Entrepreneur and Shipley alumnus Geoff Gross ’98 is just 15 years out of high school, and yet the young businessman has already founded three companies: Medical Guardian, LLC, Tracking Now, LLC, and InStock.com, Inc. Currently serving as CEO of InStock and president of Medical Guardian, Gross sees only more growth in his future.
For his commitment to creative business development and the demonstration of a devotion to the pursuit of excellence, Gross is the recipient of the 2013 Shipley Young Alumni Award.
Gross’ primary business, Medical Guardian, LLC, is now a leading provider of home medical alert systems. The business began small—starting out in Gross’ living room—but his interest in founding and running his own business was first nurtured during his time Shipley.
“It was a pretty special experience,” says Gross. “You don’t fully appreciate the experience at a school like that until you’re close to 10 or 15 years out, and then you start to understand what Shipley did for you and the types of people you were around and what that really meant.”
Long term, that experience has meant the world to Gross—preparing him to be a relatable leader, a creative thinker, and a driven business owner.
During his years at Shipley, Gross says he valued a deep personal connection with both his peers and teachers, which set him up to strive for a business environment that imitates that experience. “We had such a nice group of people in my class. It was not very typical of most high schools, and I think I was very lucky in that regard,” says Gross. “My best friend in the world went to Shipley, and I was just best man in his wedding,” he says.
In addition to a bond with his classmates, Gross recalls a strong relationship with and the personal attention he received from Dr. Steve Piltch. “He would always find time to talk to me, and really engage with me in an authentic way,” he says. “It’s hard to get the same kind of connect anywhere else like you do at Shipley.”
Gross recalls developing his inclination for creative thinking at Shipley as head of the social committee. In raising funds for the prom, Gross and his best friend conceptualized a T-shirt emblazoned with “Shipley Football: Undefeated Since 1894.” “We sold $5,000 worth,” says Gross, which was quite an accomplishment for a teenager. At Shipley, a good idea never goes to waste, and the slogan has since been reprinted on blue shirts (instead of the original green). As Gross notes, “I see they still don’t have a football team, so the T-shirt still works.”
After graduating from Shipley, Gross attended Northeastern University, then the University of Maryland, and always looked back on Shipley as the baseline for his training in school and beyond. “Certainly from an academic standpoint, Shipley was challenging,” he says. “Shipley prepared me more for life than even college did in many ways.”
After college, Geoff followed in the family tradition of entrepreneurship, founding Tracking Now, a leader in GPS tracking systems for businesses, in 2005 and followed its 2010 acquisition by starting Medical Guardian. “Medical Guardian started in my living room, and now we’re a full service business,” says Gross, who first learned about direct-to-consumer business from his father, who owned and operated a burglar alarm business.
Though he had some background from his father’s operation, Gross had definite ideas about the kind of business he wanted to run, with some of his work ethic evolving from his time at Shipley. “It’s just the types of people you were around and the way they teach. It was the little things, like just having a dress code. I find now that I have my own business and employees, I realize that the way my employees come to work is not the way I come to work,” says Gross. “The way you act, the way you dress, the way you are says a lot about you and what you want out of life. It’s those little things you don’t realize you’re learning when you are going through it.”
The challenges of entrepreneurship are many, but Gross attributes the success of both of his current companies, Medical Guardian and InStock.com, a consumer research site for offline purchasing, to a great product, a lot of hard work, and dedication. With outreach marketing and excellent customer service as his niche, Gross has been able to set apart Medical Guardian from other similar services. Though InStock.com is more of a side business for now, Gross hopes to grow the service in coming years.
Beyond basic strategy, one of Gross’ core operating practices has been to create a place where he could hire and work with good people. “I wanted to build a business where my employees would enjoy coming to work as much as I do, and that gives me as much joy as anything,” he says. Again, Gross relates his dedication to his employees back to his Shipley experience. “The way I treat my employees is the way I was treated at Shipley,” he says.
As for the experience of starting, owning, and operating three successful businesses before the age of 40, Gross says, “I’ve enjoyed every minute. I look forward to going to work on Monday. There’s always something exciting and new, and I plan on doing it for a long time.”