Inspiring the Next Generation of Rocketeers
Like many people, the end of the year is always a time where I find myself reflecting on the past year’s successes and looking ahead in anticipation of the goals we’ll achieve. While I’ve talked about Rocket’s exciting next chapter and have often discussed our vision internally, I recently had the opportunity to share our experiences with a great group of young entrepreneurs-in-training at Babson College. It was a rare chance to look with fresh eyes at Rocket’s amazing journey from a two-person team to a thriving global family of over 1,500.
When I joined Professor Eric Giler and his students at Babson on November 20, we spoke about Rocket’s path to success and what we’ve done to build to where we are today. Chapter 1 started with our partnership with IBM, which laid the foundation for our global growth. Since then, diverse partners from Houston to Switzerland and everywhere in between have joined the Rocket family. Many of our achievements can be attributed to an ability to recognize the best time to bring in the right partners to strengthen our products and services. By taking a strategic, long-term view of our M&A activity and investing in lasting partnerships, Rocket has become a leader in powering innovation through legacy technology while staying true to our core values of empathy, humanity, trust, and love.
In fact, my remarks about our values—and how they tie to our success—generated significant discussion. Several students told me that they have heard a number of other executives talk about M&A strategy and I was the first to talk about culture, especially with words like empathy and humanity, trust, and love. This is something that is so baked into who Rocket is that I was a bit surprised that it wasn’t a more common element of discussions about growth through acquisitions.
Related to this were the questions that the students asked me about how Rocket integrates acquired companies into a larger entity, especially across time zones, countries, histories, and languages. After having overseen 50+ acquisitions in the past two decades, I can tell you this: it is really hard. In fact, it’s probably the most difficult thing I have to do as CEO, because I’m not only trying to figure out how to integrate technologies, but I’m also trying to integrate people who come from different cultures, experiences, and approaches.
The Babson students I met with weren’t shy about asking questions, and one of the major topics that they kept going back to was some of the contrarian decisions that Rocket has made over the years. They wanted to know why we chose to go with an indirect revenue stream (through our partnership with IBM) from day one. They wanted to know why we keep doubling down on legacy systems. And they wanted to know why we decided to work with private equity firms rather than retain full ownership of the company. There are multiple layers to each of these questions, which we explored over our 150 minutes together.
What is clear is that we made many decisions over our 30 years of continued growth and profitability, and we found a way to make most of those decisions the right decisions. I am extremely proud of what we have built at Rocket. I am proud that we continue to keep our customers at the center of everything that we do.
As we enter our fourth decade, we are excited to inspire the next generation of Rocketeers. The MBA students at Babson definitely inspired me with their thoughtful engagement and questions. I know they will be successful in their entrepreneurial journey and hope that they can take a little piece of the Rocket story with them as they achieve their own legendary outcomes.