Building A Business from the Ground Up with Glenn Martin

Building A Business from the Ground Up with Glenn Martin

The PeopleStar Podcast — Season 1: Episode 20 — Posted April 6, 2022

Building A Business from the Ground Up with Glenn Martin

Building A Business from the Ground Up with Glenn Martin

The PeopleStar Podcast — Season 1: Episode 20 — Posted April 6, 2022

About the Episode

Today’s episode features a very special guest for Trakstar, our founder, former VP of Sales, and Julie Rieken’s father, the one and only Glenn Martin!

Today’s conversation centers all around the foundation of Trakstar and the lessons learned along the way. With a background in electrical engineering, Glenn quickly moved from hardware to software and ended up getting the ideas to found Trakstar. As a leader, Glenn recalls the power and impact a great boss can have upon their employees, even years after they have parted ways. He also shares how Trakstar came to life and started from the ground up to become the successful company it is today.

Tune in and listen to one of the greatest and most remarkable people Trakstar has ever had the pleasure of working with!

Key Takeaways

1

Taking risks may bring you down a successful path.

2

Customizable experiences are incredibly satisfactory for customers.

3

Great bosses make great employees.

4

Persistence is a very big deal

Building A Business from the Ground Up with Glenn Martin

About Glenn Martin

Glenn Martin is one of Trakstar’s founders and VP of Sales. After years of working in the electrical and computer engineering industry, he chose to dedicate his life to performance management. This leads him, with the help of a close friend and his son David, to go down the startup path which ultimately became Trakstar.

As a seasoned professional in the computing and information technology industry, I can provide guidance and counseling to startups or established businesses. I can help them expand sales, marketing and increase profitability. I offer your organization a 30-year proven track record of being a top achiever working for leading companies such as Hitachi Data Systems, Sun Microsystems, IBM Sirius, and Apple Computer. I have been responsible for managing startups and small corporations. I can advise you on winning new accounts, developing territories, growing markets, expanding sales channels, and creating powerful partnerships.

Follow Glenn on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/glenn-martin-9189a4

Additional Resources

Related Article: Expectation Setting in Action: A Letter To Our Employees

Watch this Webinar: Managing Performance in a Hybrid Environment

If you have any questions or challenges about Leadership and HR and want our opinion, please send it to support@trakstar.com with "Podcast Question" in the subject field.

Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest for weekly episode updates.

Episode Transcript

PeopleStar_Glenn Martin: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

PeopleStar_Glenn Martin: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

PeopleStar Podcast Intro:
Welcome to the PeopleStar Podcast. We deliver leadership perspectives from industry experts on their people, architecture, routines, and culture as they solve HRs newest challenges. And now your host, Julie Rieken.

Julie Rieken:
Hello listeners, it's Julie Rieken, host of the PeopleStar podcast, and today we'll probably be my very favorite PeopleStar episode, I'm so excited! And here to welcome my dad, Glenn Martin, the founder of Trakstar, for a conversation about how Trakstar got started, what he's doing today, and lessons learned along the way. And this is just going to be a really nice conversation, I think, for the two of us to share. So, Dad, Glenn Martin, welcome to the podcast!

Glenn Martin:
Thank you, Julie, it's truly my pleasure! I never thought I'd be on a podcast with my daughter, so everybody out there listening, I'm enthusiastic about it. It's amazing that this is all come in place. Yes, Julie's my daughter, we have three children, we have six grandchildren, I live in Colorado, and 20 years ago, we, together, Julie and I and our son, David, created a startup company, and it took a lot of hard, you know, blood, sweat, tears, all that, but it became successful. So we're indeed blessed with it, so I'm anxious to tell you about the startup and kind of what we've learned, and some of the precious moments. The idea is it might help you.

Julie Rieken:
I think so, too, it might be helpful and I'm excited to hear a couple of stories from you, dad, things about, we'll get, they're not quite yet, but stories about the first customer, stories about how your background played in. So we're going to talk about all that and I'm excited to do that, so let's just begin. So thank you, by the way, yes, I'm one of three, you do have six grandchildren, three of whom are mine, you did start this business with my brother David, who's a genius, and you way back when, so this is going to be a good conversation, so thank you. Let's just start with when we, when we start thinking about Trakstar, you had a lot of courage, but you had some background that led you to believe that this was a space that you could succeed in, and that background starts from your early days of work, would you just tell us what, what did you come out of college doing and how did this play into the Trakstar journey? So give us a little bit of that background.

Glenn Martin:
Well, it did have a bearing. You know, back up to, well, when I got out of school, I guess, and there was an atmosphere, in 1968, that anybody could succeed, you just had to work hard. The country was very optimistic, we had role models, we had astronauts, we had people that would take chances and succeed. We had people like Steve Jobs, we had people like Bill Gates, we had people who became successful and regardless of their academic background, they became successful. So first thing it was the mood of the country was right and I didn't have to go looking for a job, they came to campus and said, oh, you're an electrical engineer, just getting out of school? You're hired. So not that simple, they came begging for us to work for them. I finally did take a first job, and to answer your question, I did hardware, software, marketing, sales, you name it, and I probably work for half a dozen companies over my 50 years of working, but all of them had one common thing: make the computer easy to use, make it easy to use, and make it fast and quick. So I started out designing computers. The company said, make this computer run fast, and I said, okay, let's, why isn't it fast? They said, well, it just isn't. And we wanted to do mathematical things 1,000 times faster than it does today, but I said a thousand? Yeah, okay, so I.

Julie Rieken:
And … you said cool!

Glenn Martin:
Why can anything could be done, so I can, San Diego, and like, showed up at my desk and they said, we've already got a computer, it's the size of a refrigerator on its side, and it does wonderful things. It's big, but it's great, but it's just so slow with math and we want it to go 1,000 times faster. And I said, well, okay, and she said, The other problem is it doesn't have a big numbers, 32,000 is the biggest number we can add or subtract from, we wanted to do trillions, millions, billions. So in a period of 12 months, we put our minds together, a technician and I, we created a box about the size of your microwave, and you set it right beside that big old refrigerator computer, and you turn it on, and, whoom! It was explosively fast. So I got some additional confidence that I could design hardware, but I had done enough of that, for one, I wanted to do some software. So to tie into one of your questions … how does my background relate to what we did with the start-up? I did software and the software was to customize the computers to fit the customer's needs. It wasn't just to add-subtract, it could handle accounting, could handle a refinery, it could handle anything. So we had a lot of software developers. We wrote code to make it fit each customer. So I guess it's called customization, so faster hardware, software, and then I decided, wow, what am I do? Employers said, hey, Glenn, you're really good at hardware and software, why don't you coach our salespeople on how to do a better job of selling it and help them? They can call on you during the sales call and you can tell the customer what it will do, so that was my third job. Not just build it and make it faster, but help salespeople sell it, so custom is the right word there. And that was kind of the thread in what I did, I did marketing, and ultimately ended up in the spot that was the sweetest for me, which was sales. I didn't have to do with any bureaucracy, I didn't have to do anything else, all I had to do was take the product, get it ready for the customer, tell them they needed it, listened to their needs, and, so sales was the fun part, I think, of my career. And so that was my work background, prepared me to help customize things for customer needs, I don't know if that's answered your question, but.

Julie Rieken:
It really does, it does. And there's two things I want to pull out of there. I do think sales was your native space, and I will not forget when I first started at Trakstar that at the end of every quarter we could, you're still one of the top-selling people, you're doing something different today, which I would like to ask you about, but I just want to, I just want to give a nod to how you would bring in business on the last week of the quarter like nobody else could, still doesn't today, and just really one of the top salespeople we have ever had. But you were listening to customer needs and you were able to help and this was important, so just a nod to your, to your native space there, your skill set. But speaking of that, what are you doing today? So this was a bit of your background, what do you do today?

Glenn Martin:
Well, you know, I worked for 50 years, 35 for computer companies, and 15 on the startup company at the end of my career. So when I sold the company and you became CEO, but today, oh, I do some philanthropic kinds of things, I coach high school students and help them with their resumes for college and their letters. But I don't have that much to do, I ride my bicycle and I kind of, I miss, I miss the pace of the, of the startup company. You know, unfortunately, it was six and a half days a week and 12 hours a day, I don't miss that part, but.

Julie Rieken:
Come on, now. Yes, you do.

Glenn Martin:
Okay, I do miss it, I do miss it. I like the end of the month when the sale has to get done, when something has to be done, I'll be the first to say I'll be there. And so I kind of missed that pressure.

Julie Rieken:
Yes. That was your superpower as a leader, I think is energy. And if there's one thing I think maybe that was passed down to me, I think we share that energy gene, so.

Glenn Martin:
Sorry!

Julie Rieken:
Well, that's what it is, I love it, thank you. And so speaking of energy, startups take a lot of energy and you did this, so you started Trakstar, can you just tell us about the beginning, the origination point of the success of Trakstar at the beginning?

Glenn Martin:
Well, it was interesting because, you know, way back, way back in my first couple of jobs, I had a boss that was a great boss. And he complimented me, he gave me my performance reviews, he made me feel good about coming to work, I felt that he listened to me, he heard me and he appreciated me. So I started at, way back when, appreciating good management, that was the core of it. But more specifically, after some years had gone by, I happened to be at a July the 4th afternoon barbecue with a friend of mine, and he said, hey, Glenn, you know, you've been helping companies customizing software and hardware for them. And he said, I've got an idea, if you were to write this software, Glenn, I think we could sell a lot of it. And I said, really? He said, yeah, there's a couple of big players out there, they're huge, they just deal with the Fortune 500, but what about the million small businesses? They need software to help manage their people. And I said, well, I like performance management, I said, just a matter of the market seems to be there, can we build it? So in short, I called our son up, Julie's brother, David, and I said, if you could write a little bitty program as evidence that we could develop the software in computer science, I think we might have something here. I told it to him on Saturday, on Sunday morning, he said, hey Dad, here it is, it's online, it's web based. I can add your name to a record, I can change it, I can save it back, I said, that's all we need, you've got the fundamentals. So at that point in time, we had a go signal. I said, Dave, you build it, I can sell it.

Julie Rieken:
Which was the truth!

Glenn Martin:
And, and we'll go from there. And so the big turning point was he was a bit of a genius technically, and he could make stuff happen and I could have an idea and the next day it would be ready and online, so I was blessed. We didn't have any money, I think I put 18,000 dollars down as a down payment to the first company, but we didn't pay ourselves for years, or if we did pay ourselves over time as we grew, we'd wait until December to see if any money was left. And so each of us worked two jobs, at night, we worked on Trakstar, in the daytime, we take our regular job.

Julie Rieken:
Yeah, that's super interesting. That is, I do remember those days, and maybe if we could just turn back the clock to that journey of memories, when you think about the beginnings and the origination point of Trakstar, can you just tell us about the first customer? So you and Dave and Joe Doud, may he rest in peace, was, was one of the people that brought forth an idea, but you came together, David wrote the program, you said you could sell it. And let's just go back to that journey of memories, to that first customer after you had something you could sell. Can you tell us about that?

Glenn Martin:
Well, yeah, we put together something that we thought was saleable. And, you know, you need, you need references, right? Not only the product has to work, other people have to say it's great. So we didn't have any customers, so we gave away the first one. We put a lot of energy into it, we gave it to a client, and but we didn't get any money out of it, but we got some good, good feelings from them, they guided us. And the second time we got a customer, they had money to spend, they were in Delaware and they said, we like what you've got, all we need is a reference, and I didn't have any references, so I called my buddy up, my lifelong buddy. I said, hey Phil, our little company is about to get started here, we've got an order, our first one coming in, I want you to pretend you're a customer and kind of fake it and just say it, the software works great. And so he, they never called him, by the way, I still got the order, but so we faked the first one, that's for sure. We gave it away first and then we faked our first customer, so that's the long-short of it, you got to do what you got to do, right?

Julie Rieken:
You got to do what you got to do when you're starting, and that kind of kicked off your dream! So you had a dream to build this thing, you had some confidence, you had a dream, tell us about that dream.

Glenn Martin:
Well, the dream was, I guess you'd have to say everything was positive. I think I mentioned that the mood of the country was you can do anything at any time. And so we ended up hiring people, David was uh, became CEO and we got our first, second, third, fourth customers. I remember, I remember the first time I did a budget for the first year, I figured, oh, we better put some money in for advertising. So, oh yeah, let's use Google, that works, when you type in the keyword, they'll find us and maybe we'll sell something. And bingo, I put in $850 for the first year for Google, you know, for keywords.

Julie Rieken:
I don't want to tell you what it is now, but I can tell you it is not $850, that I.

Glenn Martin:
I don't know what it is, but it's millions, millions today, let's put it that way, millions. So you start humble. You don't have any money. You fake it a little bit, you keep on going, you work for very little pittance, you don't have much of any money, you just have belief that if we could make this thing fly and ultimately we started to believe we actually had a better product than most companies out there, so that helped us too. So anyhow, persistence is a really big deal.

Julie Rieken:
Definitely. You know, you picked performance management for a reason and you've alluded to this a little bit, but can you tell us a little bit more about that story about good management and your experience and why that was the area of software that you decided to focus on?

Glenn Martin:
Well, you know, I think I may have mentioned it, I worked for a company, maybe my second employer, and I had a boss that loved me and wrote wonderful things about me, and I went home beaming, felt good. And I thought, you know, I like the idea of performance reviews also not just feel good listening to the employee, I believed in accountability. If you show up for work, you're supposed to do your job too. So I side on the flavor of feel good but I also want the job to be done. So that got us into the business and I didn't mention it too, but I work for Apple Computer when they were pretty much brand new in 1987. Yeah, they were founded in 1985, I was one of the first few people there and people were buying the Mac like crazy. And, and I was working with what they call resellers, they were taking the Mac and customizing it to fit each customer, not just the people that wanted to take it home and write a letter, but they were doing custom things, so that was an inspiration for me. They were selling computers like hotcakes, we fit it to each customer, so I began to believe that I could do this too. So I bought one and I took it home and it didn't work, it didn't handle a database, so I had to wait till the PC came along. Anyhow, I don't know if that's answered your question, but there were some ignition points in the beginning. The idea, the belief, the passion that we can build it and we made our first few customers. And ultimately, I mean, today there's probably 100 employees at Trakstar, but we started with a couple, 2-3 in the beginning and grew carefully.

Julie Rieken:
We did. We did. I want to I want to just thank you for the Apple Computer story. You were one of the first people, and for those people that maybe when we think of Apple, we think of Apple today. But Apple was not that company back then. They were selling the Mac, it was kind of a new thing, but that was back in the day of would we need a personal computer? And I remember they were very expensive, and and yet you found your native space at Apple in terms of selling. And in fact, in fact, you had some real successes there.

Glenn Martin:
Well, you know, when I saw the Mac, it was easy to use, it wasn't like the first PC. And I thought if we could just write a unique application for this thing, people could use it and they would buy it. And, you know, and David started coding, your brother, and I thought I could speed up the process. So believe it or not, I went back, when the PC came out my technology knowledge was old, so I went back to college to take a database learning course. So I went to the community college at night to learn how to program in Java language, and I discovered that time had passed me by. That was for the younger folks, I might have been able to get along, but what it took me 5 minutes to do, David could do in 30 seconds, so I try to, go back in technically, I couldn't do, it was too far along.

Julie Rieken:
Well, that's true. Technology moves pretty fast. I do want to just take a moment on behalf of all three of us to thank you for how you pushed us into tech, knowing that that was the future. And back then, it wasn't super clear that it was. We have a picture, if you can imagine this listeners, of my brother and I on Christmas morning opening two new Macintosh computers that you'd brought home for us.

Glenn Martin:
Really? I forgot.

Julie Rieken:
Yeah. We'll have to pull that out for you, it's a super special picture, but it was those early beige Macs, and you had bought one for both Pete and I. Pete and I, Pete's my brother, and we were opening them on Christmas morning. And it was your way of opening up the world to us way back when and saying this is the future of where things are going. And that was maybe how we got our start in tech. And so that was thanks to you and you being out on the forefront with Apple at the time. So that's that I think is a kind of a cool, cool connection.

Glenn Martin:
So I mean, it's lucky there were so many companies on that year, you know, start turn the block back, and today the opportunities are tremendous. But there were so many opportunities, you can't believe it. And let's just fast forward to to right now, 2022, if I was in Trakstar, and I was looking for software developers or those kinds of people, they would be hard to find, there aren't enough of them. I mean, if our colleges could crank out dozens more people, they would be hired. So it wasn't just opportunity back then. There's huge opportunity today for people that want to join them, join the party because it's still good today.

Julie Rieken:
Oh, my gosh. You know, you were saying that people would come to the college campus and if you had some skills, they would pick pick you up, boy, you're really right about that today. The engineering shortage is real and we are looking for people, so that's true then and true today, well…

Glenn Martin:
It's true.

Julie Rieken:
You know, what a journey it's been, from Trakstar back from the very first customer to, you know, and David writing something overnight and being, and succeeding and you having the courage to pursue this, pursue an entrepreneurial journey. And those are really important things. And I would imagine that there's some things that you've learned along the way. So one of the things that, for listeners, that, that I love about dad is that he likes to send song lyrics and inspirational quotes and we get them frequently in our inbox and they're always awesome. So Dad, would you share, you have two quotes that are two of your favorites that I think are related to this, and I'd like for people to hear what they are because they're special.

Glenn Martin:
Well, okay, yeah. I have thousands and.

Julie Rieken:
It's true.

Glenn Martin:
I really do. I even write down the lyrics to … Because some of them are quite inspirational. But anyhow, okay, here's one from Babe Ruth, never let fear of striking out get in your way. So who is the best batter of all times? Long time ago, Babe Ruth. But he said, don't afraid to swing the bat. You know, the only people that lose are those that don't swing. So don't let fear get in your way. Everything's possible once you make it so, it doesn't matter what you do, do it with passion. If you're serious about it, do the best you can and expect that you're going to have limited resources, you can't just make a wish, you're going to have to work two jobs. You're going to have to do this, you're going to have to move your family, you're going to have to do some of these things, so once you accept that kind of stuff, amazing things can happen, miracles happen to those who believe that they can happen.

Julie Rieken:
So true. Are there any final thoughts you'd like to leave us with? That's a great ending, too, but I'd like to.

Glenn Martin:
No, I.

Julie Rieken:
Provide an opportunity here.

Glenn Martin:
I wrote down one time that in my case, being successful in this thing was, yeah, it was energy and persistence, but what really, I think, beneath all of that, was I was looking for independence. I wanted to be able to stand on my own, I wanted financial security, and it wasn't about making a million dollars, or anything like that. It was, I wanted to be able to stand on my own and not have to change jobs. I think it was my identity, I wanted to be self sufficient.

Julie Rieken:
And you were and you created this. And now we have a living organism that employs people and is a sustainable business, and, and helping our, helping our customers have great management experiences and more accountability and finding and hiring great people and keeping that learning going. And I feel like we're serving organizations in a really positive way and serving ourselves internally by doing the best we can to, to create software that really helps people. So I just want to thank you for giving us this opportunity and for starting this company and, and allowing it to contribute in this HR space, what a mark.

Glenn Martin:
Well, if I had another life, I'd start working tomorrow morning.

Julie Rieken:
I bet you would!

Glenn Martin:
I would. But anyhow, thank you for putting us into the stratosphere. We were successful, we sold a lot of things, but with your help, we entered a brand new level, sophisticated marketing, that you've got good management skills. I might mention even in the COVID times, 100 people working remotely, no small deal, but you've been able to manage it. Good job.

Julie Rieken:
Thank you. And thank you for being a guest. This, I think is my favorite podcast episode. So Dad, thanks for being a guest. I hope you have.

Glenn Martin:
Cheers.

Julie Rieken:
A great day. Cheers.

Glenn Martin:
Thank you, Julie. You're the best. Amen. Bye, bye.

Julie Rieken:
Bye.

PeopleStar Podcast Outro:
Thanks for listening to the PeopleStar podcast. For the show notes, transcript, resources, and more ways to get a seat at the table, visit us at Trakstar.com/Podcast.

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