships. Glenn’s ability to lead was directly tied to his ability to keep the trust and respect of his unit. As CEO of VelocityEHS, the same is true today.
Perseverance was the Key
Glenn went from the Air Force to Miami University in Ohio. After graduating with a degree in marketing, he then joined Mead Paper, participating in the company’s management training program with the goal of someday becoming the CEO. At Mead, Glenn directed a $500 million sales and marketing business unit. When the paper industry declined in the mid-90s, he went back to school to earn an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business.
Glenn then joined Ernst & Young as an Associate Director before taking a leadership role at fobpaper, a division of fob.com, a late-90’s dot-com start up aimed at enabling manufacturers to purchase raw materials over the internet. But then, the dot-com tech bubble burst and the venture firm backing fob.com pulled their money from that effort. However, the firm didn’t lose their faith in Glenn and his management team. As the CEO, Glenn was given a small pool of cash to turn what had been a very small, inconsequential, non-monetized part of the fob.com offering — the electronic management of material safety data sheets (MSDSs) — into a fee-based service called MSDSonline. He took it as a challenge.
In time, Glenn grew MSDSonline into a six-time Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Company, with over 400 employees and an annual growth rate of over 50% for nearly a decade. In 2012, Glenn executed a successful exit for his shareholders with a deal valued at over $53 million in enterprise value, and MSDSonline joined Actua Corporation, a public company that invests in cloud solutions. In 2015, MSDSonline was rebranded under the new name, VelocityEHS, to reflect its wider environment, health, safety (EHS) and sustainability business focus. And in September of 2017, Actua announced the sale of VelocityEHS to CVC Capital Partners, for an undisclosed amount.
A Chuck Yeager quote nicely sums up Glenn’s approach to life and leadership; “You do what you can for as long as you can, and when you finally can’t, you do the next best thing. You back up but you don’t give up.”
Leading Hundreds of Talented People
The VelocityEHS mission is to make workplaces safer and more sustainable. Glenn feels privileged to lead hundreds of talented women and men who’ve made the company’s mission their vocation. His goal for VelocityEHS, by whatever measure you choose, is to be the industry’s number one EHS software company. And it is his job to remove the barriers that could keep the company from achieving it.
Today, VelocityEHS is the largest EHS software company in the world. More than 13,000 companies worldwide, and more than 8 million workers, use its products and services to help them solve their complex compliance and regulatory challenges in simple ways. The VelocityEHS community includes customers from virtually every industry, including over half of the Fortune 1000.
Unfortunately, even in today’s age of technology, too many companies still rely on paper, spreadsheets, and other manual processes to manage critical workplace health and safety programs. VelocityEHS has set out to change that by creating cloud based products that help companies reach their EHS goals faster.
The firm’s enterprise-level functionality is affordable for businesses of all sizes, with software and mobile solutions that are renowned for being fast, easy, and engaging — all of which contribute to VelocityEHS’ industry leading customer retention and user adoption rates.
A New Dawn
Glenn believes that one of the things that keeps VelocityEHS in business is the relentless pressure its customers face from outside forces, including state, federal, international regulations, volatility in their supply chains, and diversifying workforces. And for better or worse, as long as those pressures are there, EHS professionals will always be looking for some way to make identify risks better, some way to get home to their families just a little bit sooner, some solution that allows them to relax a little more when enjoying a holiday break.
“What we try to do every day is get a little better at understanding the problems our customers have and what would help them be more effective. So we will change along with our customers in ways that matter to them. We do try to anticipate obstacles coming down the road, so we can put solutions in place before our customers need them. But it’s always looking at the horizon from our customer’s perspective,” Glenn concludes.