This month’s spotlight Golden Gate Business Association (GGBA) member business is Granite Solutions Groupe (GSG), which since its founding in 1998 has steadily grown from a small consulting firm based in San Francisco to having a national and global presence supporting the financial services and healthcare sectors with advisory, business transformation, and operational consulting solutions with operations in San Francisco; Charlotte; New York; Minneapolis; Bangalore, India; and Cape Town, South Africa. The firm’s year-over-year sales growth has averaged between 10–15% annually for the past 10 years, allowing it to grow by hiring additional team members who represent an extremely diverse ethnic, gender, multi-racial, and LGBTQ set of backgrounds.
Since its inception in 1998, GSG has created more than 3000 jobs supporting the firm’s clients’ strategic growth initiatives. “Community” is one of GSG’s seven core values that encourages its employees, consultants, clients, and community leaders to give back to the communities where they work and live. (The other core values are Diversity, Relationships, Integrity, Consistency, Efficiency, and Quality.)
GSG is the largest certified LGBT-owned business enterprise in the San Francisco Bay Area as measured by employees and revenue. It was the first such business to formally adopt the U.N. Free & Equal Business Standards of Conduct. As GSG continues to grow and expand its footprint in the U.S. and abroad, the firm is developing the next generation of leaders to foster a culture of giving back and to provide inspiration for doing the right thing for GSG’s communities, families, and employees.
For these and other achievements, GSG received the U.S. Bank’s Inaugural Supplier of the Year award in 2019 (Business Wire story on the award: https://bwnews.pr/2v9liVx ). As a result of this award, the U.S. Bank is sending GSG’s CEO Dan L’Abbe to Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business executive program, “Growing an Established Diverse Company,” in May of this year. GSG also just became a Platinum Circle Corporate Sponsor of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), taking the firm’s investment in LGBTQ business sponsorship to the national level.
That is only one example of a GSG sponsorship. GSG sponsors the GGBA as well as Guide Dogs for the Blind, the NFTE (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship), the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the American Cancer Society, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the American National Red Cross, the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, AIDS/LifeCycle, the Horizons Foundation, PACT Adoption Alliance, the National Minority & Supplier Diversity Council, the Human Rights Campaign, the South Carolina EMS Memorial Ride, and the Vail Place mental health resource in Minnesota.
In addition, GSG dedicates one day per quarter for its team members to work in the community to support various local organizations in San Francisco, Charlotte, Minneapolis, New York, Bangalore, and Cape Town, working side by side with other volunteers to give their muscle and intellect in delivering on the mission of those organizations. For every client or consultant event that GSG hosts in various cities, the firm donates funds on behalf of each attendee to a local charity and matches the funds to increase the positive impact in those communities.
GSG’s Chief Client Officer John Henning heads up the team that spends the most time with the firm’s clients. He has worked tirelessly with GSG’s clients to increase awareness and engagement for diversity and inclusion efforts.
GGBA: Why did your business partner Dan L’Abbe decide to create the GSG?
John Henning: My business partner Dan L’Abbe founded the firm in 1998 in response to the need for experienced, polished, and professional consultants who could deliver high quality outcomes in the lead up to Y2K, and built the firm on a reputation of quality, integrity, and consistency. In 2000 I joined the firm as an investor and advisor, then joined as a full-time employee and officer of the firm running business development in 2002. The idea of building a business with someone I admired and enjoyed being with, and serving an industry that we both enjoyed, was very appealing to me, and having the opportunity to create a culture with a leader like Dan is what inspires me to jump out of bed every day to this day.
GGBA: Speaking of role models, who are some of yours, and especially those who helped to influence your business?
John Henning: I know this may sound corny and old-fashioned, but one of my role models is Abraham Lincoln. His commitment to education, hard work, building partnerships across enemy lines, and doing the right thing for the future of humankind is the type of life I would like to emulate.
As for those who influenced my business, there are really two heroes. One is Dale Carnegie who wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People, and if you’re not familiar with the theme, it’s really all about being your genuine self and being fully present with the people you come into contact with and do business with. That kind of drive to really know your customers and feel where they’re coming from is what builds genuine relationships that can last a lifetime.
The other would have to be Dan L’Abbe. Without Dan’s constant persistence and drive to achieve a higher standard of excellence, none of the people on his team would be where they are today. With his kind and generous spirit mixed with his steady hand and drive to succeed, we all know we can achieve our goals.
GGBA: Why did you decide to join the GGBA, and how long have you been a member?
John Henning: GSG decided to join the GGBA as a result of the NGLCC. We had become members of the NGLCC and certified our business as an LGBT certified firm in 2009. When we were up for renewal in 2011, the team at the NGLCC let us know that they would waive our certification fee if we became members of the local chapter, the GGBA. So, we went through the process and met the GGBA and became members. From there, we got to know the chamber through events, and became interested in doing more locally to give back to the LGBTQ community in the Bay Area.
GGBA: How has being a member of the GGBA helped your business so far?
John Henning: While GSG has never received any direct business leads from the GGBA, we have been exposed to the local LGBTQ community, its needs, and unique challenges through a lens that wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for our increased involvement with the GGBA. The experience has given us prominence and exposure with key clients across the industry, and the deepening relationship with the NGLCC as a result of our involvement with the GGBA has been rewarding. Increased industry awareness and direct introductions from the NGLCC have led to direct business and new client relationships.
Best of all, the involvement of our firm’s leadership and thereby inclusion of the whole GSG team in learning more about the LGBTQ business community, supplier diversity, advocacy, and inclusion has helped to reinforce our core values with our global team.
GGBA: Do you go to the GGBA monthly Make Contact networking events? Have they benefited you and your business, and would you recommend them to others?
John Henning: I travel frequently and therefore don’t have the opportunity to attend as many events as I would like. However, I do go when I am in town and don’t have other business conflicts, and they are always an enjoyable affair with some familiar faces, some new faces, and a fun atmosphere. They benefit me in that I get to learn about what other business leaders are doing to grow their companies and share stories, challenges, successes, and to discuss sensitive issues in a safe environment. I would definitely recommend going when you can; it’s always nice to meet new people and learn more about the community.
GGBA: What other advice would you give to someone who is thinking of starting their own business?
John Henning: Have a plan. Pay attention to the numbers. Hire people who can help and get out of their way. Make sure your motivations are in line with your passion. Be willing to put business first at times and remember to take breaks and enjoy the ride!
GGBA: Is there anything else that you would like to share?
John Henning: I think the GGBA and all chambers and nonprofits serving the LGBTQ community have a unique opportunity to partner with each other to create a more cohesive network of services, programming, education, and advocacy for our brothers and sisters in the community.
I see the GGBA holding a unique position both geographically and politically to build a new model of leadership in the community over the next several years as we continue to drive to the ultimate goal where diversity and inclusion do not even need to be discussed. Until then, see you in Vegas with the NGLCC in July!
For more information about Granite Solutions Groupe: https://www.granitesolutionsgroupe.com/