Kent Gregoire is the Founder and CEO of Symphony Advantage. He is a serial entrepreneur who launched his first manufacturing company at the age of 14. Since then, he has founded and led more than a dozen organizations throughout his entrepreneurial journey. Kent has also provided advisory training and coaching services to executive-level management under the Symphony Advantage Brand. He is an angel investor in purpose-driven companies as well as a sought-after speaker in the US and beyond.
Part of what makes Kent unique is his ‘why,’ which is a focus and passion for the widespread adoption of conscious capitalism. He is one of the first certified Conscious Capitalism Consultants in the world. Fun fact: Kent is a part-time farmer in Vermont and a van life enthusiast.
In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Kent Gregoire, the Founder and CEO of Symphony Advantage, about conscious capitalism and building a conscious business. Kent talks about managing a company from the bottom up, the lessons he learned as a serial entrepreneur, and the current movement towards conscious capitalism. Stay tuned.
Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:
- Kent Gregoire talks about re-starting a manufacturing business at 14 years old and how that impacted his life
- How Kent ran his business while in high school and college, the computing company he started at that time, and the lessons he learned from the experience
- Does Kent regret selling his computing business?
- Why Kent joined Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and how it has benefited him
- The talk Kent had with his father and how it changed his career focus
- How Kent met John Mackey, what he learned about conscious capitalism, and his experience attending the Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit
- The changes Kent made in his company after attending the summit
- Kent talks about the four pillars of conscious capitalism — and the most challenging one for businesses
- Has there been an increase in the movement towards conscious capitalism?
- The peers Kent admires and his contact details
Resources Mentioned In This Episode
- Symphony Advantage
- Kent Gregoire on LinkedIn
- Kent Gregoire’s email: [email protected]
- Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO)
- John Mackey on LinkedIn
- The Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit
- Hamdi Ulukaya on LinkedIn
- Kari Warberg Block on LinkedIn
- MOD Pizza
- Robert Skiff on LinkedIn
- Nathan Havey on LinkedIn
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Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.
John Corcoran 0:40
Welcome everyone, John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. You know every week I get to talk to interesting CEOs, founders, and entrepreneurs of all kinds of different companies ranging from YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, OpenTable, Ace Software, and many more. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And this week, I want to introduce our guest, who is Kent Gregoire. He is a serial entrepreneur, he launched his first manufacturing company at the age of 14, just 14 years old. Since then he has founded and led more than a dozen organizations throughout his entrepreneurial journey. Kent has also provided advisory training and coaching services to executive level management under the Symphony Advantage Brand. He’s an angel investor in purpose driven companies as well as a sought after speaker in the US and beyond. And part of what makes Kent unique is ‘Why’, which is really a focus and a passion for the widespread adoption of conscious capitalism. In fact, he is one of the first certified Conscious Capitalism Consultants in the world, so we’ll talk about that. And final fun fact, he’s a part time farmer in Vermont and van life enthusiast as well. I actually love watching those videos on YouTube, the different van life enthusiasts.
And this episode, of course, is brought to you by Rise25, where we help b2b businesses to get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships through done for you podcasts and content marketing. And if you want to learn more about that you can go to rise25.com and learn more about it. Alright, Kent, so I’m excited to talk to you here today. And, you know, you started a manufacturing business at 14, which was started by your uncle. And then you had a very creative approach, you know, I guess it was kind of sitting dormant and you with the help of your family, you went to your uncle and said, I want to start this back up again. You know, I was 14, I liked playing video games and maybe soccer and not doing my homework and you’re starting a business or revamping a business. So talk to me a little bit about what that experience was like?
Kent Gregoire 2:43
Well, with my father, having been a successful entrepreneur, it just seemed natural that I needed to start doing something. It was really cool, because I had an opportunity to work with my uncle. To understand how to develop the product. It was a product that had been highly successful. We entered into a royalty agreement, my father, who was advising me felt it was very important that it not just be a given, but there be a good transaction of equal value that we can participate in and continued to develop the product out including its packaging was a pretty exciting time was able to lean on a couple of my dad’s resources for the ultimate graphic work on the labels. We were an early adopter of the UPC codes. So now we have a great product. In fact, every case of our product, one of the jars or 24 jars per case, had a silver dollar in the top of it and whoever got that lucky jar got the silver dollar. And that’s something that my uncle had started. So it was a fun thing to do. And it had a marketing play with it as well. So what I’d say one of the more exciting things about this company other than it did well is that I would be asked to demonstrate the product Hills department store was one of the places in Vermont where we lived at the time. And I’d go in and I had a really large bumper of an old automobile. It was Chrome and had rust on it. All kinds of different things in which people sometimes found a challenge to find the right product that also would do absolutely no harm to the product itself. It would remove what needed to be removed, including the finest jewelry. We had one of the best jewelry stores in the Northeast as a customer. So it was pretty exciting. You know, it grew. I certainly decided at some point I needed to continue my education and moved on so it was hard to keep the company going at the same rate. It was a great learning experience. And I could say net it more than paid for college tuition. Let’s put it this way. It was good money put aside.
John Corcoran 4:49
That’s great. Did you employ people where there were people working in it while you’re off at high school?
Kent Gregoire 4:56
Yeah. So when high school continued operating the company and my First degrees were still local. I was an early entrant at a local college in Vermont, I was 15 when I started college courses, and I kept the company going during that period of time. Once I had my degrees locally and decided to go on, it became more challenging. And sure, I could have sold the company off, just didn’t sell the company off, continue to do lower batch volume and have fun with it. And eventually, it fizzled out. There were sizable sales. And you know, today I can think of people who would have said, you know, after you’ve found it and sold off a lot of companies, why didn’t you do that one? It just wasn’t top of mind at the time, I was already thinking about my next several ventures of which I did right out of school.
John Corcoran 5:43
Yeah. So what were the next companies that you started over dozen companies. So give me a couple of highlights that you think back on fondly?
Kent Gregoire 5:52
You know, one in particular it had in it’s interesting because it was an early company, and it became very successful fast. There were many reasons for the success. It was around college and university administrative computing. So a little bit like having the formula from my uncle, I had the basis of an incredible software system out of Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, went into again, a royalty agreement, the ability to harness the IBM System 36, the software that ran on it as the prototype, and to then build out through invitation from IBM, as the first industry application specialist was a specialized business partner program they had launched to develop the software for the iOS 400, the A S 400, the iOS 400. C operating system. And we did that and we were selling not only here domestically, but we were selling to colleges and universities around the globe. And there were many things that helped that company be successful. IBM partnership was an extraordinary benefit to me as a very young entrepreneur. I had executives that were more than twice my age, and had been senior, most people at Wang and other places who reported to the CEO of those companies. So we had a great leadership team. I was pretty young, pretty boring. But boy, it worked. It was a fun ride. And the company was sold off in a couple of different pieces. And great buyers, and they continued to move it on under their brands,
John Corcoran 7:23
but there were some big challenges or learnings that you had from that experience in that I’m curious also, because of all the different companies you started. That’s the one you zeroed in on, too.
Kent Gregoire 7:35
Yeah, well, I’ll start right off with the biggest challenge and why it ultimately was sold, very quickly understood that there’s a lot I didn’t know about business. And even though I had surrounded myself by amazing people, I recognized I may have actually reached my limit. And there was some fear around losing control. In fact, I was losing control. This company was doing so well. Here are some customers for software, a low end was 250,000. The higher-end would be well more than a million dollars for the software, large annual contracts, lots of people flying around the world, a lot happening, we needed to continue to evolve in this business. And it did grow a little bit beyond me. At points, I was able to bring it back in, I had a really strong board of directors that I chose, one of them became a mentor. And still one of the people I think about very, very often that having that strong board of directors and asking them not so much for just business advice, but much more strategic conversations that helped me as an entrepreneur, deal with the fact that I was very young, running a very fast paced large company, and working directly with some pretty senior level executives at IBM, we became showcased. So there was one of my neighbors who was actually on the board of IBM and was also one of the most senior level executives at IBM. But that’s not how my relationship with them evolved. That was later on by Jim was his first name pitch IANA. He was really, really helpful to me also, so many people liked the story. They jumped in. And IBM needed a good success story around the 400. And we happen to be an education, a space that the as 400 was designed for.
John Corcoran 9:22
And in retrospect, we did. Do you regret selling it? It sounds like there’s a part of you that feels like you’d lost control of it. And it was bigger than you can handle. But in retrospect now, do you feel like selling was the right decision?
Kent Gregoire 9:40
I think selling at the time was the right decision. You know, today I look back on it, and I clearly understand where some of those gaps were. And if I had reached out and perhaps had more formal coaching from somebody in a more disciplined way and had more outside advice beyond board of directors and advisors, people who you know had a stake in my success. Sometimes I think it’s a good idea to use people who don’t always have a stake in your success of well, you want the stake in your success, but they don’t have a stake in it as well, like they’re not, they’re not in it for the money also, get that real advice that no holds bar is what I wanted to
John Corcoran 10:22
write, of course. And of course, you’re active in the Entrepreneurs Organization, which is an amazing organization that I’m involved in as well that provides that kind of support for founders. When did you first get involved? When did you find that as a solution to help, you know, give you that kind of outside perspective that you’re lacking?
Kent Gregoire 10:44
It was interesting, I got involved six years ago, just over six years ago. And you know, I’d had many of my companies by them, but it was feeling a void, I connected really well with entrepreneurs, and I was feeling a void. I had some other companies at the time, and many in different industries. One of the ones in particular was a small manufacturing company, it had been a client and took that company over. And I was looking for a place to go and have a different kind of conversation. And I will say that I mostly joined to make a connection with entrepreneurs and develop as a person more fully as an entrepreneur. So that was really what my quest was. As it turns out, I think I wasn’t far off from where some of the great value is, I think about the value from the business point of view. But the growth in eo is so much more, it’s really about how we grow as a leader, how our mindsets are, at least that’s my experience. I’m not speaking for others. But I do hear that now. And then it’s such an amazing organization, I’m happy to be a part of it and, and even be one of the leaders in a Chapter.