Blog: John Gongos

John Gongos is the President and CEO of Auburn Hills-based Gongos Research. Moving from neighboring Ohio to Birmingham in 1987, John has seen his company flourish in the struggling economy. He'll be writing about why diversification is important, how to leverage emerging technologies and how to keep and nurture young talent.

Post No. 5

But what is your product?!? 

In August of 1991, during a visit with my grandmother in Ashland, Ohio, I mentioned that I was starting my own Marketing Research company. After explaining the field of marketing research to her and the basics about what we do, she still seemed confused with the entire concept and asked, "But what is your product?"  

She was having difficulty understanding the fact that we were not selling a tangible product, but rather knowledge and advice that help other companies make better decisions. I thought about that moment when reflecting on the transformation that Michigan is currently experiencing. 

Our nation has undergone a major shift from an industrial society to an information society. While 20 years ago the financial news was dominated by stories about GM, Proctor & Gamble, IBM and General Electric, today’s news is dominated by stories about Google, Apple, Second Life and MySpace.      

I believe Michigan has just woken up and recognized this trend, but is still behind the rest of the nation. While our state will never be transformed into another Silicone Valley, the mix of manufacturing jobs relative to information and services is finally shifting. The better the incentives that government leaders can develop to attract these types of companies, the sooner Michigan will catch up to the rest of the nation. 

Don’t Get Caught Up In the Money! 

Another piece of great advice my grandmother shared with me that day that I will never forget was "Don’t get too caught up with the money!" While she was a very religious woman and was actually giving me personal guidance, it turned out to be a lasting business lesson.  Many people start a business for the wrong reason, or even after starting for the right reason, and then get caught up in chasing profits.   

I started my business because of my love for marketing research and the belief that I could build a better company than the one I was currently working with.  Instead of giving into greed, my pursuit has always been to build a great company, trusting that if I succeeded that money would come.   

This truly does affect the way you make decisions. Short-term decisions that might increase profit may not be in sync with your long-term vision of building a great company. 

As a company grows, you are inevitably faced with many more monetary decisions – the financial management of a company becomes more complex. It is critical that you make good financial decisions to keep the business healthy or you will not be able to accomplish your long-term goals. But when every decision begins to be dominated by the short-term bottom line, it becomes impossible to maintain a strong focus on the path to your vision. 

The same philosophy applies directly to career choices for young people who are trying to build a path for their future. Following college graduation, several of my classmates took high-paying sales jobs, realizing that five years later they really don’t even enjoy sales.   

The best advice that I give to young people is to follow your passion and become great at what you love. If you do this, you will be successful in the long run, no matter what field…and you will have plenty of money because of it.