A Natural Agilist Returns to His Roots

By Brian Lucas

George Santos is the epitome of the rising tide of executives leaving the large corporate world.  They are striking out on their own to become the foundation of a new emergent business economy.  They represent a new breed of entrepreneur. In many ways, they are returning America to its roots of small business founded in the colonial era directly driven by empowered customers.  In his own words, Mr. Santos says, “At Gogiro we have a vested interest in your online business success and are passionate about making sure that our solutions deliver results… that make you and your business work smarter.”  He is true to these words and it shows in his business results.  In 2012, the Eastern PA Gogiro was honored as the first winner in a monthly competition between 27 regional Gogiro offices.  Gogiro offers small business owners internet solutions and support.  Gogiro strategy is to get to know their customers through local market service and support.

George Santos is the Principle-Owner of Gogiro of Eastern PA at #233 1886 Leithsville Road, Hellertown, PA 18055

LUCAS: George, you were a very successful executive at a Fortune 500 company for many years in the Pittsburgh area.  Recently you decided to return to your roots in the Lehigh Valley and start a small business.  What prompted you to do that?

SANTOS: One consideration is my wife, who was my high school sweetheart and still the one and only love of my life.  We are both from the Lehigh Valley.  While we had many friends in western Pennsylvania, we have such fond and romantic memories of our beginnings in Easton, Pennsylvania.  It was a wonderful and rare opportunity to revisit where we both began our life’s journey.  It is also something we wanted to share with our daughter.  We felt this was the right thing to do for us as a family.  From a business perspective, I wanted control of my career.  I wanted to guide my own future.  I felt the need to direct my own efforts and not be limited by any rigid structure imposed by an organizational hierarchy.  More fundamentally, I wanted to make a difference.  I wanted to make a difference to my customers by providing them the best possible product and service at the best price without the overhead and inertia of a large organization.  I also wanted to make a contribution to American business and create employment for others.  Strange as it may seem, I also wanted more job security.  I feel more secure relying on my own abilities and my faith, than in trusting the good will and sound judgment of an executive team that is several levels removed from their customers.   I learned a great deal in my years in the corporate world and I am grateful for that but it was time to put those skills to use in an environment that was free of its many restrictions. Finally, I love a challenge.

LUCAS: Do you have any fears of failure?

SANTOS: Only a fool doesn’t consider the possibility of failure.  I don’t however, FEAR failure.  Success is built on hard work constantly striving to work smarter and learning from each customer.  So many people would be more successful and happier if they just went out each day and tried “chopping-the-wood” as it were.

LUCAS: Now that we know what you think about failure; what is your formula for success?

SANTOS: Trust and long term relationships established by being and keeping relevant with your customers.  This is one aspect of what I understand you to mean when you use the term “agile”.  It is important for customers to know that I am responsive.  On occasion, it will happen that I don’t get something right – no one is perfect.  I need my customers to know that I will make it right when that happens. Being hands on and responsive to clients is what develops strong long-term business relationships.  Choosing the wrong service providers can be disruptive and costly.  I am very sensitive to that underlying fear in customers.  We are in a rapid evolutionary environment with rampant change being the norm.

LUCAS: You often mention that word – evolutionary.  It seems centric to your thinking.  Can you expand on that?

SANTOS: Your blog, which I enjoy reading, addresses this well.  To me, we are living in an evolutionary era.  It is a time when businesses and organizations constantly need to evolve, quite rapidly at times, to meet the changes in customer needs and deal with rapid technological advances.  Whether your market is an end customer or you have a business-to-business model makes no difference.  The need to constantly and economically evolve to meet the changing demand remains the same.  The point is that EVERYONE has to evolve!  You need to have a relationship with your customers where they are comfortable sitting down with you sharing their knowledge and concerns.  If they don’t feel the direction you are taking them in is right, you need their input to correct it.

LUCAS: You are talking about customer empowerment.  Is that correct?

SANTOS: Yes, in this era we have a wonderful technology called social media where current and potential customers can have direct and rapid input into product and service formulation.  Information that took a great deal of time to gather previously and was costly to obtain is now available at our finger tips.  You won’t be successful indefinitely if you don’t leverage this.

LUCAS: Can you give some specific examples of how customer empowerment has helped you?

SANTOS: Probably the most significant aspect is that with empowered customers you don’t waste time and effort building something or supplying a service that the customer does not want.  You referred to it as the “Pareto Principle” in one of your interviews, I believe.

LUCAS: Yes, it was in the A Natural Agilist finds a cure for the Pareto Principle at a hospital post.

SANTOS: Well, it is an acknowledged factor.  I cannot tell you how many times I have observed companies building something that customers did not want or adding features to a product that no one ever used.

LUCAS: Was it about 80% of the time?

SANTOS: Yes, (chuckling) that is about right.  Seriously, all that waste is overhead. It costs money and these costs are in turn passed down to the ultimate consumer.  If you eliminate this waste, you can reduce cost, improve product and services and provide them faster.  All of which are attractive to the customer.  As a small business entrepreneurship, if you are not following this model today, you are dead or dying, even if you don’t know it.  It’s that simple.

LUCAS: You mentioned in a previous conversation we had that you always like to work incrementally, doing a little at a time and constantly getting feedback.  How did you develop your business plan?

SANTOS: I think it is important to think your business plan through as thoroughly as possible.  You also need to be able to implement it in small stages.  Each stage should show success and profit.  Each should help you build your knowledge.  At the same time from a planning perspective, if you cannot explain your strategic plan simply to another person on a single 8½” by 11” sheet in 30 minutes or less, your plan is too complicated or you don’t understand it well enough.  To give you an example, when I started this business, I had plans for building a virtual corporation.  I wanted to grow the business by offering superb fulfillment.  These plans are now well underway and my virtual workforce has become a solid reality.  I started small however, doing all the jobs myself so I could get an appreciation for each role.  This helped me tremendously in my search for the right persons to become a part of my service offering.

LUCAS: What was the hardest thing for you to do?

SANTOS: Funny as it may seem, it was the business 101 stuff – setting up the accounting, billing, etc.  I always had someone else to do this for me in my previous work life.  You need to get these things right however, and be very professional about them.  Learning what it took to get a customer and take them through to fulfillment and reflect this accurately in my back office processes accurately was a fluid process.  Discovering hidden costs can be particularly vexing. It is important that you really understand the business and are in tune with how it operates in an organic function.

LUCAS: You mentioned virtual workforce as being a core part of your fulfillment strategy can you tell us why you decided on that strategy.

SANTOS: Quite frankly, it made the most sense.  I need to offer superior, high quality service, as issue free as possible.  Also, I want to be absolutely fair to my customers by having them pay for exactly what they get.  Going with free-lanced, top quality professionals, who I have long term relationships with but use their services on an as needed basis, met this need.  A more experienced team means that we are able to bring valuable and diverse skills and experience.  This fosters a learning environment and process improvements that could not come from using lower cost and less experienced people who I would have to train.  More importantly, using interns or less qualified full-time employees would not have given my customers the best experience and value.

LUCAS: You have really done a phenomenal job establishing the foundation for and building out your virtual corporation including your relationship with corporate Gogiro.  So many fail at this; what is your secret for success?

SANTOS: You spoke about it in one of the presentations I heard you deliver on Mind Mapping.  You said that it was important to envision and draw out our virtual corporation from a function, business and income flow perspective and identify the qualifying elements.  Then once we found the suitable elements, it was just a matter of good relationship management.  That is what I did.  Drawing it out helped me concentrate on it and make it real.  It provided a focal point for my efforts.  Identifying the critical communication points using the mind map helped me establish my relationship management strategy.

LUCAS: How did you find the right people, the free lancers or other small businesses to partner with?

SANTOS: The biggest tip that I can give others is to get out into the community and meet with as many people as possible.  Use social networking with people who share your values.  It will help you psychologically and is a great way to establish your brand, particularly early on.  The most important thing is to establish credibility first.  If you don’t do this, networking will backfire on you.

LUCAS: Everything you mention revolves around the concept of customer value in one fashion or another with a heavy emphasis on quality.  Is this a business differentiator for you?

SANTOS: Absolutely. Far too many in this area operate with inexperienced people.  They do just enough to get by.  Sometimes, if the customer is not particularly computer savvy, they are taken advantage of.  My ethic is to reach beyond even customer satisfaction metrics and measure my success based on how much I have both directly and indirectly improved my client’s business and profits.  For example, I measure this by looking at things like traffic before and after our services, seeing what the actionable lead rates are and then following up with their conversion rate to business.  I provide my clients with a laser-like focus for their activities.  This enables them to maximize their effort, just like I do mine, to offer the best service or product at the best price.  Just throwing things against the wall to see if they stick is not smart.

LUCAS: That is remarkably like the mantra on your website.  It talks about having a vested interest in the customer’s business success.  You are passionate about delivering results for the customer’s business. You aim to do this in an affordable and effective manner.  You want to make the customer’s business work smarter.  You are not selling website design or email based marketing.  You are selling your customers, increased business success.

SANTOS: Yes, I have boiled down the marketing message to, what do all small businesses want? The answer is more successful business!  That is what I am offering. The products and services I am offering today are just the beginning.  Call this my beachhead.  There are more GoGiro of Eastern PA services to come and so many businesses that don’t leverage what I have to offer.  It is amazing just how much business potential there is out there.

LUCAS: You don’t ever use a hard sell philosophy do you?

SANTOS: NO! I actually despise the word. I have a different attitude than most.   I don’t go into a business to sell them something.  I go in to help them grow their business any way I can!  I have to be as agile or more as I am asking them to be.

LUCAS: What is the mistake most customers make with websites?

SANTOS: Far too often, whether they have built the website themselves or had it done for them by others, the website is about themselves and not about their customers needs.  They are showcasing themselves or their business and leaving it to the customer to figure out why they need their service or product.  I always tell them that the website that we will build will be about their customers.  A great website is a solution to a need and talks to the customer directly in a profoundly compelling way.

LUCAS: I noticed that your customer satisfaction and retention is almost 100%.  How have you managed that?

SANTOS: In a word, by being “agile” and getting my customers to be agile.  When I do work for a client, I encourage them not only to provide me with feedback but to show initial drafts to their trusted clients to get their opinion as well.  We share at times both work and responsibility.  Just as I partner with my clients, I encourage them to practice customer empowerment.  I stress to them the importance of involving their clients in their success.  In many ways, all success now begins and ends with customer empowerment.

LUCAS: Thank you George, you would have made a splendid colonial tradesman with pride in your work and a close relationship with your customer base.

SANTOS: As I said in your post, Is Agile a Return to Common Sense?  Your perception of Agile as retro is very insightful and almost liberating. Being agile equals survival.

Note: At the time of publication the author never worked for nor had any financial interest in Eastern PA Gogiro.

About Brian Lucas

In his life, Brian Lucas has been a coach, farm worker, forester, health care advocate, life guard, general contractor, mechanic, mixologist, musician/singer (in a rock group), salesman and teacher. Brian has worked as a project manager, technical marketer, methodologist, manager, software architect, systems designer, data modeler, business analyst, systems programmer, software developer and creative writer. These efforts include over a hundred hi-tech initiatives in almost every business and industrial sector as well as government and military projects. Among them, he designed and developed a quality assurance system for the first transatlantic fiber optic communications network, a manufacturing system for a large computer manufacture’s seven manufacturing centers, a data mining system for steel production, an instrumentation system for cable systems, defined requirements for government’s information systems and designed and developed human performance management systems. Brian has educated and mentored many over the years, designing programs to discover and develop talent. He has also lectured extensively to a variety of audiences. Brian is currently devoting as much time as possible to the innovation of business agility and human capital management along with the next generation of agile software development. As an amateur theoretical physicist he is working on joining general relativity and quantum mechanics through a multidimensional time corollary on string theory and negating the uncertainty principle with Louis de Broglie’s wave/particle hypothesis. He is also an avid blue-water sailor and wilderness backpacker. He enjoys billiards, boxing, chess, cooking, famous battle reenactments and war gaming, fencing, flying, gardening, horseback riding, martial arts (particularly Ninjutsu), philosophy and psychology, playing musical instruments (7 so far), poker, rapid-fire target shooting, reading (he tries to read a new book every night), painting with oils, scuba diving, skiing and recently writing novels.
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46 Responses to A Natural Agilist Returns to His Roots

  1. Anonymous says:

    I wonder if Mr. Santos would be willing to come and give a talk at my company. He believes in and and applies principles to which we pay lip service, or rather, that we officially adopt but then fail to implement. Usually the failure occurs as the waves of change crash on the rocks of entrenched interestes and attitudes.

  2. Farley says:

    This is another fine interview in a great series. George gives good advice for any small business. The emphasis on self reliance is a refreshing change from many other attitudes. Brian is really doing a public service with these interviews. Its obvious why George Santos is enjoying success. Thank you Brian for finding these people and bringing these positive messages of people taking initiative to life!

  3. Donald Chapman says:

    “Far too often, whether they have built the website themselves or had it done for them by others, the website is about themselves and not about their customers needs. They are showcasing themselves or their business and leaving it to the customer to figure out why they need their service or product. I always tell them that the website that we will build will be about their customers. A great website is a solution to a need and talks to the customer directly in a profoundly compelling way.”

    That statement in my opinion is the most intelligent description of a successful website I have ever heard. This could be translated into a Mission Statement.

    • George Santos says:

      Thank you for your comments Donald. When customers know and believe that we have a vested interest in their success it makes a huge difference. This is what is called goals alignment. In rare cases, this means that we need to respectfully disagree with them about their vision of what the content should be. This is one of the challenges that defeat many younger freelancers out there who are dealing with business owners with strong personalities. The bottom line is that you cannot be successful particularly with repeat business if your customer is not successful. You must communicate the sincerity of this view to your customer at all cost!

  4. Randy says:

    An appropriate article at an appropriate time. We are looking into improving the results our website and it’s performance and I found this information to be, well actually, comforting. My concerns are locking into a company and being stuck with their plan. And as the market is changing being bound to their way of doing things with no way out or worse no voice in the matter. Interestingly enough, I have networked with Mr Santos and have noticed this blog gives a correct perception of Mr Santos business approach. I look forward to speak with him in the near future.

  5. I remember the first time I met George with his buddy Skip in the elevator during their first week as Gogiro owners. Both came from the corporate world with successful careers looking for their next challenge. Having watch them evolve their businesses over the last 14 months, it re-affirms the notion of “you get out what you put in”. Their belief in themselves and courage to test the boundaries of their new businesses is inspirational –

  6. I really like George’s description of what a website “message” should be! Great job George.

  7. Costa S. says:

    Very good interview with a man who has ceded Corporate America to start his own business. By doing this it seems Mr. Santos is better equipped to suit customers by
    tailoring, communicating, and customizing based on each companies needs. He used all the positive aspects and experiences of his years as a company exec while weeding out almost entirely any of the potential lags which would prevent customer growth and satisfaction. Kudos to him and thanks for an informative interview.

    • George Santos says:

      Thank you Costa, I would not trade the many years in big C America for anything. Every one of my thousands of client engagements and management meetings are part of what I bring to every future engagement.

  8. rebecca says:

    I have had a chance to talk with George about his company, he knows what he is talking about and knows that each customer is in a different situation and has different needs! This is something I thing is very important in building a custom website!

    • George Santos says:

      Thank you for your post Rebecca. As we move forward we will strive to be both proactive and responsive to our clients needs.

  9. Conrad Flynn says:

    I’m hoping George does a workshop or talk soon. There are a lot of great messages in here which small business owners need to hear – that’s why it’s been my pleasure to recommend him and his work!…

  10. Clearly George understands that success is dependent on both his customers and GoGiro succeeding simultaneously. Too many entrepreneurs take a curbside sales approach versus forming a consultative relationship with their clients. What is also very impressive with George is that he takes a very thoughtful and introspective approach to how he organizes runs and plans his business.

    Great interview, thanks for doing it!

    • George Santos says:

      Thank you for the post Scott. Getting to know you and other entrepreneurs during the first two years in business has been the most inspirational and rewarding aspects of this adventure.

  11. Linda Pavelich says:

    This interview illustrates that George is a front runner when businesses are looking for a new website and online marketing solutions.
    It is rare to find the combination of working with a someone that provides high quality products and wants to work with you to grow your business.
    Good job!

  12. In this age of success at any cost, it’s refreshing to know that there are people out there like George who truly put the customer’s needs first and who take that extra step to make sure his clients are getting the best value for their marketing dollars. Keep up the good work, George!

  13. Jim Porter says:

    Excellent observations and comments from Mr. Santos. A lot of SMBs try too hard to do everything in-house to keep costs down but it’s important to recognize that there are areas when working with a specialist is the smart thing to do, and that applies particularly to websites.

  14. George is a great example of leaving corporate america and still remaining successful. George is a pleasure to work with and is very dedicated to his clients. The nice feature of dealing with George is he has a vested interest in your business because he relies on referrals from his clients. I worked with George on two instances and he did a great job.

  15. Mike Ritter says:

    America needs more entrepreneurs like George Santos… Kudos, Mr. Santos!

  16. ME says:

    Possessing the wisdom he articulates is there any doubt that George Santos is a leader and successful in business and life. Well said Mr. Santos.

  17. Garrett Rhoads says:

    As a 37 year resident of the Lehigh Valley (and a mutual Pittsburgh Steelers fan), I have gotten to know George over the last couple years and I can tell you that his company brings a much needed breath of fresh air to small business owners when it comes to their web presence. He knows and understands that small start-ups don’t have big budgets. Even better, he has highly effective programs for these same businesses that allow his clients to grow as needed with a budget conscious mindset. His company is the first I have ever encountered with a tracking tool that can show his client the real time progress of their web presence. I can only hope that more small business owners come to realize that they can capitalize on these services without breaking their budgets.

    • George Santos says:

      Thank you Garrett. You are another one of those who inspire me each day. One of the most interesting aspects of dealing with other Small Business owners is the bond that forms quickly from knowing about the struggle they share to achieve success there.

  18. Alison Miers says:

    Very nice interview, George! You have the recipe (and positive mindset) for success! Wishing you all the best always.

  19. Bruce in Southfield, MI says:

    I have known George since we both started in corporate sales many years ago and one of the things that made me respect him then and now is his work ethic and his dedication to customers. Although his days as a top producers in corporate america are behind him one thing that is still true is his genuine concern for his customer’s best interest/success and creative approach to problem solving.

  20. For a long time I have thought George would be best suited running his own organizaiton, while bringing the Global 2000 skillsets and best practices he has accumulated over the years back down to SMB organizations. What I most appreciate about George is his authenticity. This article brings that character attribute out loud and clear. Can’t think of a better gentlemen to approach about this subject, you will get the truth and his follow through and end product will be unmatched in the industry!

    • George Santos says:

      Paul, you are one of the people who inspired and blessed me in my Kodak days and for that I am very grateful!
      Thank you

  21. Kent says:

    I have known George and his associates for less than a year, but after a thorough interview process we chose him and his team to develope our website and they understood how to convey our feelings about our business and not just our skill sets. We look forward to the completion of the project and launch. We have developed a friendship as a bonus!

    • George Santos says:

      Thank you for the post Kent. I have a saying that goes something like this. “Make a sale…Make a dollar. Solve a business problem and make a friend for life!”

  22. Donna Hosler says:

    This article sums up George’s strong work ethic and sense of integrity perfectly. He really is the person coming through in this interview. When I think of George and Gogiro, the phrase “live above reproach” comes to mind.

    I’m grateful to have met George and Wendy Santos.

  23. Walt Baylor says:

    Hi Brian: This interview series concept is a great idea. Interviewing not high-blown or self professed experts, but people who actually make it happen. Its brilliant, effective and you make it look simple. They are all good, but I liked George’s interview best. It seemed the crispest. If you wouldn’t mind a few questions from a fellow interviewer:
    1) How did you find these interesting people? They are not famous, but they are fascinating.
    2) How do you prepare for these interviews? They are darn near perfect in their flow.
    3) Where do you conduct the interviews and how? Do you go to them? In an office? Over the phone?
    4) How long does it take you to turn an interview around from start to finish?
    5) You seem to get along with the subjects so well and they seem so relaxed in their responses. I can tell you from experience that is hard to do how do you manage it?

  24. Glen says:

    I am glad I met you Brian and you sent me this articles link. I am going to take the plunge and start my own business. This interview with George convinces me the time is right! And I can tell your blog audience that you sound even more intelligent in person than your blog shows! Thanks again for the great advice!!

  25. Gregg Goldberg says:

    This is a brilliant interview on both parts. Excellent questions and great answers. The spirit of entrepreneurship is not dead its healthy and is transforming business and the economy. Brian please let me know when you are going to give another talk on agile. I would like to attend.

  26. Mike says:

    Inspiring for anyone contemplating a move from the corporate world to business on their own. A great plan is not enough. Persistance + Planning = Success. Someone like George who is this persistent building his own business will exhibit the same resolve building those of his clients.
    – Mike A.

  27. Joslynn says:

    Hi Brian: Like George I am leaving the corporate world and becoming an entrepreneur. I want to thank both you and George for this interview, the encouragement it has given myself and no doubt others who fail to comment. I also want to to thank you for your blog in general, its quality, thoughtfulness and your generosity with your knowledge. Jo

  28. Gerard says:

    The snappy title caught my attention. This is a surprisingly good interview that chronicles a choice many of us in the executive ranks are faced with. George sounds like the kind of person I would have welcomed as a coworker. To be honest, I don’t know many of my fellow managers that are really happy. Maybe none of them are. Some are just concerned with making more money, some bury themselves in their family, others pursue hobbies with fanaticism like golf. The vast majority have given up trying to change the system. Too many that have tried have lost their jobs or had their careers sidelined. I know that we have suffered considerably from the brain drain and a significant portion of our most talented people have left. I am only 4 years away from retirement so it is not a logical choice for me. Reading George’s article makes me wish it was. I will definitely start something like this when I retire. Thank you Mr. Lucas for posting this.

  29. Jackie Haley says:

    Another great interview, in a very well done series. How do you find these people Brian??? All the interviews are smooth and very informative. George sounds like he seriously has his act together. I will take hi contact information down and recommend his company to anyone looking for website development. Do you know if he does any work outside of Pennsylvania?

  30. Althea Moore says:

    A friend just sent me this because I was thinking of leaving my job and starting my own business. Thanks Brian and George this helps! Can I email either of you with a few questions?

    • Rich Huntly says:

      Actually I am in the same boat. Can I ask a few questions as well? I am hesitant to email you unless you are willing.

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