We had the good fortune of connecting with Gary Peterson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gary, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I spent most of my childhood in Fort Worth, Texas and my parents were both Great Depression kids. They grew up dirt poor, didn’t go to college, and simply outworked and out hustled their way to raising a great family and enjoying a comfortable life. While they provided for me, they also taught me how to work and work hard, which gave me a great mindset to start the company 20 years ago.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
gap intelligence is a business intelligence company that keeps our clients up to date on what is happening with their competition and marketplaces. We are baseball scouts for the electronics, IT, and home appliance industries. What TVs are coming to market? Where will those TVs be sold, for how much, and how will they be promoted to shoppers?
In the world of data companies that dump data on your desk and leave, we lead with our people who can find the signal in the noise of data. We spoon feed our clients insights on what is meaningful in the data and guide them through smart business decisions.
gap intelligence is a true, in the wild, living, breathing values-led company. We exist to do great for each other, our clients, and our community. Through the years we have raised over $500,000 for San Diego non-profits, donated hundreds of pints of blood to the Blood Bank, hosted food drives, beach cleanups and on and on.
Nothing has been easy, we have earned every nickel.
Gary’s Top Lessons Learned:
The soft stuff matters: Happy hours and trust falls a company culture does not make. A company’s culture is its values. Hire based on your values, manage through your values, and always, always stay true to your values. Never deviate. Get your mission statement in your DNA and do your best to identify your “WHY” (Simon Sinek “Start with WHY).
The boring stuff matters: It took years for a colleague to hit us over the head with the importance of a business plan, which has made all the difference for us. Write a business plan each fall that forecasts your plan for the next year and stay disciplined to that plan. Business plans, budgets, balance sheets, P&L statements, forecasts, were kryptonite to me, but absolutely essential to keep a healthy business.
The talking matters: A colleague told me that you have to say something seven times before half the people get it and over the years I have come to believe that. Over communicate everything including your company’s vision, values, initiatives, growth plans, financials, management best practices, career ladders…everything. The more you talk, the better the trust, the better the trust, the better the performance.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My most favorite quality of San Diego is just how distinct the neighborhoods are. La Jolla and Ocean Beach are just 5 miles apart and each neighborhood makes you feel as if you are on another planet. I love the local charm of each neighborhood – both in terms of food and beer, you gotta have both.
Point Loma – Mitch’s Seafood, no longer a local secret, is the City’s best seafood, handsdown. My favorite beer spot in San Diego is Fathom Bistro, Bait, and Tackle on Shelter Island – Fathom has a really strong tap list (includes Pliney the Younger at times) and has the best view in the city. I’d also take my tour to the Cabrillo Monument when a submarine or aircraft carrier leaves the harbor. It’s the coolest site ever.
Barrio Logan – Los Cuatro Milpas, Salud!, Barrio Dogs, and Attitude Brewery. I’d take my tour up and down Logan Avenue and Chicano Park. Barrio Logan is authentically Latino and defiant in keeping its identity.
OB – South Beach Tacos and Kilowatt Brewery. OB needs no explanation, it is the most charming, local, real neighborhood in Southern California. OB is what Venice Beach hopes to be – a lifestyle rather than a fad. I’m gonna take my tour of the pier, watch some surfers, hit the tidepools at low tide, and walk the Sunset Cliffs at sunset.
Convoy District – The most underrated foodie neighborhood in the country. Convoy is loaded with quality restaurants from sushi to dumplings to noodles to BBQ. My crew is going to the Krab Hut, which is actually the best jambalaya outside of Louisiana, and we’ll visit O’brien’s Pub, the birthplace of craft beer.
Hillcrest – Panama 66 is one of the most underrated beer joints in San Diego. They have a strong list of hard to find local beers. Grab a beer and watch the lawn bowlers get competitive in all whites.
North Park – My tour is a doughnut and beer tasting with brews from Northpark Beer Company and Nomad’s donuts. Both businesses are super local and have an inspiring voice in the neighborhood. After a few donuts, we’re playing video games at Coin Op. There is the most kickass painting of The Clash’s Joe Strummer at Fall Brewing down the street, we’ll grab a pint and say hello to Joe.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I could write a prose longer than “War & Peace” that still wouldn’t cover everyone who has helped, supported, and inspired me on this journey. It honestly takes a village to raise a small business.
It has never been “my” journey as it has been a shared journey with my business partner, Chris Barnes. Chris and I have worked together since 1999 and joined forces to build gap intelligence in 2004. Partnerships are hard and rarely last as long as ours has. Partnerships require an enormous amount of trust, respect, and communication to work all the while the business and our own lives evolve. Chris and I have endured so much good and bad, successes and failures, and through it all we continue to learn from each other.
Book that changed everything: Jim Collins’ “Good to Great”.
gap intelligence CEO Gary Peterson at his desk in San Diego’s East Village.