What It Takes

Entrepreneur Rob McGovern

Rob McGovern is on a mission to top his own success. In 1995, he founded the Internet job search site CareerBuilder.com, which grew into a $150 million company by the time he sold it seven years later for $680 million. After taking two years off, he launched Tysons Corner-based Jobfox.com, a top-five job search site that goes beyond listing jobs to matching suitable candidates with companies seeking to hire. McGovern, 49, is author of "Bring Your 'A' Game: The 10 Career Secrets of the High Achiever." He has two children -- Grant, 16, and Meghan, 11 -- is divorced and lives in Potomac.

Why he's successful: "I think success comes from staying intensely focused on the problem the company is trying to solve in the market.... I think companies get off track when they forget what problem they are trying to solve. I have been accused of being OCD [suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder] and I really think that means that I'm good at being obsessive about solving the problem."

Biggest obstacle: "Eighteen months ago, I was in a near-fatal car accident. I spent nine months in the hospital and recovering from that was a big obstacle .... I was on a business trip in Indianapolis and a 16-year-old kid passed someone illegally and I had a head-on with that kid .... I had a lot of broken bones, including both hips. I had a severe brain injury. I had to relearn to think. I was in a coma for a couple of weeks and I lost five months of memory."

How the crash changed him: "This was not a simple recovery. It was the hardest thing I've ever done -- more than a year of physical and brain therapy. The near-death experience re-centered me on what truly is important in my life .... It made me more grounded than I was before .... I really want my company to do well because I want it to contribute to society and for my employees to feel that they are making a contribution, as opposed to another quick way to make another buck."

First job: "When I was 11, I was a newspaper boy and I used to walk the streets at 6 a.m. imagining myself as a business owner. I think somewhere in my genetics, I'm a builder. Building businesses is what I'm really designed to do."

First full-time job: McGovern was born in Philadelphia. He went to a "Welcome Back, Kotter"-type high school, then the University of Maryland, College Park, where he studied business. "My first job out of college was working at Hewlett-Packard .... I worked in Maryland and France. I was in both sales and marketing .... I left France to take a job with a company based in Washington D.C. called Legent that was eventually sold for several billion dollars. I was like the sixth most important person in the company, but the top five became phenomenally wealthy."

Worst job: "I was a dishwasher for the summer on the [New] Jersey shore.... I learned that I better get a good college education so I wouldn't have to do that kind of work."

Best job: "I worked at Walt Disney World as a summer job in college .... I drove the tram in the parking lot."

The genesis of CareerBuilder: "The Internet was just coming about in 1994 and my first reaction was, 'This is going to change everything.' ... People were looking for jobs, passing out résumés, and I thought it was a natural fit for the Internet .... I started presenting to potential investors and 40 venture capitalists rejected me. The 41st said yes. And that answers the question of the smartest thing I ever did, which was working with Peter Barris at New Enterprise Associates .... He was the biggest investor in CareerBuilder and Jobfox .... Our first corporate client was a defense contractor in Washington, D.C. Most of our clients were small software or high-tech companies back then. By the time I sold it, I had 425 employees and offices in 28 cities with a headquarters in Reston. Our clients included almost every major corporation in the country -- State Farm, Oracle Corp., IBM."

Why he sold his company: "I think that every entrepreneur has to always be mindful that there is a day when you should take your chips off the table .... And somebody made a really good offer for the company. I sold the company in two chunks -- one for $230 million and another chunk for $450 million."

Why he unretired: McGovern started Jobfox in 2004 with 10 employees. Today, he has 40 employees and does $15 million to $20 million annually in business. "I tried going to the golf course, but it was full of old guys who wanted to discuss whether they should have prostate surgery or not .... I learned to fly. I bought a plane. I wrote a book. And then I worked as a venture capitalist for two or three companies .... I sort of knew what I wanted to do. What was driving me was, could I do it better the second time? ... There are more than 20,000 job search places on the Web, five that matter -- CareerBuilder is number one -- and we're fortunate to be in that top five."

What inspires him: "I really like seeing my ideas change people's lives. There are about 20 million people who use CareerBuilder every month and ... it is important to me that 20 million people each month are benefiting from and idea I wrote down sitting on Bethany Beach in Delaware."

What is next: "A shrimp boat. You've seen the film 'Forrest Gump,' haven't you? ... Jobfox has a long way to go .... And when I'm done with this one, I'll go out and do it again ... from the deck of a shrimp boat."


Avis Thomas-Lester

 |  November 17, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  |  Category:  success stories Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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