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50 Best Workplaces of the Year 2020

An Interview with Russell Gentry, M1 Data and Analytics CEO and Partner: ‘By Focusing on Collaborations and True Partnerships, M1 is Going Well Beyond Simply Providing Data’

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"We are hyper-focused on how to leverage data assets into services that brands, companies, and agencies use to get dramatically higher results."

By seeking to continually find innovative ways to leverage data assets to create advanced audience sets, which make for relevant and timely engagement, M1 Data & Analytics—a full-service Data and Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) company—is delivering exceptional results. Moving beyond the automotive industry, which at one point accounted for 80 percent of M1's business, it has successfully diversified into hospitality, RV, marine, and retail. Looking ahead, the company’s goal is to continue expanding the footprint across industries while positioning for a possible future acquisition.

M1 was founded by Greg Ashe in 2007 and is headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Russell Gentry, M1 Data and Analytics CEO and Partner, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.

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Q. How can we eliminate complexity in data-related functions using your services?

M1 Data reduces complexity by leveraging our data assets in ways that allow clients to integrate them into their platforms more easily. Our data assets are set up to allow clients to articulate an end result and the custom audience is then created from that goal.

Q. What is the main purpose of data analysis? How does it help organizations in decision making?

In our opinion, data analysis should be focused on three areas: First, what is the desired outcome. For example, sell more autos to people who haven’t bought from you before. The analysis part comes in to look at current customers to see the trends in that audience. Secondly, analyze what data is needed to support the content/message of the offer. Thirdly, analyze after the offering to review effective attribution.

Q. Data analytics may breach the privacy of the customers as their information is visible to their parent companies. How can we protect the interest of the customer in this case?

Analysis should never compromise privacy. Careful consideration has to be applied under all scenarios to ensure that clear and conspicuous opt-ins are in place.

Q. ‘When people are having fun, they work together better and they produce better work.’ How do you interpret this saying?

I would change the word fun to enjoyment. When people enjoy their work, they are more productive. We accomplish that by the concept of ‘people best support what they help to create’.

Q. Growing the company based on employees’ passions must priority. Do you ask your employees what they are interested in doing and how they would like to see their career unfold?

Absolutely! We have many long-term team members who have grown into new roles based on their interests. We work to foster that as much as possible.

Q. A good workplace stresses teamwork while still encouraging individual achievement and creativity. Does your company follow the same strategy?

Yes. We make sure to support and note individual achievement at every opportunity. By ensuring to not miss those opportunities, the entire team supports it when it’s not necessarily about them.

Q. Trust is a difficult attribute to measure and a delicate dynamic to maintain. How do you maintain this with your employees?

We are blessed because so much of our current team has been with us for years. So I would say, actions over some time have been a great tool to build trust.

Q. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Don't try to boil the ocean. Meaning; entrepreneurs tend to be very aggressive and optimistic. Sometimes that optimism and big blue skies cause them to reach in too many directions at once. You have to decide what's working well and what to focus on. Pick that and back it to the nth degree. Remember; find a problem, solve it, and the revenue will follow, as a result.

Q. What does the future hold for M1 Data & Analytics and its employees? Are exciting things on the way?

Incredible growth is on the horizon. Based on the last two to three years, the alignment of our solutions has seen tremendous new client additions. Besides, changes in the industry have also served to fuel our growth.

The Leaders at the Helm of M1 Data & Analytics

Before Russell Gentry, CEO of M1 Data & Analytics, was even considered a legal adult, he enrolled in a fire academy after graduating from high school at the age of 17. Following an 18-year career that saw Mr. Gentry rise to the rank of Battalion Chief, he entered the world of data technology.

From acquisitions to liquidity events, Mr. Gentry shared the story behind his entrepreneurial journey and how M1 is putting their stamp on the world of Big Data and Analytics.

During his time with the Fire Department, he took college courses in Computer Science. As Mr. Gentry was interested in learning about computers, the Fire union paid for his degree. After retiring in 1998, he moved to California to work for AutoWeb, an automotive media and marketing services company focused on data and lead generation for car dealerships. When AutoWeb merged with another company in 2001, he had a parachute payment as part of the buyout and used that money to start a company.

Between 2001 and 2017, Mr. Gentry acquired two more companies and founded another. He served as president and partner of Authenticom for nearly 12 years and founded Xcelerated Investments, Inc., a data technology company with a focus on the automotive industry. Mr. Gentry sold Xcelerated in June 2015, and after a few additional roles in the data tech space, he took a board seat and became a partner at M1.

Greg Ashe, partner, serves as the Chief Technology Officer of M1 Data & Analytics.

"We are a DaaS company, which means we don’t just toss a data file or list over the fence to a client. But we build collaborations that focus on building custom audiences for our clients. We go beyond the tired old model of demographic matching.”