It could be any Internet honcho’s story: “When I was interviewing for my first job, I got contacted by a small company I’d never heard of, but the top guys were only a couple years older than I was. They wore jeans and long hair and drove Porsches. And they were excited about what they were doing.”
Only in George Garrick’s case, it was 1977 and the breaking technology was bar code scanning, not digital communications. With degrees in math and engineering, plus an MBA from Purdue University, Garrick hadn’t been contemplating a career in market research. However, he found plenty to keep him interested, first at Management Science Associates, and then at Chicago-based Information Resources Inc., the first market research company to use electronic data collection. In his 15-year career at IRI, punctuated by a four-month stint at rival A.C. Nielsen Marketing Research, Garrick rose to the top, becoming president and CEO of IRI North America in 1993.
But the thrill was gone. He had realized that the Web could allow the truly quantitative, results-oriented approach to marketing that was frustratingly elusive in conventional media. In May, he joined the online ad sales company Flycast Network, San Francisco, as president and CEO.
His wife, Lainie, and their two children are still in Chicago, awaiting the birth of a third child.
Flycast gives Garrick the chance to put his new ideas into practice. “I’ve always believed there should be a more quantitative, results-oriented approach to marketing,” he says. “What’s great about the Internet is, it’s undeniable, real-time feedback. I’ve got 20 years of pent-up frustration in not being able to apply these techniques, and now we can.”
A top dog in business for most of his working life, the head of Flycast Network is precisely groomed on the knife edge between hip and money. It’s not that hard, though, to break through the carefully polished veneer. Just ask him to name a quality people miss seeing in him, and he answers without hesitation, “I may not seem like the most warm and fuzzy person, but I really am.”
As if on cue, his cell phone rings. His 4-year-old son is on the line. Sweet chat about tickling and tucking in ensues. This is a man who’ll stop a business meeting to say, “I love you,” to his son.
“Having a family moderates how I spend my time,” he laughs. “And how I handle other people who need to leave or can’t come in. I think it makes a positive difference.” Having his own family half a continent away makes for a tough week-end commute.
“But if we’re successful,” Garrick says, “there will be plenty of recreational time in the future.” When that time comes, he adds, “I want to look back at this industry and feel that I played a small part in it. But I want to look back at it from a beach, with a jet plane.”