In 1996, Annemarie Omrod co-founded John Galt Solutions, and she currently serves as its President and CEO. Since its founding, John Galt Solutions has been an innovative force in the market for forecasting and demand planning services, helping businesses such as Hasbro, Fidelity Investments, and DuPont improve their operations.
More than just a name, the protagonist of Atlas Shrugged serves as an inspiration for Ms. Omrod in the way she leads her company, reminding her that growing a great business requires “the gathering of great minds.”
Atlasphere columnist Ryan Krause caught up with Ms. Omrod recently for this interview.
The Atlasphere: Tell us about John Galt Solutions and the forecasting business.
Annemarie Omrod: We are the economical solution for the middle market in demand planning. Demand planning is the ability to predict the future using history and past events. We help customers plan their future, their inventory needs, making sure their product is at the right place at the right time. Every day over 5,000 customers use our forecasting tools to plan their business.
TA: Why did you decide to name your firm after the main character in Atlas Shrugged?
Omrod: My partner and I were both reading Atlas Shrugged at the time, and we liked the fact that John Galt gathered all the great minds. We asked permission to use the name, and until we got it we used a different name. We thought Galt represented the gathering of great minds.
TA: How have the ideas presented in Atlas Shrugged influenced the culture at John Galt Solutions?
Omrod: Well, we have signs around the office that say “producer or looter.” Basically, you can’t really not do your job at a small company. If you do that it’s really obvious. Everyone has to pull their own weight. Also, we try to call folks individuals. We have to work in teams; we need teams to get jobs done. But in a team, we always try to accentuate the individual. Teams have to work together, but a team is a team of individuals.
TA: Do you perceive your way of doing business to be substantially different from your competitors because of this? In what way?
take a lot of pride in our customers’ successes and in doing a good job, and I
think that really helps us out in getting new customers and maintaining our
existing ones. With customers we get them a quote, we try to stick to that
quote, and we try to keep our commitments.
Another influence from Atlas Shrugged is that we work really hard to keep up with technology. We make sure that our technology is not behind. There are a lot of companies in the Fortune 500 who can get the newest technology, but in the middle market, you don’t necessarily need the newest, but you definitely need what’s proven. We try to combine newest with proven. Our Atlas Planning Suite combines our Demand Management Engine with our Planning Portal.
TA: Could you explain that?
Omrod: The Demand Management Engine is our bread and butter. It’s the main tool for improving forecast accuracy. We also have a Planning Portal. What that software does is it allows sales people to enter data and the demand planner can see the changes the sales person makes in the data at the same time.
TA: Do you believe that a set of ideas, such as those that Ayn Rand introduced, can provide a firm with a competitive advantage? How so?
Omrod: It absolutely can if groomed in the right away, because it’s all geared toward improving yourself and doing a good job.
TA: Atlas Shrugged is a very controversial novel. What has been the customer response to the John Galt name?
we go to trade shows and conferences, the analysts we talk to, people at lower
levels of a company, have no idea who John Galt is. When you get to the director
or vice president level, though, you get to people who know the name. That has
been the most fascinating. As you get higher up in corporations, there’s more
people who have read Atlas Shrugged.
When you’re at those conferences, they’ll recognize the name and say “that’s the most important book I’ve ever read.” When we’re marketing to analysts we meet people who’ve never read it, but I’ve met probably three people who said it was a terrible book. And then, there are people who just want to talk about it.
TA: Fans of Rand’s books often acquire a deep respect for wealth producers and can even idealize what they do. Has starting and operating an entrepreneurial firm been like what you initially expected? How has your experience differed from what you envisioned being an entrepreneur would be like?
more work than you would expect. (Laughs) There’s a lot more business problems
than you think you will run into. In the beginning, especially if you are into
Ayn Rand, you’re surprised by people who don’t get it. You’re surprised that
there are people who don’t necessarily want to do a good job.
As a manager, you have to do a good job. Right now, in this economy, I have to keep people in their jobs. I can’t just say I’m only out for myself, not in the traditional sense. If you get a good team, you have to make sure you take care of them. It doesn’t mean you’re serving them. You want to hold on to a good team.
TA: You’ve been in business since 1996. What do you consider your greatest achievement in that time? What has been your greatest challenge?
Omrod: One accomplishment is that our product competed and won in an accuracy competition in 1997. We’re very proud of that. Also, we’ve been able to put together a great list of customers who really believe in our tool. We have Fortune 500 companies who really believe in our tool. Folks at larger companies are coming to us.
In a small business, the biggest challenge is like I said before: gathering a good management team.
TA: What do you look for in a management team?
Omrod: Experience and commitment, definitely.
TA: Sales of Atlas Shrugged have been skyrocketing lately in response to the political climate. Have you seen a rise in the interest in John Galt Solutions?
Omrod: Yes! I guess there was an article entitled “Going Galt,” and I had two customers send that to me. Another time, I was at a show for higher ups, and this guy I was talking to about business asked me “So, who do you think, if they’re making the movie, should play the roles?” This person had notes and everything. We talked about who we’d like to see play James Taggart and Hank Rearden. So, yeah, I’d say there’s been some interest.
TA: You deal with a lot of businesspeople. What is your general impression of them?
Omrod: Our customers really want to do a good job for their companies. We’ve got a pretty good group of customers that we really want to see succeed. And I think they want to do a good job for themselves and their companies.
TA: That is refreshing. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us, Anne.Omrod: Thank you.