JP Guilbault, The Unconventional CEO
A love for data and a mind for serving the “underserved”
Jean Paul Guilbault, or “JP” as he’s often referred to, never intended to become a CEO. Originally majoring in psychology to earn his doctorate, he says his path to the c-suite was unintentional and unconventional.
Intentional or not, his success with expanding the database technology company, Community Brands, is undeniable.
With consistent growth and an eye for the niche market the company serves, Community Brands is on track to exceed $500 million in revenue.
“I would say my career track has been somewhat unique in the fact that I worked for three public companies for the first 25 years of my career; Dun & Bradstreet, Intuit and Constant Contact. All, if you think about it, are big massive companies. It’s atypical that someone comes from big massive companies to work in a smaller organization,” says Guilbault.
Guilbault started with YourMembership, later named Community Brands, in 2012. It was a company that was established by two alums, William Stover and Hutch Craig, from Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg. YourMembership was created to manage community alumni membership from their high school, ultimately growing into the category of broader membership management and community engagement via a SaaS application.
Guilbault was named CEO of the company in 2014.
“In 2014, our strategy was two-pronged. Grow fast through organic means, and expand through mergers and acquisitions, acquiring complimentary products in adjacent markets.” Guilbault says. “We completed three acquisitions between 2012 and 2015, building the company up from $5 million to about $60 million in revenue, over that time.”
In 2017, Riverside, the private equity firm that owned YourMembership sold its stake to another private-equity firm, Insight Venture Partners (IVP), that was investing in similar technology companies in the faith-based and independent schools’ market.
“With YourMembership, the company was really focused on associations, chambers of commerce and professional societies as its primary market, ” Guilbault says. Combined that with IVPs investment in faith-based software for churches and schools under Ministry Brands, which operated in a very similar way that YourMembership’s business did, and the opportunity became exponential in terms of innovation for the underserved markets of associations, schools and churches. “We saw an opportunity to put those two things together to build a sizeable technology and payments company that could work better together, offer greater value to customers, and create jobs and opportunity for employees,” Guilbault says.
Guilbault says that during the past decade it’s been an interesting time in terms of raising capital associated for a company focused on nonprofits. “Investors are capitalizing on the highly fragmented nature of this market, helping companies innovate, and there are getting great return as the bring their expertise and capabilities together,” Guilbault says. “Our approach has been to look for great companies where membership management-CRM like software could be combined with digital commerce to serve for organizations that drive social good and social change.”
Investors are realizing that the 1-million plus nonprofits, or purpose driven organizations as Guilbault calls them, have a unique relationship with the constituents they serve, and nonprofits offer business and investors growth, predictability and loyalty if served well. “Something all investors and businesses love,” Guilbault says.
Fundamentally, what we were able to do was look at these companies that were doing really good work but were not able to accelerate their growth. We were able to capitalize them. So, we could go out and buy four or five of these fragmented companies and bring them together collectively, and maintain their team and brands, consolidate the back offices and they could build for scale. We did that across our three verticals: associations, schools and nonprofits, probably 30-plus times.”
Community Brands has acquired over 25 companies in the last two years, growing through its perfection of a go-to-market model, whereby complimentary products are sold to the same customer base, while enabling businesses to lower operating costs as they leverage the accounting, marketing, CRM and enterprise infrastructure. “This lets us invest in R&D and return shareholder value,” Guilbault says.
“How did I get into business? It was one of those ‘life’ moments,” Guilbault says
In 1991, while Guilbault was still attending the University of Michigan Dearborn, he had his first child.
“It was a tremendous blessing,” Guilbault says. Plans to earn that doctorate went out the window and instead motivated Guilbault to seek work, to provide for his young family. He took a job with Dun & Bradstreet as an analyst, which is where he worked for 10 years.
While at D&B he grew through the sales ranks where his interest in data and technology were shaped. “It was a great firm and a 150-year-old company. I learned a lot about business management and a lot about how business works,” Guilbault says. “That was my precipice to my career in tech, and the power of using data.”
The timing was pivotal to the opportunities Guilbault followed.
“This was at a time when everything was transforming from books and reports to EDI, or electronic data interchange,” he says. “It was a great opportunity and time to get into technology.”
He admits he wasn’t much of a math person, but his love for statistics and predictability of models become core to how he would operate in the future. “That’s when I really began loving data,” he says.
Not surprisingly, Guilbault’s next career move was to QuickBooks. “In that realm, I was working across a multitude of functions, including small business software in various roles,” he says. “It’s always been in me to think about how you can do things better and how to automate the way you work. Even when I worked for my dad in small business, I was always doing things to automate processes. I would put information in Word Perfect, or data into QuickBooks, somehow that ended up becoming my career.”
He developed his streamlined way of approaching work early on in his life.
Guilbault was born in Warren, Michigan and in some of his early formative years, grew up near Traverse City and later lived just outside of Detroit.
“My dad was an entrepreneur and owned a lot of small businesses,” Guilbault says. “It’s where I get a lot of my resiliency. If you’re in the small business world, there’s a lot of success and a lot of failure. That was my upbringing.”
His mother was a nurse and worked in the trauma center and operating rooms alongside his mother. He attributes his time watching and working with both his parents as one of those important life moments that shaped his belief to be in service to others, enjoy life and the opportunities it brings and know that you can achieve anything you set out to do.
Guilbault and his wife, Melea, who he admires tremendously for her strength, intuitiveness and conviction to improve the lives of children and families, agree his biggest weakness is charity auctions. “I get crazy,” he says. “All kidding aside, Melea and I also work together and share a common belief that you have to give back.” This belief has also become part of the culture at Community Brands evidenced by the philanthropic support provided to some of the largest industry leading associations.
Melea and JP have worked together at Community Brands since 2014. She is the senior vice president and general manager leading Channel Partners, Industry Alliances and Nonprofit Software. She has also served on the board of directors for the Westchase Charitable Foundation in Tampa Bay since 2012, a volunteer led charitable organization that provides support to families who have either children or parents battling a serious illness or assists people in the community and beyond who are faced with a family tragedy.
What separates Community Brands from other like-minded companies is that they focus on the nonprofit space with a goal of leveling the playing field between for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations.
“Nonprofits are highly dependent on their software because many of them may only have one or two paid staff members and volunteers, so you really need to understand their needs and how they operate,” Guilbault says. “We stay very attuned to who our customers are.”
“Our uniqueness has been being able to maintain the founder, and owner, friendliness and grow in that realm to be different than anybody else serving those customers,” Guilbault says. “It’s powerful to see what the software enables these organizations to do.” ♦