Movers & Shakers Interview with Wes Gipe

Tell us your name and a little about yourself.

My name is Wes Gipe and as a Business Advisor at Aileron, I’ve always been interested in business operations and opportunities to help businesses grow and succeed. I was lucky enough to be born into a family that was an early adopter of technology, so at age 17, I started my own small business – an IT company. I devoted the next 15+ years of my life to growing and building the company.

In 2014, I knew it was time for a change.  With the help of my Board of Advisors, I transitioned the company to new leadership and moved into a more strategic role.  This allowed me to devote a substantial portion of my time to helping others through my work with Aileron.

At Aileron, I wear different hats: one is as a facilitator, where I am responsible for several managerial and leadership programs and workshops. I also spend a good amount of time coaching business owners and executive groups to help them get clear on strategic direction and develop the leadership skills needed to take their companies to the next right place.

My most important role, however, is as a husband to my wife of 19 years, Rebekah, and father to three boys – Rowan, 14, Reese, 12, and Pierce, 7.

What exactly does your company do?

In short, Aileron exists to raise the quality of life in America.  We happen to do that by unleashing the potential that lies within private enterprise.  The reality of running a privately held organization is that it can be extremely difficult and lonely on both an intellectual as well as an emotional level.  Our goal is not to consult, per se, but to walk shoulder-to-shoulder as a thought partner with the owners and their teams through the challenges that being in business presents, using each of those situations as an experiential learning opportunity.

What were the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge I faced when running my own business was remembering what we set out to accomplish in the first place.  The reality is that there were so many things we could do that it was difficult to remain disciplined in focusing our limited time, money energy on only the things that took us closer to realizing our vision.  We had an amazing board that helped tremendously with this focus.

Another big challenge is maintaining the necessary balance between the head and heart.  When you care deeply about others, there is always dynamic tension there. Decisions that are strategically and directionally right many times affect people, and it’s a tough balance to move quickly enough to sustain a competitive advantage but slowly enough to allow the people in the organization to develop and adapt to that change.

What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?

Enjoy every moment.  The more I work with private enterprises, the more I believe that the key to success is simply not to give up before you’re done failing.  In my own journey, there was no venture capital as we started with $500 in working capital. It was risky and there was always a sense of fear involved in every decision made – fear of failure, fear of others, fear of making the wrong call. I think I missed a lot of the magic simply because I was too consumed with fear to realize how amazing the journey really was. So, my advice – at the end of the day — is to know that every failure puts you one step closer to your next success.  The key is to fail as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

Who are your biggest influences and people you admire and why?

Chuck Cochran ran the sales organization for one of the Hobart companies. He was probably my first real mentor and a tremendously wise man. His advice to me as a 19-year-old entrepreneur: never hire anyone that’s not older, wiser, and a threat to you.

I believe that advice had a lot to do with the company’s success as it gave me the courage to add people to the team that was more capable than me.  Chuck also taught me that everyone we meet is both our student and teacher. Mentorship takes a lot of different forms.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

Without question, my wife Rebekah.  She stuck with me through thick and thin.  Cried with me, celebrated with me, admonished and encouraged me.  I’d have given up ten times over without her.

Another who stands out as instrumental is Clay Mathile.  As former CEO and owner of the Iams Company, Clay also founded Aileron. I came to Aileron during the financial crisis of 2008 – scared and frustrated.  For reasons that still elude me, Clay took an interest in me, calling every few weeks or so to check in and offer encouragement. There’s nothing quite like being in the heat of battle and having someone whisper encouragement in your ear. People totally underestimate the power of positive encouragement from someone further on down the road – I’m forever grateful to him.

What do you see as your greatest success in life?

I’m most proud of the fact that my wife and I are raising three boys who are self-starters with big hearts that are learning to be the change they want to see in the world.  Rebekah and I work hard to create an environment where our boys can become the best human beings they can possibly be. Just as we at Aileron love watching organizations develop and flourish, my wife and I love to watch our children grow and learn how to positively impact the world around them.

How can people contact you?

Twitter: @WGipe