Almost 20 years ago, Robert Slagel founded DropBox Inc. He is still the President and CEO today. As he and his career continue to move forward, Mr. Slagel has been seen as an inspiration by the people of the Tri State area of Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Through his hard work and dedication, he is striving to bring people back to the Tri-State in order to not only sustain it, but to give it the opportunity to flourish into the place that it once was.
Mr. Slagel served on the Board of Directors for the Lawrence County Ohio Port Authority. This includes his work as the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Port Authority in the city of Ironton, Ohio which he helped found. He also works closely with the Tri State Construction and Building Trades Council in the area of industrial economic development. Because of his involvement within the community, Mr. Slagel was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 2003, and he was awarded the 20 Under 40 title in 2004 which cited 20 people in the Huntington Area that had achieved significant accomplishments prior to turning 40 years old.
But who is the President and CEO of DropBox? What makes him the man that he is today? We sat down with Mr. Slagel for an interview where we were given the chance to learn more about what makes him tick!
Describe what your journey was like to get you to where you are today.
"When I first went into business for myself, I had to wear "every hat" in the organization. I was the delivery boy, janitor, accountant, bookkeeper, HR Director, and CEO. As the company has grown, it has been nice to hand off many of those responsibilities by hiring additional staff."
What are your current goals?
"I currently have two goals that I wish to accomplish, and those two goals are very much synergistic. The first one is to grow jobs in Appalachia. The second is to restore a level of hope to the people of Appalachia through direct or indirect job creation."
Who is your biggest role model?
"My father, John Slagel. He is one of the most conservative people that I know. During the recessions of the 1980s and beyond, my father was able to keep our small, portable toilet company, Johnny on the Spot, alive for many years just by being frugal. He is the main reason that my business exists today. He is my hero."
What are you three biggest accomplishments?
"My three biggest accomplishments are talking my wife into marrying me, having my children, and developing a relationship with God."
How do you approach change?
"The only thing in this life that is a 'constant' is the fact that nothing ever stays the same. In business, I welcome change. I love change. If you are changing, then that means you are growing. A business that is not growing is dying. The only way for a business to ensure that it will have a long life is for it to continue to grow. I think of the quote from the racecar movie, Talladega Nights: 'If you are not first, then you are last.' In business, 'If you are not growing, then you are dying.'"
Why was DropBox created?
"DropBox was created to invent unique, turnkey tools for industry, in part, to convert and repurpose shipping containers. In the world that I lived in, I saw a need for contractors and industrial plants to have a turnkey solution for addressing needs on their projects. Portable restrooms, portable access control for manpower, portable showers, etc. I was fortunate enough to be able to repurpose shipping containers into some of these types of facilities. As our tagline says, we are 'REINVENTING the Box.'"
Were there any challenges that you faced starting out, and how did you overcome them?
"Yes, there were challenges. As a matter of fact, there are just as many challenges today as there were 20 years ago when I started. Probably even more challenges. As you grow, the challenges become a bit more sophisticated. If you are in business for yourself, you have to be prepared for any challenges by staying focused on achieving your goals."
Where do you see DropBox going in the next two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?
"I never know where exactly the company is going to go. I'll just listen to the customers and let them help me 'steer the ship.' Good relationships with our customers and paying attention to them have been very valuable throughout the years in helping us grow and morph. We are currently looking at a larger presence in Europe where we have patents in most of the EU countries."
What have been the biggest changes that you have seen from the start of DropBox to now?
"The development of the Internet. Back in the day when I started DropBox, I could hardly find a shipping container by searching in my Netscape browser. Today, I google "shipping container" and literally get hundreds of sites and suppliers!"
What do you enjoy doing during your free time?
"I love traveling with my family. Lately, I've taken some out-of-town trips with my wife and girls. And I must say, that has been very enjoyable. No doubt getting our whole family together in one place for a week or two at a time is a real treat! But on a more regular basis, I like to work around my house, drive the tractor, and play with my Labradors, Russell and Daisy. I also raise honeybees and laying hens. My bees and chickens, unlike my labs, are not all named yet!"
What advice do you have for people who are just starting out in their careers?
"Working for yourself is very rewarding, but you have to be ready to work and never stop working. After I left my steady, secure job at the Corps of Engineers to focus on starting my business, I ran into an old co-worker. He asked me how I liked working for myself, and I told him that I loved it. I only work half-days now, and it doesn't matter whether it's the first 12 hours or the second 12 hours!"
How do you wish to be remembered?
"As the guy who helped restore pride back into Appalachia and specifically the Tri State area of Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia."
We would like to thank Robert Slagel for taking the time to answer our questions and allowing us to share his answers with our readers! For more information on DropBox Inc. and our products, CONTACT US HERE or call us now at 740.532.7822.