Sigma Chi Karma
As I look forward to attending my 20th Grand Chapter this week, I reflect on all the Sigma Chi Karma that has touched my life. One of the reasons I am most looking forward to Grand Chapter this year is to celebrate my dear friend, Marc Carlson, who will officially receive the Significant Sig honor.
Two months ago, at a Sigma Chi Foundation event at our home, I exercised “Past Grand Consul Privilege” to honor Marc’s Significant Sig award and place the Military Sig Pin on his chest. It was a tremendous night getting to be with Foundation CEO, Ashley Woods, Jim Lawson, 25 Bay Area Significant Sigs and another 50 Sigma Chi brothers and their sweethearts. My remarks from that evening centered around a fireside chat I had done two days earlier with all the undergraduate brothers at Purdue. I started the fireside off explaining that Sigma Chi has touched every aspect of my life personally and professionally. The values and teachings of Sigma Chi have served as my True North and most of my deepest friendships are with Sigma Chi’s. The first question the brothers asked was for an example of a Purdue brother who exemplified this. The example I gave them was another past Delta Delta Consul, Marc Carlson.
Our friendship began at Purdue where we were both engineers. Marc was the Consul a few years after me and our friendship began when I would come back from business school to attend Homecoming at Purdue and Marc would have me give him the keys to my Cadillac rent-a-car and then he would give them back to me on Sunday morning. Obviously, I was the older one and clearly, he was the more mature one. It’s funny how things never change.
In my professional, personal and fraternity endeavors with Marc, he has always been a rock. A man of the purest heart, kindest soul and most genuine character. He is a true friend and inspiring leader. He is being given the Significant Sig Award for his incredible success in business and the broad range of his success, but none of that would have been possible without the underlying core given to us by Sigma Chi.
Professionally, we both started our careers at General Motors where we were early pioneers in the robotics industry. We helped to spearhead the creation of GMF Robotics, a joint venture between Fujitsu Fanuc and General Motors The average employee age at our young company was 28 and with drive, grit and fearlessness that comes with youth, we quickly became the industry leader, putting IBM, GE, and Westinghouse out of the robotics business. This is where we learned that the principles of Sigma Chi are totally transferable in the business world. We then decided to test our metal and move out to West Point of Capitalism in Silicon Valley. There we worked to hone our entrepreneurial skills to build high-tech companies and continue to put the Sigma Chi leadership principles into practice. We worked to build five game-changing, high tech companies together over the course of next 30 years—Rasna, Ariba, 3 Points Inc., Microposite, and DocuSign.
- Rasna—our first software company, which created the category of Mechanical Design Synthesis. We eventually sold the company for $500m in 1995, although my son, Steve (Alpha Upsilon, USC Sigma Chi ’11), is still using it at NASA 20 years later for designing the robot arm for Mars 2020.
- Ariba—we created the category B2B e-commerce, achieving a market valuation of $34 billion. Our work at Ariba created a legendary business case not only because of its meteoric rise, but also its continued relevance. Today, Ariba’s network conducts $1.3 trillion of e-commerce annually, which is more than Amazon, Ebay, and Alibaba combined.
- 3 Points Inc.—based on our desire to give back and mentor young entrepreneurs in their early-stage start-ups, we helped in the growth of companies such as Box (BOX), Coupa (COUP), Ooma (OOMA), ChargePoint and many others.
- Microposite—a clean tech company that was ahead of its time, engineering high-tech materials to replace wood in the construction industry.
- DocuSign— we created the category of Digital Transaction Management, which is now the global standard. Today, the DocuSign Global Trust Network has 300,000 companies, over 200M members, in 188 countries and is adding 300K unique users each day.
I cannot overstate how our success in the business world is due to what we learned in Sigma Chi as undergraduates— values-based leadership, collecting trusted Sigs all along the way to work with us, and how we created the Vision, Mission, Values, Objectives, Strategy & Execution in “The Playbook” of each company based on Sigma Chi. It was a formula that worked time and time again and created sustaining and enduring corporate cultures that left legacies of which we will always be proud.
One of the key principles in life is that the more you give, the more you receive and grow. Marc and I both believe in that deeply and put it into practice through our lives. Even though we were going Mach 3 with our hair on fire building these companies and growing our families, we always felt an obligation to give back to Sigma Chi for all it had given to us. Our deep involvement in Sigma Chi as alumni constantly reinforced the principles. We served on the Workshop faculty for many years, which gave us the recharge of Sigma Chi brotherhood we needed, and it provided a constructive diversion from the business world with no distractions. Perhaps Marc’s greatest legacy in Sigma Chi that tied his success in business with his love for the Fraternity, was when he served on the Strategic Planning Team. He was so good that we created the role of Chief Marketing Office for him. In that role, we worked together on the leadership dream team to formulate the Sigma Chi version of “The Playbook”, which duplicated the framework we had used so many times in building companies.
We named this “The Sigma Chi Strategic Plan- The next 150 years”, which was all about making Sigma Chi the preeminent collegiate leadership development organization. We presented this at the 2005 Grand Chapter, which was the 150th anniversary celebration attended by over 3,000 Sigs and Sweethearts from around the world. This Plan has laid the foundation for so much of what Sigma Chi is working towards today.
Not only did this labor of love lay the foundation for Sigma Chi, but it also laid the foundation for our families. Marc gave of his time and talent to better the fraternity, and Sigma Chi Karma returned his goodness in spades. It was at that same Grand Chapter that we both met our future sweethearts, both former International Sweethearts, who later became our brides. Marc’s wife, Jacqueline Lehn Dupont Carlson (USD BS; USC MD), is a dynamic leader and business woman in her own right, a generous philanthropist, world renowned doctor, devoted mother to 7, and truly a Sigma Chi in a woman’s body. She embodies the best of Sigma Chi values, which is why they are so perfect together and their marriage is built on the most solid foundation, because it is those values and ideals of Sigma Chi that bind them. My wife, Metta Grokenberger Krach (UCLA BA; Georgetown JD), and I love them so dearly that we were both in their wedding and they are Godparents for our daughter, Emma.
I feel very blessed that Sigma Chi Karma has enriched my life. This 20th Grand Chapter, and the opportunity to honor Marc, will be very special to me. I am proud to be a Sigma Chi.
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