Bright Idea

Building a business is one thing. Building an entire billion-dollar industry is another. Meet Bob Goergen, an entrepreneur who burns the candle at both ends



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Even among entrepreneurs famous for improvising their pathways to success, Greenwich’s Robert Goergen stands out for the diverse milestones along his journey.

In the 1960s, as a young account executive at McCann Erickson, he pushed Coca-Cola to embrace pop music by signing the Supremes to sing the soda’s praises. In the 1990s, as a seasoned venture capitalist, he transformed a tiny candle company run out of a Red Hook warehouse into a billion-dollar business, Blyth, Inc. Today, he’s a guru of direct sales, urging entrepreneurs to seek their fortunes outside corporate structures.

This month he is being honored by Greenwich Library with the prestigious Peterson Business Award (former recipients include PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and Bloomberg CEO Peter Grauer), recognizing both his market vision and charitable work.

It’s been a momentous journey for a boy who grew up poor and fatherless in upstate New York. Goergen, today a hale-looking man with a gentle gaze and an infectious grin, credits “a crazy work ethic” with getting him where he is.

“If you’ve got something you need to do, you do it,” Goergen explains. “As an entrepreneur, you set your own goals. I told someone, ‘I can’t complain, I wrote the job description.’”

Goergen’s job description at present is not easily summarized. At Blyth, the company that bears his middle name, Goergen last November passed on the CEO reins to his son Rob; he remains company chairman. His other child, Todd, manages the Ropart Group, a family investment vehicle Goergen also oversees. Much time is devoted to two outside passions: art (he and his wife of forty-five years, Pam, are both collectors and patrons) and philanthropy. (A family operation, the Goergen Foundation raises funds for charity.)

In a small conference room adjoining his corner office on East Weaver Street, expansion plans for the Bruce Museum cover an oval table. Goergen’s ambitions for the Bruce, which he and Pam have actively supported for over a decade, include galleries large enough for exhibits like the one the Goergens helped develop last fall around a favorite artist of theirs, Chuck Close.

“He does mostly portraits, in a very unique way,” Goergen observes. “He’s dyslectic, he’s got face blindness. And so he has come up with a very unique way of doing portraits. He’s world-renowned. He’s unique to overcome those handicaps.”

One can’t help but wonder if Goergen relates to Close because of his own disadvantaged upbringing. “I’m not that great a psychologist,” Goergen replies. “As I look back, I’ve always been something of a leader. I didn’t know what leadership meant when I was in the third grade, right? But even the teachers made me the school crossing guard, stuff like that. Given the circumstances, you either overcome them or get sunk by them.”

There’s no big desk here; he dislikes them. Instead, a small upright table with orderly sheaves of paper stands against one of the walls; the man prefers to work on his feet.

Bronze sculptures of a ballerina and a tennis player catch the eye, as does a poster of a sweaty woman on a locker-room bench under the simple legend, “There is no finish line.” A surrealist painting shows a man climbing a ladder into the clouds. Around him others in business suits sit on chairs, apparently oblivious to his ascent.

A statement on Goergen’s own rise?

He shrugs. He just likes the painting, he explains.

 

Greenwich Agenda

  • Nigh Season: New Paintings By David Konigsberg

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM  Public Invited   NIGH...

  • Undulate: Paintings By Julie Gross and Margaret Neill

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    GALLERY II Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM Public Invited...

  • Parties at the JCC Center

    2014.09.02
     @ Stamford JCC

    A place to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. Be a guest at your own party! The JCC offers a wonderful space for you and your guests to...

  • Greenwich Harbor Sunset Wine Cruise | Greenwich, CT

    2014.06.05
     @ Delamar Hotel Dock

    The boat "Prudence" departs from the Delamar Hotel Dock on 500 Steamboat Rd. All the wine is sponsored through VALS with food...

  • Laurel House Family Seminar Series

    2014.09.18
     @ Laurel House

    Thursday evenings, September 18, October 2, 16, 30, 6:30-8:00 pm Join us Thursday evenings for this four part Family Seminar Series as...

  • Isaia Fall Trunk Show

    2014.09.19
     @ Richards

  • The Many Faces of Multi Media

    2014.09.20
     @ Meli-Melo of Greenwich

    Dr. Julia Trebing, Director Creative Therapies in Stamford, CT exhibits her paintings at Meli-Melo Creperie & Juice Bar  during Sept...

  • SoulCycle GWCH for Make-A-Wish CT

    2014.09.20
     @ SoulCycle

    Make-A-Wish Connecticut is thrilled to be partnering with SoulCycle's Greenwich location for a charity ride on Saturday, September 20th!...

  • Wall Street Tennis Challenge

    2014.09.20
     @ Greenwich Country Club

    The goal of The Wall Street Tennis Challenge is to support the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation’s efforts while spreading awareness...

  • Nam Cho Trunk Show

    2014.09.20
     @ Richards

  • Arts & Crafts on Bedford

    2014.09.20
     @ Bedford Street

    Shop at over 100 craft and artisan boutiques on Bedford Street, which will be closed to traffic for the weekend. Dine in our extended sidewalk...

  • Puttin’ On The Dog Festival

    2014.09.21
     @ Roger Sherman Baldwin Park

    Puttin’ On The Dog Festival Greenwich, Connecticut the place to be on September 21st for dogs and their owners...

  • Candy Fairies Book Reading

    2014.09.21
     @ Imagine Candy

    SCARSDALE, NY, Imagine Candy brings the acclaimed children's author Helen Perelman, the writer of the wickedly sweet Candy Fairies book...

  • Chizi's Tale Book Launch Party

    2014.09.21
     @ Tudor Investment Campus

    You and your family are invited to join Diane's Books of Greenwich and TUSK USA to celebrate the launch of Chizi's Tale: The True Story...

  • Chizi's Tale Book Launch Party

    2014.09.21
     @ Tudor Investment Campus

    You and your family are invited to join Diane's Books of Greenwich and TUSK USA to celebrate the launch of Chizi's Tale: The True Story...

  • SM&NC Farm Market

    2014.06.15
     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Sundays, June 15 – October 5, 10am – 2pm We're thrilled to bring back the SM&NC Farm Market — now on Sundays!...

  • "Israel and the U.S."

    2014.09.22
     @ New Canaan Library

    The public is invited to attend a World Affairs Forum Great Decisions event featuring Seth Anziska, Columbia University. Mr. Anziska will speak...

  • Holistic Health Practitioner Kevin W. Reese

    2014.09.24
     @ Meli-Melo

    Meet Holistic Health Practitioner Kevin W. Reese & Take Home a Signed Copy of His New Book! Kevin is a holistic health practitioner,...

  • Annual State of the Town Address and Luncheon | Greenwich, CT

    2014.09.25
     @ Milbrook Club

    Greenwich Chamber of Commerce Annual State of the Town Address and Luncheon will be held at Milbrook Club. Registration 11:30am; start at...


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