Entrepreneur Spotlight: Rob Hale, CEO and Founder of Granite Telecommunications
We love to feature up and coming entrepreneurs. For this month, however, we decided to take things in a different direction. We had the pleasure of speaking with Rob Hale, CEO and Founder of Granite Telecommunications. What started as a dream to build a small sales company blossomed into a reality of a multimillion dollar organization serving Fortune 500 companies across America. Rob Hale encompasses what all budding entrepreneurs hope to one day achieve. What set him apart from the rest? He never gave up.
To learn a little more about Rob Hale, check out what he had to say when we interviewed him!
Tell us about your company
We started Granite Telecommunications in 2002. We intended to build a physical phone company and the way we planned to do that is to strike a wholesale agreement with Verizon. We were very fortunate to get a bit of business from Wal-Mart and Walgreens in 2002 when they asked us to discount their telephone lines through wholesale in Boston. Shortly thereafter, they asked us to discount their existing telephone lines for all of New England and then ultimately, they asked for the same thing for all of the Northeast. They eventually told us “This discounting of our telephone lines is good for us and we want to do it for the rest of the country, and we want to do it with you”. At this time we had to make a decision. Are we going to do what we set out to do and build a physical phone company in a region of the country, or are we going to become a national wholesaler? We opted for the latter because we determined that if it would be useful to Wal-Mart and Walgreens, then it would be useful to many others. Since then, we have expanded dramatically and created 1,250 American jobs. People always ask “How did you get this great idea?” We didn’t. It was their idea and we just listened.
What was your background prior to starting Granite Telecommunications?
I graduated from school in 1988 and in '88, I went to work for MCI in a sales role and loved it. I then briefly worked for an agent for New England Telephone Company and in 1990, my father and I started a phone company called Network Plus, which we ran from 1990-2002. In 2002 we started Granite Telecommunications. I have been in sales on the customer side all my life.
What was the tipping point that led you to entrepreneurship?
Being born in my house! My father was an entrepreneur; He was the original importer of Laura Ashley to the United States. He would hold sales meetings in the living room and when I was a kid, I remember sitting around watching them interact and I thought “This is what I want to do”. Certainly by the time I was a teenager, I knew I wanted to run a small sales company.
What obstacles have you overcome to get where you are today?
I’ve overcome a host of them. I guess the most pertinent one would be when the company Network Plus that we started in 1990, was forced into bankruptcy in 2002. That year I received death threats, lawsuits; I even had to let go of 400 employees on a conference call. I lost $1.4 billion worth of paper money. There aren’t too many bad things that can happen to a businessman that didn’t happen to me between 2000 and 2002. I would say 2001 and 2002 were very trying years and yet now, Granite is almost a Billion Dollar Company, where Network Plus was a 300 Million Dollar Company. Granite is profitable, the team is better and the experience is much better. I encountered some negativity that not many people do and yet, because we had a great team and strong connections, we were able to rebuild a better company.
How would you define success in terms of entrepreneurship and what are your plans for the future?
I think that success in terms of entrepreneurship is probably risk-taking at all levels. As far as my plans for the future, I would like to see Granite grow. I am focused on expansion and as an entrepreneur, with each goal I achieve, I want to go even bigger.
Do you have any advice for up and coming entrepreneurs?
The most fun you’ll have in life is running your own company. Don’t create a company to make money. If you are just in it to make money, It wont be fun and you probably wont be good at it. Well then again, you might be good at it, but you wont create an environment where people want to do it with you. I think a lot of people can create small companies focused on profit, but I think you would have a very hard time creating a strong team if your real core focus is just profit. People want to be rewarded emotionally and people want to feel as though they are part of something that is special and good. I would say pursue any endeavors that seem fun and if you’re good at it and you work hard, you will probably be financially rewarded in the long run.
Aside from being a hugely successful organization, Granite Telecommunications is conscientious of charitable causes. Back in March, Granite challenged and encouraged 428 of their employees to shave their heads in their "Shave to Save" movement, donating money for each person who participated. They ended up raising $2.1 million to donate towards cancer research. Granite also participated in the popular "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge" and raised $200,000 to donate toward the cause.