Addendum: In the 2009-10 school year, I served as the first Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. The appointment was only for one year, but I really enjoyed working with the students and being part of McCombs. I have now seen thousands of business plans and ideas! Now I teach entrepreneurial thinking and other courses through my own “Hoover Academy.” Watch for posts announcing my courses. My students’ comments can be found at the bottom of this page.
Below you will find my more traditional “bio.”
Videos of my talks can be found at these two places: mccombstoday.org/gary-hoover-video-library/ and www.youtube.com/hooverbits.
Gary Hoover Short Biography
Gary Hoover began his entrepreneurial journey at an early age. He grew up in Anderson, Indiana, a General Motors factory town, and began asking questions about business at an early age. Convinced that the best way to change the world (for the better) was to lead or create enterprises, he started subscribing to Fortune Magazine when he was 12. While other kids were playing baseball, he was memorizing the Fortune 500. He visited hundreds of corporate headquarters and offices before he was 18, and studied the stock market in depth. His question was the same, “What separates the losers from the winners?”
In this quest, Gary’s research was not limited to for-profit enterprises, but included the study of all types of enterprise from empires to unions, from General Motors to the United States of America. As part of his education, he studied economics at the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman and two other Nobel Prize winners, served as a securities analyst for CitiBank on Wall Street, worked as a buyer for Federated Department Stores, and headed up acquisitions and strategic planning for the May Department Stores Company.
At the age of 30, he finally took the plunge and created pioneering book superstore BOOKSTOP, which helped change the nature of book shopping in America. BOOKSTOP also won kudos for its preservation and restoration of historic buildings such as old movie theatres. This company was sold to Barnes & Noble for $41.5 million cash when it was 7 years old, and became a cornerstone for their industry-dominating superstore chain, which in 2007 did over $4.5 billion in sales out of 700-plus stores.
After he and his partners sold BOOKSTOP, Gary returned to his first love of understanding businesses, and (in 1990) began a small business information publisher, the Reference Press. This company evolved into Hoover’s, Inc., the world’s largest Internet-based provider of information about enterprises. Hoover’s Online, at www.hoovers.com, covers thousands of companies around the world, and includes private, public, and non-profit enterprises. Millions of users from all countries access Hoover’s every day for the site’s easy-to-use and easy-to-read information on enterprises, generating hundreds of millions of page views a year. In July of 1999, Hoover’s went public and in March of 2003, the company was purchased by Dun & Bradstreet for $117 million. Like BOOKSTOP, Hoover’s has changed the way we do things and today employs over 600 people. This is what Gary Hoover started out to do as a teenager.
Hoover also knows failure, having started travel superstore TravelFest in 1993 – and closing it down in 1998-99 as airlines slashed commissions to travel agents.
From 2003 through 2008, Gary did an in-depth study of the museum industry and business opportunities, therein. He and his colleagues created a company, Story Stores, to build a chain of for-profit museums, starting with the concept RoadStoryUSA. The economic environment made it difficult to raise the required capital, and this project is on the back-burner for now.
Today, Gary Hoover travels the world speaking to Fortune 500 executives, trade associations, entrepreneurs, and college and high school students about how enterprises are built and how they stand the test of time. His speeches and workshops have ranged from the Hong Kong and Jakarta chapters of EO (Entrepreneurs Organization) to keynote at the National Association of Convenience Stores Convention and the Mid-Atlantic Venture Capital Conference, from Microsoft and Oracle client conferences to strategic planning meetings of major law firms.
From his own successes and failures, and from the lessons of the thousands of companies he has studied, he draws real-life examples of the things that really matter. He talks about the role of history, of geography, of demography, of curiosity, and the other key things that aren’t discussed every day in the newspaper – or the classroom. Gary speaks from long experience and long study about the big picture, about the critical components of the successful business mission. In an era of fads and fashions, Gary keeps his eye on the timeless fundamentals of success, but with new and surprising stories.
Gary has for 40+ years been watching demographic and other trends, today including the aging baby boom and its implications for “the experience economy.” As always, he is especially attuned to the customer and to retailing.
Gary lives in Austin, Texas, with his 50,000-book personal research library. In Austin, he has worked to develop entrepreneurial thinking among local young people, helping to create a group of students who meet monthly to learn the keys to entrepreneurial success.
Gary Hoover also maintains a list of new business ideas, containing over 100 concepts, as reported in Fortune Small Business Magazine and elsewhere.
In the spring of 2002, Gary’s alma mater the University of Chicago opened Hoover House dormitory, named in honor of Hoover for the gifts of stock in his companies made to the University over the last 20 years. He continues to be an active supporter of nonprofit entrepreneurship, particularly in education.
Contact Gary here.
What People Say About Me and My Classes January, 2012
Gary Hoover is one of “Austin’s 30 most influential people” – Austin Business Journal, December, 2011
Your mentorship has served as an invaluable source of confidence, motivation, and eye-opening wisdom – Maria Rivera, Marketing Teacher and Entrepreneur
I am daily reminded of things I have learned from you – Jim Ross, Entrepreneur
Gary Hoover is a man of many, many talents, and I respect him dearly. He is really a genius level business thinker. You guys are super-lucky to have him as a teacher. I had a lot of great professors at Wharton and when I attended Wharton it was rated the #1 MBA program 6 years in a row. And none of them approached Gary’s level of knowledge about business history or entrepreneurship. – Brett A. Hurt, CEO and founder, Bazaarvoice, Inc., Austin, Texas (founded in 2005, now has over 700 employees).
I would highly recommend this entrepreneurship course for anyone toying with the idea of starting a business. Our class met once a week, and I would find myself so inspired and full of ideas during class that my energy would spill over well into the night. – Taylor Journey, University of Texas undergraduate
If you’re thinking about starting a business, I highly recommend taking Gary’s class. You will analyze business models and your business curiosity will be heightened. This will help you better interact with vendors, and other stakeholders. Most importantly it’ll help you understand that although your idea may be unique, similar things have been done and you’ll find the places to go to learn why or why not they have succeeded. – Erine Gray, Social Entrepreneur, founder AuntBertha.com
I have known Gary Hoover for over 20 years. With that background, I can tell you that Gary Hoover is one of the most amazing entrepreneurs and teachers I have ever encountered. He is literally a walking encyclopedia of business history and his story telling is incredible. He is the most prolific reader I have ever met and his ability to not only speed read but retain information is incredible. I consider Gary Hoover one of Austin’s most valuable assets and recommend him without reservation. Whether you are a lifetime learner, an aspiring entrepreneur, or an academic, you will find Gary Hoover as one of your truly great resources and your time spent with him among your most memorable. – Jim Nolen, Distinguished Senior Lecturer, Department of Finance, McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin
I would like to thank you for inspiring me to look at life through the eyes of an entrepreneur. Your class was the most valuable and most enjoyable class I have ever taken. It truly changed my life. – Tyler Kling, University of Texas at Austin undergraduate student
As a businessman and a thinker, Gary Hoover is a true visionary. – Laurence J. Kirshbaum, former CEO, Time Warner Trade Publishing
I’ve been teaching at the McCombs School of Business since 1989. I have won every teaching award given by the students. Gary is one of the most gifted teachers I have ever known. He knows his subject cold and has a God given gift of being about to reach students in a way that is just awe inspiring. When you add his passion for teaching and helping people, he is priceless. – John Doggett, Harvard MBA, Yale JD, Senior Lecturer in Management, McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin
Gary Hoover is one of the smartest and most creative people I know. – Leonard L. Berry, Distinguished Professor of Marketing, Texas A&M University
This is one of the finest teachers and courses I have taken – and I have taken a lot (BA, MPH, PhD, MBA) and I have taught at several universities. Gary Hoover is a fantastic person, instructor, and mentor. – Blair Carter, Educator and Entrepreneur
Gary brings to the table both an understanding of the applied aspects on entrepreneurship as well as the ability to teach and engage in intellectual activity around entrepreneurship. Because he has started companies, he has an understanding of the entrepreneurial process, from idea to market. Because of his love for scholarship and teaching, he understands how to integrate the practical and the intellectual. – John Sibley Butler, Professor of Sociology and Business, Director of the IC2 Institute and the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Texas at Austin
Gary is a truly inspiring speaker and teacher and I highly recommend any of his courses or talks (or even just chatting with him at lunch!) His unique experiences and his genuine, open nature create an ideal atmosphere for the flow of ideas and introspection. Taking his course on Entrepreneurship last fall was the penultimate push towards me finally starting my own business. – Elayne Crain, Entrepreneur
Gary Hoover is one of the finest teachers I have known – and I have known several as a student (BA, MA., MPH, PhD, MBA) and and as a professor (California State University, Northridge (CSUN), University of Houston at the Texas Medical Center, Monterrey Tech Graduate School of Business and Public Policy (ITESM EGAPP, Mexico City, etc.). Gary is a fantastic person, instructor, and mentor. I learned a great deal from him due to his passion, knowledge,and experience of entrepreneurship as an art and a science – in theory and in practice Spending time with him has been one of the best investments I have made in my life. Mr. Hoover is indeed an “entrepreneur extraordinaire.” – Dr.Blair J. Carter, Founder and CEO, Health Care KEYS.
I walked away from Gary’s classes each week feeling that I had been shown the other side of the curtain. Gary’s passion for both his subject, and for communicating it in a clear and engaging manor has led me to suggest that each student be given an AHA degree. Alumnus of the Hoover Academy is one obvious meaning. But in my, and many other cases from my class, we had an ‘Aha!’ moment. Something that either had not occurred to us, or that we had previously wrestled with needlessly, once Gary described it differently. I believe anyone thinking of starting a business would be well advised to add one of Gary’s classes to their curriculum. – Allan Clark, Entrepreneur
If you have a corporate background you probably already know the value of a top analyst, especially one with personal original research with special knowledge in retail, and perhaps especially with the strength of history, looking toward the future. If you are a small business person then you know the value of hearing from a serial entrepreneur with enough moxie to be a professor. But what if you are from the the nonprofit or educational world? Will this course be useful to you? Yes. Innovation, serving people, finding data and using it usefully, understanding the future as well as the past, and charting a course for a mission with passion — all of this is your need that will be met in this course. This course can provide your jolt to next level thinking. – Sharon Sarles, Minister of the Gospel, bootstrap broadcaster, college instructor