On the first day of class, adjunct instructor Travis Greenwood reveals details of each student’s personal life. He knows that one student has three dogs. He knows that another spent last summer traveling through Europe. He also knows that a few students frequent local bars and nightclubs.
No, Greenwood isn’t an amateur psychic; he’s simply telling his students what he was able to find out about them using the Internet. Greenwood revels in his practice of Facebooking and Googling his entire class roster before he even meets them.
“I tell them, I did what every employer is going to do to you,” said Greenwood, a CEO in his own right. “They’re going to Google you. Get ready because many of you have to clean up your act on Facebook.”
Four years ago, despite a successful career managing a consulting company, Greenwood found something missing. He wanted to share his entrepreneurial and professional insights with others, a desire that led him back to Wright State where he’s been teaching a communication capstone class since 2008. “My cup is filled by working with students,” said Greenwood. “My biggest goal is to get these students to think for themselves and get them thinking, ‘Where do I go from here?’”
In 1984, Greenwood was asking himself that very same question. He had just left Wright State University with a bachelor’s degree and a healthy affection for alternative rock from four years of spinning vinyl as a disk jockey for WWSU.
A communication major with zero interest in information technology (IT) or program management, he never dreamed that nearly 30 years later he’d be leading the company that built the largest unclassified data warehouse for the Department of Defense.
Greenwood and his family built The Greentree Group, a strategic consulting firm whose core services include IT support, financial management, and program management for government organizations. It all started with the expert knowledge passed on from Greenwood’s father, Sam Greenwood.
In 1993, Sam retired after 33 years of working with the Air Force and the Department of Defense on IT projects, logistics solutions, and program management. Sam wanted to start a consulting firm and asked his son if he could help. Before he knew it, they’d started a fledgling consulting company. The first year they operated out of his parents’ den and a spare bedroom.
In the early days, The Greentree Group mostly offered expert advice on writing and building proposals for government contract work. “Government proposals are thick documents filled with lots of critical information. It was a subject my father knew very well and a lot of clients really needed help with,” said Greenwood.
On the heels of many successful winning proposals, clients started asking if The Greentree Group could also help with project implementation. “Back then there were a lot of big companies—Oracle, Martin-Marietta, NCR, Boeing—that didn’t understand the needs of the client. They would need help selling products and services customers really wanted,” said Greenwood.
And by providing such help, The Greentree Group took off.
By rarely telling clients it couldn’t handle a request and by sticking to its core values of integrity and ethics, customer focus, long-term client partnership, and employee welfare, The Greentree Group began piling up successes.
In addition to the DoD data warehouse, the company built a cutting-edge software system to help the federal government track the money it spends. The Greentree Group completes work for state offices in Texas, Florida, New York, and Iowa, as well as for many municipalities and regional companies.
Greenwood shaped many of his business values from his early professional experiences, but he collected perhaps the best advice as a student intern from a boss named Skip Lowe at Bell Publicom. “Something he said to me one day
really stuck. ‘Hire people who are smarter than you; it makes you look good,’” said Greenwood.
He says that The Greentree Group succeeds because it puts smart, talented people to work with an unwavering commitment to customers. “I’m not the smartest guy, but I think I’m a pretty good judge of picking people,” he said. “My job as CEO is to inspire our employees to uphold the values of our company and do great things.”
As CEO, Greenwood helped mold the family company. But he didn’t truly come full circle until he returned to Wright State’s campus in 2008 for a WWSU radio station reunion. “It was something I felt compelled to do, coming back to talk with students,” said Greenwood.
After serving on a few panels, he agreed to teach a communication class
once a week. Now four years later, Greenwood teaches the communication capstone and focuses on preparing students for résumé building and job
hunting, and assists with their interview skills. “The real world is not a set of books that you follow; it is a set of practices and processes and integrity and ethics,” said Greenwood.
Early in the term, Greenwood said he often sees a change from apathy to assertiveness. Students start to realize they’re about to leave the protective life
of the campus cocoon and begin to truly focus on how to get where they want
to go next.
Greenwood expanded his commitment to young people a few years ago with the Greenwood Integrity Scholarship, a yearly scholarship he and his wife award to a senior majoring in communication who has shown high integrity.
In 2011, he joined the Wright State University Foundation Board, but before he committed, Greenwood said he made it clear what he could and couldn’t
do. “If you’re looking for somebody to raise money for you, I’m not your guy,”
Greenwood doesn’t want to raise money; he wants to raise relationships between professionals and students. Students get the advice, mentoring, and encouragement they need, and employers get to tap into Wright State’s finest resource—its students.
“To me, being on the university Foundation Board is all about finding ways to improve and develop the university through financial means and with the quality of our students and the quality of time they spend at Wright State,” said Greenwood. “The entrepreneurial spirit that’s helped us at The Greentree
Group can do the same thing with students here. I see it every Tuesday night during class.”