Business Profile: Knowledge U’s New Chief Marketing Officer Gail Galuppo
Friday, August 29, 2014
Portland-based Knowledge Universe is the largest private early childhood education provider in the United States and the third largest privately held company in Oregon. And they've just brought on Gail Galuppo as their new chief marketing officer.
A former executive who traveled the world for for her own international company, Gail Galuppo is settling into her new job and what she calls the Portland “vibe.”
“It’s a flashback to my childhood where kids are out playing in the neighborhood until 10 o’clock at night and you know we have kids setting up homemade slip and slides in the backyard and it’s just such a really warm community vibe,” says Galuppo. “Everybody here in Portland has just been so great and friendly.
"I love the food and the culture and everything about it. It reminds me a lot of Chicago, where I grew up.”
Galuppo's new post as part of KU's executive team will see her working from the 12th floor of the Lloyd District building, which overlooks Southeast Portland. She'll be overseeing a team of professionals responsible for attracting and retaining families to the organization’s high-quality educational programs. In announcing Galuppo's hire, CEO Tom Wyatt charged her with “leading the way we talk with parents.”
KU offers early childhood education and care through approximately thousands of community-based centers, as well as before- and after-school academic enrichment programs and summer camps through more than 400 sites nationwide.
GoLocalPDX: How would you describe yourself: part corporate executive? Part entrepreneur?
GG: What I loved is that I’ve worked with many big companies and when I was there I basically called myself an “intropreneur.” I was always looking at ways for the customers to meet their needs and drive change and innovation in the company. I had the opportunity to go out on my own and start a business with a friend of mine and we started BankersLab [a company that develops risk leadership and risk management techniques in the retail banking industry]. It grew internationally, so I had the taste of entrepreneurial life as well, but what I found is that I’m a “people person,” and it’s great to be an entrepreneur, but I really need to be sparked creatively by other people around me. Working 14 hours a day on Skype or the cell phone, it kind of gets lonely and that’s why I handed over the day-to-day operations to one of my partners and joined corporate life again.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I’ve always stuck to the same rule: I manage how I’d like to be managed. I grew up at General Electric and our values and leadership style was about taking risks, thinking out of the box and rewarding people for taking chances. I’m that type of manager. I care for my folks very deeply. I’m the type of person who will get my hands dirty. If we have a project that is due the next day and it’s midnight, I’m right there doing everything to help the team. I might be typing the presentation as they’re drafting it out. It doesn’t matter what role I play as long as I’m helping my team achieve their targets. It's about stretching them to the best of their capabilities.
Why Knowledge Universe?
It’s the mission. You get to a certain point in your career and you sell a lot of products and you feel good about that, but you really don’t have a major impact in changing people’s lives. Here at Knowledge Universe I felt that I would have an opportunity to impact children by providing them with quality education from the earliest ages – 6 weeks old all the way up to kindergarten.
My own children, all three of them were adopted from orphanages in eastern Europe and two of them were adopted at 2 1/2 and one at 10, and when I see how they struggled with certain learning disabilities today, because of that early childhood development and how they lacked the interaction and activities or experiences to help their brain develop, it really touched my heart to think that ‘wow, I can give that to so many other children’ through Knowledge Universe and the KinderCare brand, and CCLC and Champions brands, and help children grow and thrive to be successful adults.
Tell us about the power of marketing.
In the past, we were able to get away with pushing products to customers. If we made it sexy or glamorous enough, they would take it. They would buy things they didn’t need. But things are different now. Consumers are much more savvy, and you have to have the right things in place for the customer. They are going to be the ones that are going to decide. They are going to come to your website, pull information from you as opposed to just have us push information to them. It’s about converting your brand position to become what I call a humankind model. It’s not about advertising and what you’re shouting at consumers but it’s really about the experience.