By Julie Wilson for PhoenixFocus.com May, 2012
For Greg Gudorf, an adventurous spirit and a passion for innovation propelled him from the small-town family business to the technology big leagues.
This spirit of fearless adventure and his unshakable focus have helped him achieve more than his dream of becoming a private pilot. They've also catapulted him to great eights in his career. Throw in the passion for technology and the rock-solid work ethic he honed in the family business, and you've got the makings of an all-American success story.
Today, Gudorf is chief operating officer for MediaNavi, global entertainment technology leader Technicolor's digital content platform, There, he and his team created M-GO, an application that allows users to combine all their media— from movies and music to apps and live television—in one cloud-based location they can access from all their Internet connected devices.
The Big Leagues
Gudorf isn't new to playing a leading role in big business. He landed his first executive position in 2005 when he became president and chief operating officer of Digeo, Inc., which was started by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. He was later promoted to CEO. "My transition to Digeo simply would not have been possible without an MBA," he says.
"For me, the University of Phoenix online MBA made it possible for me to get my foot in the door for that next important career step."
At Digeo, Gudorf redirected the company's focus to software. "I used that [focus] to start a new product suite, and I used that to sell the business for Paul in 2009," he says.
The day the funds from the sale hit the bank, Gudorf got a call from Technicolor, and the rest is history. "They needed someone who could think like an entrepreneur and create a new group," he says, and Gudorf, who's racked up 22 patents over the past few decades, fit the bill. "I fleshed out the vision for MediaNavi (MGO.com) and built the team," he says, which now comprises 100 employees in Burbank, California, and a team of 20 engineers in San Diego.
Throughout his career Gudorf has been driven by a desire to innovate and the boldness to see things through. "I work for a big company, and nurturing that spark of creativity makes the job more interesting," he says. "Every once in a while, that spark turns into a real business idea. That is the essence of the American spirit: to be able to find the spark that can turn into something new."
A Small-Town Start
The cutting-edge technology Gudorf deals in today is light years ahead of the electronics he sold early on.
He got his start on a much smaller scale in rural Minster, Ohio at Gudorf & Sons, the family business his grandfather founded in 1946. Gudorf began working there in 1978 after his father purchased the business from his grandfather. As the oldest of eight siblings, he worked alongside his parents from the time he was a teenager learning the ins-and-outs of retail and electronics.
"It was a tremendous opportunity to learn first-hand the reality of planning for a business and making it come to life by your own hands," Gudorf says. His mother, who did the books, instructed him on budgeting and cash flow, and his father taught him about sales and having a passion for electronics. "That's a lab you don't get anywhere else," he says.
His ability to grow a business caught the eye of larger companies, and he went to work for a Sony product distributor in 1985. "The [man] who owned it was in his 70s," says Gudorf. "He was one of those mentors who was pragmatic about his advice, and he gave me a free hand to build his business." Over the next four years, Gudorf and team increased sales to Ohio Valley retailers by 200 percent.
In the late 1980s, when Sony changed its model and stopped using distributors in his area, Gudorf found himself presented with another opportunity. A former colleague called and offered him a job with General Instrument building a consumer satellite retail business in San Diego. "It was December in Ohio. The ice and snow had started and the wind was blowing," he remembers. "Twenty minutes later, I was looking for a ticket to San Diego, my wife and I were up for the adventure."
Again, Gudorf found himself tasked with employing his entrepreneurial skills within a larger organization. "While [General Instrument] was a big company, the job was to build a retail store," he explains, "[It was an] experimentation lab to learn how people make purchasing decisions around satellite equipment."
After four years with General Instrument, Gudorf worked for Chaparral Communications where he gained international business experience, and then later for Sony. "When I went to Sony, I started working on my MBA [at University of Phoenix]," he says. "I knew if I wanted to advance my career the way I wanted, I would have to expand my education."
And advance he has. This small-town boy turned big-time executive has enjoyed the journey so far.
New Technology Beckons
Ultimately Gudorf decided to apply this experience elsewhere, though his entrepreneurial roots would serve him well over the years. In 1981, he moved to Dayton where he got a job in computer retail. "I caught the computer bug," he says, simply. "I saw how computers could really be used to advance the cause of small business, as well as large." In his role, he launched Apple's Lisa and Macintosh computer lines in local retail and corporate sales channels and managed Dayton's first computer superstore.
What's next? "People talk about luck and opportunity meeting," he says, "You have to be open to it."
Just as he does when he's flying a mile high, "Go as far as you can see, and then you'll see farther."
Here are four things Gudorf says are critical for flying high in your own life:
In addition to enjoying a thriving career in technology and flying single-engine aircraft, Gudorf is co-author of two books: "Speaking of Success" and "Marketing Strategies That Really Work!" Gudorf is also a member of Toastmasters International.