Michael Rogers, CEO of Securityhunter, is no stranger to success — his firm was the top-ranked Fast50 company in each of the first two years of these rankings. And while a “slip” to No. 3 is usually not a good thing, Rogers is perfectly happy with how his company performed over the past year. “You don’t have to be first, you just have to meet your expectations for growth,” he says. “It’s all about how you do yourself, not really how everyone else is doing.”
Rogers is also no stranger to adversity. In fact, a look at his roller coaster ride, from a guy facing death threats, $2 million in personal debt and countless other hardships, to becoming one of the fastest-growing security firms in North America is a testament to his perseverance and trial and error in the often murky business of working with the government.
To understand and learn from Rogers’ success and his insatiable hunger for it, all you have to do is take a look at the road he took to get there.
The Seeds of Success
Rogers started out of college with a job at ADT, where he calls himself “the worst salesman they’ve ever had” — bad enough, in fact, that he decided to go back to school to get his MBA at Cornell University. After achieving his masters, he put two years of working as a bank executive behind him to launch a burglar alarm company. “I started doing burglar alarms because I liked security, and I was inspired by a friend of mine, who at 18 years old ran his own alarm company out of his dorm at Cornell,” Rogers says.
He started dabbling in covert video services, which fueled the company’s growth in its early years; however, a family tragedy — a still birth — truly set Rogers on his path. “I viewed the time when I didn’t have a son at home as a chance to focus on the business and pretty much dedicate the company to his memory,” Rogers says.
“Burn the Ships”
Rogers created a three-word mantra that for years hung right above his desk: “burn the ships.” He says that during the Peloponnesian Wars, where the Spartans were clashing with the Athenians, the Spartans would attack the Athenians on their island, burn their own ships, and then would have to kill the Athenians to steal their ships to get back off the island. “The philosophy is, there is no retreat,” Rogers explains. “We’re going to move forward, accomplish our objectives and do what we need to do.”
With that kind of mindset, nothing was going to block his path to success — although there were so many who tried. “Along the way I’ve dealt with federal litigation with a billionaire, death threats, extortion attempts and embezzlement,” Rogers says.
One of the death threats stemmed from his covert surveillance work, where the cameras caught a woman being brutally assaulted. Rogers was informed by a private investigator a couple years later that he had received a death threat note made by cutting individual letters out of a magazine. “One of the notes identified me as the video tech and the guy was going to kill me,” Rogers says. “When you are going after the bad guys, you have to be careful because sometimes they don’t like you — for obvious reasons.”
All the blockades on his path to success meant Rogers had to grow up in a hurry. But more importantly, it stirred a feeling inside him to devote himself to a greater calling. “I would love it because for the most part we would work with a lot of PIs and go after the bad guys, and I found it really exciting and challenging,” Rogers explains. “I love hunting predators basically. Then, along the way, I changed my focus from protecting people to protecting the nation.
“I believe that you shouldn’t be just an oxygen thief if you are living — you should be doing something important,” Rogers continues. “I want to make a difference in our nation. I grew up in the Bronx with all these people who had tattoos on their arm from the death camps — honestly if it wasn’t for America, I would be someplace rotting in the ground. So I have a very fierce patriotism. I view it like a blood debt.”