David Gulian Featured

7:00pm EDT January 31, 2007
When David Gulian decided the time was right to take InfoLogix Inc. public, he knew he was about to trade one set of challenges for an equally difficult set, with which he had no experience. So he got help. Gulian handpicked leaders from business, sports and technology to serve on the nine-person board, which includes a former head of the U.S. Naval Academy, a Super Bowl-winning football coach and several prominent executives, to provide valuable credibility for the 5-year-old company and expertise for Gulian. The $56 million provider of mobile intelligence and information systems has grown 500 percent over the last three years, and Gulian is looking forward to adapting to the challenges of running a newly publicly held company. Smart Business spoke with Gulian, president and CEO of InfoLogix, about the challenges of taking a company public.

Know what got you this far. Understand your business. Go back and say, ‘How did I get to where I am?’ As you grow both positively or negatively, what changes would you have made?

There are three keys for a CEO: Listen to your customers, listen to your employees and management team, and continuously look for new partnerships that can help you drive your business. Then go ahead and apply that knowledge to whatever your business is. You won’t make risky decisions by thinking of what people want or need.

Work to understand your employees’ concerns. Spend time with them both individually and in a group. You need to understand their personal and professional needs, where they are in their careers and where they want to go.

You want it so that they would come to management looking for opportunities to grow their professional careers. Some do, some don’t. It’s really staying in alignment with your employees.

Now that we’re a bigger company, it’s tough to make the time to go to lunch with each group once a month. You need to really understand what’s going on in their lives, what are they facing. Everyone wants to know there’s someone to talk to, to relate to, to share their successes and failures.

I want to build upon that spirit and energy of, ‘I’m not just an employee, I’m a valued employee.’ They have to know that no matter at what level, they can come to management with ideas or beefs or growth potentials that they might be looking for themselves to accelerate their career within InfoLogix.

People buy from people, not necessarily from the company. Give them that same relationship that you have with the customer as you do with your employee, because they are an extension of your vision.

Communicate what the changes mean to employees. Communication to your employees about what’s going on with the company is so important. Like going public recently: What did it mean for them?

They hear the announcement and then see it in the paper. You need to explain what it’s going to do for them to allow the company to excel with the capital it raises, to guarantee their future and their career long term.

It’s all about communication, because you don’t want to feel like you’re communicating in a vacuum, like you have a hierarchy and they don’t feel like they have access.

Get buy-in from your team. The worst thing you could do is make a decision in a vacuum as it relates to the strategic direction of the company. You should really get the buy-in, whether you’re building a lifestyle business for yourself or whether you’re building a company that is growth-oriented.

We’re a growth-oriented business. It’s important for me to go ahead and get management’s thoughts, ideas and buy-in as it relates to the changing of the direction. If you make decisions in a vacuum and you don’t let anyone know about them, then most likely it’s going to fail.

Questions will come from employees or customers who won’t be able to portray the right message.

Know your strengths and hire to augment your weaknesses. I am not an operational CEO. I think I’m better off understanding the trends in the market, as well as spending the time with employees.

At the end of the day, the CEO gets involved in voting or reviewing decisions, and with the empowering of the management underneath you. That allows the employees to know if I’m not available that we’re all on the same page. We have management meetings, so my team knows what we’re all thinking. Then we’re all singing the same song to the employees.

The key to success is, ‘What am I good at?’ If I know I’m good at building strategic relationships and visionary goals of the company, that’s where I should focus, right? I shouldn’t try to be an operational CEO. I should bring a professional in who knows how to do that. The key as we grow this business will be doing acquisitions of technology and services companies down the road. And a CEO can’t be doing that and finding the vision and executing it. I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses.

Learn from people who have been there. I’ve gotten involved with some community people. Networking with other CEOs and learning from that has been key for me. I’m learning from it; that’s definitely a great thing.

Most CEOs are proud of what they do and they’ll share. By that sharing of how they’ve grown their business, how they’ve found new talent, new products or services, technologies — you learn from that experience. [Chairman of InfoLogix’s board of directors] Pete Musser has done in the area of 100 acquisitions. So I take that experience and say, ‘I’m doing my first one, a real major one when it comes.’

Being able to ask him what to look for in order to execute on that delivery is phenomenal.

HOW TO REACH: InfoLogix Inc., (215) 604-0691 or www.infologixsys.com