A natural entrepreneur and internet pioneer, Chris has founded or co-founded five successful businesses including Sanus, the largest manufacturer of audio/video furniture and accessories in the US, and three nonprofits. His current company, thedatabank, gbc, is a Certified General Benefit Corporation that was formed in 1998 as the first SaaS CRM software used by nonprofit organizations to manage relationships with their supporters. As a small business owner, fundraiser and direct marketer, Chris has presented at numerous regional, national and international conferences.
Chris earned his Ph.D. in Organization Development at the University of Minnesota where he conducted research on the use of formal training to improve organizational performance in small businesses. An award-winning researcher and author, he has presented at national and international academic conferences and has published articles in the areas of small business development, social network analysis and social entrepreneurship. His focus is on helping social entrepreneurs and small business owners build organizations that are financially and socially beneficial. Chris is also a Senior Fellow of the Twin Cities Metro Independent Business Alliance and founding board member of MNVest.org.
Get to know Chris a little better:
Why is working at a social impact-based company important to you?
Every business, regardless of intent or size, creates social impact. One of our goals when we started thedatabank was to have a company that not only makes a sustainable profit but also works to maximize its beneficial social impact. thedatabank is a real-life example that you can do both and have fun doing it.
The fun part is a result of the type of people who are attracted to working at a B-corp. This is a benefit we didn’t know about when we began but is the reason I still look forward to coming to the office every day after 16+ years.
If you could have dinner with anyone, past or present, who would it be?
It would be a guy’s dinner, maybe followed by poker, with Francis of Assisi, John Lennon and Paul Wellstone. They each became role models for me at different stages in my life. One was a religious man, one a musician, the other a politician, but they all taught me about truth, justice and compassion by the lives they lived. I think it would be a fun, memorable night.
How do you spend your free time – when you have it?
For relaxation I like to read and write. I always seem to have something in my hand to read. Being born and raised in Minnesota there was always a hockey rink across the street. I still play every Monday night on a 50+ team. We call ourselves the Gerihatricks. During the three months of spring, summer and fall I play as much golf as possible once I finish my honey-do list. Oh, I’m so conventional and boring.
If you could visit any place from a book, real or fictional, where would it be and why?
I guess it would have to be the Shire in Middle-earth. I read the Hobbit in 1971 when I was in junior high and haven’t stopped reading fantasy books since. When I read fiction I like to be taken somewhere I’ve never been. There are lots of places to visit in Middle-earth but none seem as quaint and inviting as the Shire. Kind of like a weekend in the Cotswolds.