Q&A with Len Gauger

CEO, Connect Space

len gauger connect space ceo

Len Gauger is the innovative founder and CEO of Connect Space. Gauger has impressive background, previously serving as an analyst at the U.S. Department of Defense. He showcases a unique blend of entrepreneurial spirit, strategic vision, and a knack for tech innovation. His diverse experiences have equipped him to effectively lead Connect Space, an events management platform company based in the bustling tech startup environment of Ann Arbor. It is also worth noting that Gauger is recognized among the select group of U.S. Department of Defense alumni who have founded companies.

"Listen but follow your own instincts. Know nothing worth doing is going to be easy." - Len Gauger

EMPG: Can you tell us about the journey that led you to establish your company?

Gauger: I started my events and hospitality career as a hotel salesperson. While there, I learned about event and the events industry. After doing that for about 5 years, I started my first job as a event planner at the Department of Defense within the Air National Guard where I worked for the Director of the Air National Guard and his staff. I had noticed so many problems with the way we shared information with each other and thought there must be a better way to actually get things done without creating a massive amount of additional work.

EMPG: Can you discuss some of the significant challenges you faced in the early stages of your business?

Gauger: Like all startups, we aim to learn at every stage of our growth. The hardest, but most important part is, and always will be, finding the right team members. We have been fortunate to have a pretty cool product and vision so that part is not as difficult, but really identifying the right person for a role has been tough and when done incorrectly can be very expensive (both time and money wise).

EMPG: Can you describe the culture within your company, and why you believe it’s integral to your success?

Gauger: Here at Connect Space, we are learners and explorers. We understand that although there are other products out there ours is unique because we are built from the perspective of the planning team to create opportunities. Specifically, opportunities to save time and money, opportunities for attendees to get connected and grow and opportunities for companies to get real business done.

EMPG: How do you encourage creativity and innovation within your company?

Gauger: That is something that is just part of everything we do. We are a young company that is incredibly driven, intelligent and excited to solve real problems for our teams every single day.

EMPG: How do you define success for your business, and how do you measure it?

Gauger: Our success is measured by the happiness of our teams and users. We also focus on time and cost savings. In a world where organizations are expected to do more with less, a company like ours can't attract and keep customers unless we help them save both time and money.

EMPG: What is your leadership style, and how has it evolved over the years?

Gauger: I look as my job as being the person to identify talented people that are driven and enable them to be as successful as possible. A coach, counselor and champion for them. If my team is successful, then I am successful. Rising tides raise all ships!

EMPG: What role has technology played in the evolution and success of your company?

Gauger: Technology advancement is everything to us. However within our industry our customers are RISK mitigators that can not afford mistakes or issues. Organizing events is one of the most stressful jobs on the planet, so we focus on reliable technologies that improve the attendee experience and enhance engagement among them. Our organizations and their team members know that if we are going to add a new technology like virtual components, apps, AI etc. that it will work. Also, since our system is all in one place (not a bunch of aquired companies), new features are completely integrated and easy to deploy.

EMPG: How do you attract and retain top talent in your organization?

Gauger: We share our vision. We believe everything of significance in history happened at or as a result of an event. It is such an important part of civilization as a whole. Connect Space is here to change the way we look at networking and events. We are at what we call the "opportunity frontier."

EMPG: How do you balance short-term pressures with long-term goals?

Gauger: We use a system call EOS (Entrepreneurs Operating System) to keep our team balanced and accountable.

EMPG: How did your business adapt to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Gauger: We did well, all considering. As I mentioned earlier, we are heavily focused on technological advancements and have for many years offered hybrid and virtual event management tools to help people still meet no matter where they are on the planet.

EMPG: Can you tell us about a mistake you made in the business, how you dealt with it, and what you learned from it?

Gauger: There are many different learning experience that we have had over the years. Our biggest mistake would be our hiring practices or lack of at the beginning. It is hard to create a balance of accountability without too much process and for us learn the amount during the hiring phase was one of the first place we focused.

EMPG: What role does client feedback play in your decision-making process?

Gauger: We are absolutely obsessed with our teams (customers). We truly consider Connect Space as the extension to an organizations team, meaning we are just as interested in what can improve as we are what worked well. Our customers inform our decisions on more than just what feature to build next. We want them to be as absolutely successful as possible because we found a happy customer is your best evangelist.

EMPG: Could you share one of your key business philosophies that you feel has contributed to your success?

Gauger: The biggest contributor to our success is being honest and up front with our customers. We know things go wrong and in many cases there is really no reason for it. We call it managing Murphy's Law. We know things will go wrong, but if immediately follow up and follow through with a solution, we believe it makes our company stronger because our organizations know that when something goes wrong we are there to support and find a solution.

EMPG: How do you stay updated with the latest trends and changes in your industry?

Gauger: We are constantly looking for the next best event hook for audiences so we are just as focused on the real advancements taking place.

EMPG: Looking to the future, where do you see your company in the next five years?

Gauger: I see us continuing to grow and help organizations engage with their audiences whether it is an event, a digital ecosystem or even a network of business that want to get their products to people looking for them.

EMPG: Finally, what advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to achieve similar success in their company?

Gauger: Have endurance to get through the really tough stuff without losing your vision or drive. Listen, but follow your own instincts. Know nothing worth doing is going to be easy. And finally, you have to be in love with and obsessed with your customer's happiness.

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