Leadership Lessons from History, Technology, Wine, Rock & Roll and Satellite Stalking: Gary Mortensen, CEO of Stoller Family Estate, Shares a Different Path.

Gary Mortensen CEO, Stoller Family Estate
Gary Mortensen
CEO, Stoller Family Estate

Tuesday evening Gary Mortensen, President of Stoller Family Estate, founder of The History Engine and FonWallet Transaction Solutions, Inc., and ACG Portland Board Member came to the Peer Growth Event podium as raconteur.  Perched comfortably and casually on a high stool Mortensen energetically told the tale of his unusual career which has taken him full-circle back to the winemaking industry and the former turkey farm he knew in his youth.

From Sokol Blosser in 1998 to Stoller Family Estate by way of entrepreneurial ventures in IT, documentary filmmaking, and the preservation of US war veteran history, his journey might leave a casual observer to wonder how such disparate endeavors could lead to success.  But as the evening unfolded, a clear path connecting the anecdotes emerged.  Here are some key quotes and observations.

 “… so, you have an 11 year inventory cycle…”

There are some simple, universal principles that apply to every business everywhere.  Wrapping his mind around his first real job at the young and struggling Sokol Blosser, Gary looked at the growing inventory of wine and immediately knew they had a sales problem with a product that would not sell by word-of-mouth.

Twenty three years later, the Stoller product would definitely sell itself but Mortensen knew volume was the way to overcome the overhead of growing great wine and building the first LEED Gold Certified Winery.  He marched the company through five years of stunning production growth from 9,000 to 41,000 cases.  Mortensen estimates “40% of Oregon wineries are losing money” and asserts, “You need 30,000 cases to be profitable.”  He expects the industry will go through much consolidation in the coming years.

“… the No. 1 winery in Oregon – Most were laughing or scoffing – A few leaned forward – Guess who made the cut… We only want Owners.”

The ratio of engaged to unengaged employees is broadly accepted as correlated with corporate success. Mortensen calls them “Owners and Renters.”  Describing a company strategy session sizing up his new staff at Stoller, he looked for signs of engagement and gave evidence of an impatient preference for those who will make a difference over those who would impede – Engagement is not just important in big companies.

“You have to be disruptive – If you are not disruptive, others are passing you by.”

Only a very astute scholar of people and culture as well as a daring disrupter conceives a plan to combine the public’s appetite for outdoor popular music concerts with a vineyard’s need to move large inventories of not-very-good wine. Mortensen’s unorthodox plan quickly and serially solved the 11-year-inventory-cycle problem while the young winery learned to produce wine the public would seek on its own merits.

Gary also imagined naming a blend of left-over white varietals “Evolution #9” to suggest a Beatles song, tapping into the same popular music culture and making that barrel-cleanup a best seller year after year? – “I wish I had asked for royalties on that one”, he laments.

Readers have been kept wondering about the “Satellite Stalking” bit.  Those with young adult children may remember the “Big Bang Theory” episode when Harold and Raj reposition a government satellite to help them find the address where the contestants in America’s Next Top Model are staying? – This popular TV program episode concept may have come from Gary Mortensen. – Gary shared an account of a visit during his IT years to a secure government facility.  His efforts to connect with and understand his government clients were so effective that, before he knew it, they were showing him satellite imagery of a European city that they were using to shop for real estate near the home of their favorite Rock music icon.

In Gary’s Linkedin Summary he writes, As a historian, I believe it’s also about how we remember and learn from those who have gone before us.”  Indeed, it would appear in his passion for history and in his leadership he reveals himself as a student of human beings. – Throughout the evening, Mortensen’s tale gave evidence of the success that comes from understanding people and fluidly transferring that understanding to practical, leadership application.


How to ‘Move’ Your Business to the Next Level: Insights from Nat Parker, CEO of moovel North America

Nat Parker_1
Nat Parker, CEO of moovel North America

On Tuesday, we had the privilege of hearing from Nat Parker, CEO of moovel North America. Nat first conceived what would become GlobeSherpa while enrolled in a graduate program at Portland State University in 2007. His vision was a mobile app that could provide a transportation ticketing hub for municipal transit. His entrepreneurial path was less clear. He learned early on that funding doesn’t just show up. A friend connected Nat with Doug Fieldhouse, president and CEO of Vesta Corp. Nat shared how he and Fieldhouse met for coffee so he could explain his business plan. Fieldhouse was impressed enough to cut a $50,000 check that Nat was not expecting and returned within a week.

“I gave back the check and learned a big lesson from Doug. He said ‘never turn down money.”

Amidst hunting for investors and growing his fledgling business, Nat was fighting off competition and litigation and navigating an acquisition by a much larger corporation. Nat shared several of the bumps and bruises that took his Portland-based GlobeSherpa to Daimler-owned moovel North America.

The theme of Nat’s presentation—and what most applies to other leaders working to grow their organizations—was the need to put personal feelings and egos aside in order to make the best decisions as a CEO. To do what’s best for the company and for the customer, sometimes, you have to take yourself out of the equation.

Here are a few memorable examples that Nat shared on Tuesday evening.

Being Humble and Open
In 2007, Nat’s initial idea was to share images of geographic locations as well as recommendations and reviews.

“Today, that’s called Google or Yelp. GlobeSherpa, and now moovel, is a much different company than I set out to create. But, sometimes, you have to kill your darlings.”

Making Hard, Smart Decisions
Just as GlobeSherpa was getting going and working to expand into Washington D.C., its biggest competitor sued for patent infringement.

“We all knew the suit was worthless, and my board wanted to fight it. I wanted to fight it, but that fight was costing us new business. It was a hard pill to swallow, and I had to fight my own board, but we chose to settle so that the company could move forward.”

There is no ‘I’ in Team
Ten months after Daimler acquired GlobeSherpa, they were merged with Austin-based Ridescout and Nat was named CEO.

“I knew both sides would need to bleed a little for the team and culture to survive. So I made my leadership team in Portland report to the Ridescout team in Austin. I felt I’d done the right thing when my leadership team and their leadership team universally hated me.”

Every month, ACG Portland brings talented young entrepreneurs and industry veterans together for unique programming. Visit our calendar to find out about upcoming events in Portland.

Register Today for Our July 12 Peer Growth Event with moovel CEO Nat Parker

Nat Parker_1

Don’t miss a very special Peer Growth Event with Nat Parker, CEO of moovel, one of Oregon’s hottest startups.

In 2015, less than two years after Nat’s company GlobeSherpa launched its transformative mobile ticketing app for publiclogo-moovel transportation, Daimler acquired GlobeSherpa. Ten months later, Daimler merged it with Austin-based RideScout and named Parker CEO of the newly renamed company, moovel.

Moovel is creating the future of urban mobility by offering new ways to connect the urban mobility ecosystem. This is a true Portland success story that you won’t want to miss.

Join us to hear how Nat and his cofounder were able to found and grow their company while they were still graduate students at Portland State University.

We’ll be holding this event on Tuesday, July 12 from 5:30-7:30 PM at the historic BridgePort Brew Pub. Don’t forget to register in advance!

October 13, 2015: ACG Portlatnd Presents Kyra Bussanich of Kyra’s Bake Shop

Please join ACG Portland members for the October Peer Growth event (Tuesday, October 13 @ The Multnomah Athletic Club from 5:30-7:30 PM) for a presentation by Kyra Bussanich, Kyra’s Bake Shop.  Register here.

Important food and beverage commodities have led this year’s ACG Portland Peer Growth events; Wine tasting in June, beer tasting in July and now we officially have a “cupcake” scheduled.

On Tuesday, October 13 at the Multnomah Athletic Club, Kyra Bussanich, owner of Kyra’s Bake Shop, will be our guest speaker. Kyra will share the story of her company and its growth, including the challenges of growing a business with millenniums for employees.

At 20, Kyra Bussanich was diagnosed with an autoimmune
disorder. Part of staying healthy meant switching to a gluten-free diet. After being disappointed in the gluten-free products that were available on the market, Kyra decided to attended the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu patisserie program, which gave her a solid foundation of knowledge about classical French baking techniques. She was able to apply what she learned toward baking gluten-free.

Through craving, and by necessity, Kyra began experimenting with alternative flours and developed a handful of cake recipes that taste as good, if not better, than traditional wheatfilled cakes. Part of the growth of her business has been in expanding the offerings, not just with gluten-free, but with Grain Free, Low Carb and Paleo treats as well.

Kyra appeared on the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” in 2010, 2011 and
2012; winning the cooking competition in December 2011 and May 2012. Her cupcake shop also was the runner-up in the June 2012 “Cupcake Champions” competition.

Join us for a very interesting story and some great tasting treats!

Tim Price, Pacific Power Group: ACG Portland’s September 2015 Peer Growth Speaker

Join ACG Portland members on Tuesday, September 15 at Ruth’s Chris Steak House for a conversation with Tim Price…president of Pacific Power Group.
Who is Pacific Power Group? 
If your first thought is the power company, you’d be mistaken.  Pacific Power Group (PPG) is a privately held company, composed of a diverse set of businesses in the truck, marine and power generation segments.  They have six divisions and twelve locations throughout the west.
Tim Price, President of Pacific Power Group, will share his insights and lessons learned in leading a large, dynamic and powerful northwest industrial company toward continued long-term growth given today’s widening and diverse range of challenges and pressures.  Topics will include the industrial sector’s outlook for growth, workforce challenges, managing costs, policy issues, and the overall health of Pacific Power Group’s industry segments for the middle market heading into 2016.
Tim is an accomplished seasoned senior executive with 33 years of experience in financial, strategy and operations with both public and private companies.
As a speaker, Tim has been invited to share his leadership insight with numerous organizations and corporations, drawing from his rich leadership experience with previous senior executive roles with Ultimate Electric; Hollywood
Video; Movie Gallery and The Limited.Tim Price’s program will be a not-to-be-missed event.  Join us!

July 14th ACG Portland Event: Andy Thomas, CEO of Craft Brew Alliance @ Widmer Brewery

ACG Portland’s July Peer Growth will be a special evening with Andy Thomas–CEO of Craft Brew Alliance (CBA). Join us for a fun and informative evening at Widmer Brewing, one of CBA’s signature brands. The evening includes tours of the brewery, great beer, and wonderful eats.

DATE: Tuesday, July 14, 2015
LOCATION: Widmer Brewery (929 N Russell Street, Portland, OR 97227)

SCHEDULE: Arrive @ 5:30 PM

  • 5:40 PM -1st Brewery Tour
  • (6:00 PM) – 2nd Brewery Tour
  • 6:20 PM – 3rd Brewery Tour
  • 6:45-7:30 PM – Andy Thomas and announcements

Andy Thomas will share:

  • CBA’s growth history
  • Trends impacting the industry
  • His strategy for evolving CBA
  • Challenges

Thomas took over as the company’s new CEO, January 1, 2014. He had served as CBA’s president of commercial operations since June 2011. Thomas joined CBA as President of Commercial Operations in 2011 after serving as an independent consultant to the company for 18 months. In his tenure at CBA, Thomas has been responsible for establishing the company’s unique national portfolio strategy that has propelled the company’s volume growth to 14% in the most recent quarter.

Thomas brings more than two decades of leadership experience in consumer packaged goods and the beer and beverage industries to his role as CEO for CBA. He spent 12 years at Heineken International, working with brewers and beers in more than 55 countries across four continents, and served as
president & CEO of Heineken USA from 2005-2007.

MAY 2015 ACG Portland M&A Event RECAP

ACG Portland 2015 M&ARemarkable crowd during Tuesday’s (5/12/15) at ACG Portland’s M&A event at the Sentinel Hotel in downtown Portland.  Special thanks D.A. Davidson’s Brad Gevurtz, Stoel Rives’s Steven Hull, Geffen Mesher’s Michael Lortz and the event’s moderator, Portland Business Journal‘s Malia Spencer.

Topics covered:

  • Current M&A market data, valuations, and activity
  •  Trends in deal terms and common protections
  •  Tax strategies and implications
  •  Case studies of successful transactions

ACG Portland’s May (5/12) Peer Growth: M & A Trends & Strategies

ACG Portland May 2015 Peer Growth Event

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

7:00 am – 9:30 am

Sentinel Hotel

M & A Trends & Strategies
Sponsored by: D.A. Davidson, Stoel Rives, Geffen Mesher and ACG Portland

Please join us for an M&A Trends & Strategies breakfast and discussion, led by D.A. Davidson & Co., Stoel Rives, LLP, and Geffen Mesher & Co. in conjunction with ACG Portland. This event is for CXOs in the Pacific Northwest and is focused on current trends in the M&A and private capital markets as well as strategies to maximize shareholder value.

  •  Current M&A market data, valuations, and activity
  •  Trends in deal terms and common protections
  •  Tax strategies and implications
  •  Case studies of successful transactions

D.A. Davidson: Brad Gevurtz – Managing Director, Investment Banking
Mr. Gevurtz is a Managing Director in the Investment Banking Division of D.A. Davidson & Co.  Mr. Gevurtz has been with D.A. Davidson since 2005 and during his time with the firm has served as the Head of Investment Banking and as a member of the Board of Directors and the Public Equity Commitment Committee.  Prior to joining D.A. Davidson, Mr. Gevurtz worked for over 20 years on Wall Street as a senior banker at JP Morgan Chase, KeyBanc Capital Markets, and Broadview Int’l (now Jefferies Broadview).  Mr. Gevurtz has significant experience in M&A, private placements, and public offerings, and has worked with clients such as Alltel, AT&T, Cadbury Schweppes, Computer Associates, Comsat, GE, IBM, Toyota, Verizon, and Xerox.

Stoel Rives: Steven H. Hull – Partner
For nearly two decades, Steven Hull has helped public and private companies, investors and individuals achieve their strategic business goals in various types of sophisticated corporate transactions. Steven is recognized in Chambers USA and Best Lawyers in America for his skill in mergers and acquisitions.  He has extensive experience working on deals involving private equity firms, including minority investments.  He regularly represents investors and public and private companies in financing transactions and securities law matters.
Geffen Mesher: Michael Lortz, CPA, LEED AP – Shareholder
Michael Lortz is a shareholder with the accounting firm of Geffen Mesher, which provides auditing, accounting, consulting, and tax services to a variety of closely held businesses and their owners.  A CPA and LEED Accredited Professional, Michael is a frequent speaker on tax issues surrounding business transitions and M&A transactions, and his clients rely on him to help them make strategic decisions and manage their overall tax liability.
Portland Business Journal: Malia Spencer – Tech Reporter
7:00am – 8:00am – Registration and Breakfast
7:45am – Opening Comments
8:00am – 8:30/45am – Structured Presentation
8:30am – 9:00am – Structured Q&A Led by Moderator
9:00am – 9:30am – Open Q&A from the audience

February 2015 ACG Portland: “Looking Back and Looking Forward: Reflecting on 20 Years of Northwest Middle Market Growth”

“Looking Back and Looking Forward: Reflecting on 20 Years of Northwest Middle Market Growth”

Less than one week away from ACG Portland’s special event (Tuesday, Feb. 10 @ 5:30 PM at the Moda Center) honoring the association’s founders, Cordell Berge and Lee Koehn, as well as Spencer Brown—a longtime member and advocate for the chapter.

Cordell Berge also poses a compelling question to attendees. Watch the video to see what you might win!


Click here to go directly to registration (see notes below for online registration tips). Hope to see you there!