By Ann Luongo
Running his own business is all Rob Hale Jr. has wanted to do since he was a teenager. When he was just 22, he graduated from Connecticut College and started working for Proctor & Gamble, where the majority of his time was spent visiting supermarkets and helping stock shelves. “I wanted to sell,” he says. “I kept asking when we’re going to start actually selling something.”
Needless to say, it wasn’t the learning experience he had hoped it would be, so he began working for MCI in their sales department.
“They gave you a cubicle and a headset and said, ‘Good luck.’” He did well, however, becoming the top salesperson in the United States, and this experience gave him the courage to strike out on his own.
Partnering with his father, Robert Hale Sr., the pair started their own telecom company back in 1990, called Network Plus. Rob Hale Sr., already an entrepreneur in his own right, was the original U.S. importer of Laura Ashley products – home furnishings, clothing, and gifts. Hale credits a lot of his success to his upbringing in an entrepreneurial environment.
By 1998, Network Plus was a successful, $150 million dollar business when, one day, out of the blue, Goldman Sachs called with a bond offer, and the company’s stock soared. “It was a very lucrative offer,” Hale says. “They told me they could make me a billionaire.” The wave of good fortune lasted until the stock market downturn of 2002, when the company’s stock went from $62 to $0. They were ultimately forced into bankruptcy, and the company was sold at auction.
Hale wouldn’t be kept down for long, however.
His vision of creating another thriving, prosperous company helped keep his focus on the future. He started over that same year, with an $800,000 investment from his father, and with seven employees. Today, with what he calls “the luck of the draw,” he is president and CEO of Granite Telecommunications, one of the largest privately held telecommunications services companies in the U.S. and Canada – a $1.25 billion-dollar revenue-earning business, with 1,800 employees in 14 offices nationwide.
Granite, which is headquartered in Quincy and has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, puts great emphasis on its customer service. Hale’s business is distinctive, he says, “in the fact that we’re focused on the multi-location big business with the vision of becoming a one-stop shop for voice-data and WiFi needs. It’s a team that is committed to satisfying customers by producing and supporting high-quality, cost-effective telecommunications solutions. We keep our customers because it’s all about service, and we are very good at it. You live and die by your reputation and we’ve earned a reputation for great customer service.”
Granite has partnered with major real estate investment trusts to provide high-speed fiber services within large retail spaces, including more than 100 malls across the country. And malls aren’t the only type of growth Hale has on his mind.
“We’re always actively recruiting people to the team, and we forecast the need to hire around 200 more teammates in the near future.” He urges anyone interested to visit the company’s website, granitenet.com, to apply. He’s looking for network and support technicians, as well as engineers and sales representatives to support the company’s larger customers.
“We offer our teammates good packages and great benefits that can’t be found in most places,” he says. “We have a 13,000-square-foot gym, we have free membership in 13 local athletic leagues, including golf, basketball, and others. We have been voted amongst the ‘Top 3 Healthiest Companies in Boston’ for the last three or four years.”
Hale and his teammates are also very serious about giving back to and being involved with communities up and down the South Shore, and in Boston.
“We encourage all of our teammates to participate in the community,” Hale says. “We have volunteer projects throughout the city, and we even offer casual days where the employee pays a small amount (usually $3 or so) and Granite matches it. At the end of the week, that money, which typically totals $5,000 to $6,000, is donated to whichever cause the team chooses that week. The company also donates generously to organizations of all sizes, including Father Bill’s & Mainspring, Children’s Hospital in Boston, local Little League teams, learning centers, and a variety of others. Granite has donated around $20 million in the last four years, by way of big fundraising events, to the Pancreatic Cancer Center at Dana Farber – a cause which is close to Hale’s heart. His father, Rob, Sr., passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2008.
As of now, Hale says, the company has no plans of expanding overseas, despite its yearly growth by leaps and bounds. “I don’t see that at this point,” he says. “There are so many great opportunities right here, domestically.”