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Career Growth Story: Jay Hoffman

Career Growth Story: Jay Hoffman

Building Gallery Systems

Hoffman began his career as a staff auditor at an international accounting firm looking to get the experience required for the CPA, but quickly realized that it wasn’t what he wanted to do long-term. He then went to a large insurance company where he worked in the real estate development group working on high-rise office buildings and hotels. In this role, Hoffman gained experience with project management, financial modeling, contract negotiation, financial projections, and reporting. It was a great foundation for his future endeavor of running his own business.

It was at the insurance company that he became the in-house computer guru, doing financial modeling and programming his own simulations. Hoffman decided at that point that he enjoyed working with software. Around that time, the chairman of the company he was working at donated money for computers and software to a large museum in New York. Because of Hoffman’s reputation as the computer guru, the chairman asked him to help the museum determine how to spend money. That was the beginning of Hoffman’s entrepreneurial journey and ultimately lead to the founding of Gallery Systems.

After his initial introduction to the museum space, Hoffman developed a software for museums that managed all functions related to collections. This software could support multiple types of museum collections including natural history, graphic, archaeological, and more. Functions included logistical tracking, documentation, digitization exhibitions, loans, and the ability to publish collections onto the museum’s website.

In the beginning, Hoffman simply enjoyed working on the software for fun, but then he realized there was a real opportunity to turn his passion into a business. The business was founded in 1990, but it wasn’t until 1998 when Hoffman decided to quit his day job and invest in Gallery Systems full-time. In 1996, Gallery Systems merged with another business and in that process took on an angel investor. The business kept growing and became a major player in their industry, but eventually, the angel investor was ready to exit. In 2012, Jay Hoffman decided to sell Gallery Systems to Volaris Group.

Choosing Volaris Group

Hoffman says that the reason he ultimately chose Volaris Group came down to the people. “Everyone seemed very smart, honest, and forthright, which seems basic, but my perception was that it was similar to how I run my own business. It comes from the top; you lead with your values. I could see the same approach with the people that I met from Volaris.” Because Hoffman had managed his own company for over 20 years, it was important that he felt comfortable working with a new team and reporting to someone. Hoffman explains that his experience reporting to a leader in Volaris was a “mentor-coach relationship” rather than a “boss-employee relationship.” This approach allows business owners and leaders to continue running their businesses autonomously, while still giving them guidance and support every step of the way.

Another very important factor for Hoffman was that the Gallery Systems identity and legacy would remain intact. By joining Volaris Group, the business maintained its branding, culture, and structure, while gaining access to a global software-focused community. Hoffman also wanted to make sure that his employees and customers would be in a good environment post-acquisition. He says, “I felt that my own personal reputation was on the line in a way. If things didn’t go well, it would reflect on me personally with the employees and the customers, most of whom had become friends. I wanted to know that the company was in good hands and things were not going to be mismanaged.” The buy and hold philosophy of Volaris Group provided Hoffman with the confidence that his business would be supported in the long-term, with focus on growth and profitability rather than the next sale of the business.

Unexpected Benefits

Today, Gallery Systems has grown to over 900 clients in 32 countries, museums, universities, as well as large corporate collections. Hoffman recently reflected on his past 10 years with Volaris Group since joining via acquisition. In his own words, here are the top three unexpected benefits from the process:

1. Networking Opportunity: “At Volaris Group, you have a built-in network of CEO’s and other business leaders. You get to know a lot of people who have extensive experience in the software world. Our community is constantly sharing lessons learned, best practices, and what has been successful for our businesses. If a project did not generate results as expected, we share what we would do differently next time. Every presentation I’ve seen within Volaris Group has at least one slide with lessons learned, and I think the approach helps us continuously learn and grow.”

2. Career Growth and Development: “I was in my 50s at the time Gallery Systems was acquired, and I wasn’t thinking about what my career progression would look like in the future. After the acquisition closed, I was laser focused on executing and continuing to run my business. But a few years after the acquisition, I was encouraged to start exploring acquisitions myself. I wasn’t necessarily looking to be thrown into a situation where I was meeting with and presenting in front of lots of people, but it was really a good growth opportunity for me. It took me out of my comfort zone.”

3. The Importance of Metrics: “Volaris Group has a great framework for benchmarking that we use across all of our business units. These metrics have been developed over many years after analyzing hundreds of acquisitions in the software industry. They provide valuable insights into business decisions and are very useful in keeping our company growing and financially healthy. Now, when we look to start a new project or initiative, we are thinking in terms of metrics and how this decision may impact our goals.”

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