We don’t always recognize the pivotal moments as they happen.
But for Steve Goodroe, a record-setting high school quarterback from Griffin who earned a Division I football scholarship, nothing stands out quite like the night he learned he failed a college course in physical education after transferring to the University of Georgia.
“My life was structured before I got to Athens — year-round sports, practices every day, extra-curricular activities in school and at church, and working part-time. My first year of college was even more structured — athletic dorm, mandatory 7 o’clock wake up to attend class, monitored class attendance, plus all the football related activity. I got off to a great start in college. Beyond football, I was elected a freshman class officer and I made good grades,” Goodroe remembers.
“When I got to Athens, I must have felt like I was released from prison. It was the first time I wasn’t playing sports, first time I didn’t have to practice every day, and certainly the first time no one was keeping tabs on me. I jumped into the social aspect of UGA with both feet. I got off to a great start with that, but things didn’t work out so well academically. The first quarter was bad; winter quarter was terrible, and I went through spring quarter trying to avoid academic probation. After spring finals, I was back home working my summer job at the parks and recreation department, confident I just missed academic probation. My sister came to the park one evening and said, ‘Daddy wants to see you when you get off work tonight. Your grades came.’
“I’m thinking, this will be a tough conversation but I will promise to do better going forward and everything will be OK. You can imagine my surprise when my dad showed me the letter from UGA that said I was on academic probation … by one one-hundredth of a point. I asked if I could see the grades. There it was bigger than life — a WF in physical education. I hadn’t even managed to drop the course in time to get a WP! My father’s first question was a good one — ‘Son, can you help me understand how someone who earns an athletic scholarship to a Division I school can make an F in physical education?’ The conversation didn’t go very well from there.”
Goodroe figured there was only one way out. He told his father, “if you will let me live at home and work until I go back to Athens winter quarter, you don’t ever have to give me another penny for the rest of your life. As quickly as I offered, he accepted.”
“At the time, it probably seemed like ‘the nights the lights went out in Georgia’ but, looking back now, it was the night the lights came on for me,” Goodroe says.
The lights have been on ever since. He went back to Athens, worked his way through school, made good grades and graduated on time. And he’s been giving ever since— his attention, his talent, his time, his expertise, his enthusiasm — to everything he pursues.
An officer at Procter & Gamble, CEO of a marketing services startup, private investor, executive-in-residence, board member, entrepreneur, and early champion of Terry’s Music Business Certificate Program — Goodroe’s whirlwind career has run the gamut. He’s a communicator who discovered early he was good at meeting and engaging with people.
He learned to focus on the immediate and embrace the unexpected.
It’s an ethos that got him to P&G in the first place, securing a chance to work for a company where he knew he could build a future — and build one he did. In 30 years Goodroe served in 13 positions of increasing responsibility, half of that time in overseas posts, developing markets earning P&G billions of dollars in sales.
He was bold, and eager to contribute.
Jim Webb saw that firsthand during the final interview when he offered Goodroe a job at P&G. “I was explaining the company’s benefits and profit-sharing plans when, all of sudden, he stops me and says, ‘Mr. Webb, I don’t know if you’re offering me the job but, if you are, the answer is yes!’ ” says Webb, an executive at P&G for 35 years and now chairman of Triaxia Inc. Webb interviewed and hired many, but says, ‘I’ve never had anybody interrupt the process to say yes, but it was the right environment. He was such a great fit in terms of what he wanted to do in his life, how he wanted to give everything 110 percent. And he always did.”
Starting in Nashville, Goodroe moved with P&G to Atlanta, back to Nashville, Cincinnati and Detroit over a dozen years before getting the call for an overseas assignment in the United Kingdom. Married to Linda for just a few years with baby daughter Kate (and son John on the way), Goodroe was promoted to head of sales in P&G’s UK business. He was excited and ready for a new chapter, but first he needed a passport — it would be his first time overseas.
Certainly not his last.
A successful four-year stint in the UK led him back to Connecticut as head of sales for P&G’s U.S. health care business. When P&G decided to invest heavily in Asia in the early ’90s, Goodroe was named head of sales for the company’s Asia business. The Goodroe family moved to Hong Kong, where they lived for eight years while Steve played an important role in expanding P&G’s footprint across Asia, increasing annual sales from $1 billion to $5 billion.
He was named VP of customer business development for Asia in 1994, involved from day one in the startup of the company’s businesses in Vietnam and Pakistan. He played a significant role in the development of P&G’s China business, which today is the company’s second largest market with annual sales of $10 billion.
“I worked in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, and a mix of other Southeast Asia countries like Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand,” Goodroe says. “We opened Vietnam, which was quite an experience for an American company that hadn’t had any involvement in Vietnam business relations. It was the Wild West in those days.”
Years later, with his kids entering high school, the Goodroes moved back to the States, where Steve rejoined the corporate office and finished out his 30-year career with P&G. He told Linda when they first met he planned to retire by the time he was 55, and at age 52, did just that.
But retirement for Goodroe wasn’t a time to stop working,
It brought him back to the Terry College. A chance meeting with George Benson, who was dean at the time, led to Goodroe becoming more involved in the classroom, first as a guest lecturer and then co-teaching a marketing strategy course in Terry’s Executive MBA Program.
“He’s a people person and a big thinker, a systems thinker, he’s a leader,” Benson says. “He just likes to be involved and once he’s involved, he’s there every time you need him.”
“I told George not to look at my transcript, and he’d laugh,” Goodroe says. “Finally when he offers me the executive-in-residence job in 2006, I said ‘Whew, OK, I’m convinced now that you never went back to look at my transcript.’ He said ‘I didn’t need to, you convinced me a long time ago that you are the essence of the old adage that the A students end up working for the C students.’ ”
The corporate world called once again, and two years after retiring from P&G, Goodroe was back at it. He led the successful startup of dunnhumby USA, a marketing services company that was a joint venture between The Kroger Co. and dunnhumby Ltd. (London), serving as the company’s first CEO. The product he advanced is one known to many today — the Kroger card.
“There was new stuff to do, it was exciting and invigorating,” Goodroe says. “The plan was build it up, build to profitable and get out of there. This was a sophisticated technology-driven business, big data mining that I knew virtually nothing about. But I knew how to build and lead an organization.”
The startup was recognized as the fastest growing company in the greater Cincinnati area with sales of more than $100 million in just its third year of operation.
At Terry, Goodroe began serving on the advisory board of the Master of Marketing Research Program and the college’s Alumni Board. He was introduced to the Music Business Program, which was in its fundraising infancy.
When Goodroe met Bruce Burch, the program’s first director, the two hit it off, and he became chair of the program’s first board. MBUS jibed with Goodroe’s penchant for untested ideas with unlimited promise.
“It was fun and exciting, I remember in the early days saying this has really big potential, because who do you know who doesn’t like music?” Goodroe says. “And this has a cool factor associated with it.”
He continues to celebrate and support the program, now housed in the Goodroe Music Business Suite in Moore-Rooker Hall.
Today, he serves as an executive-in-residence and is part of the Emeritus Alumni Board. And he was just invited to serve on the advisory board of the UGA Entrepreneurship Program.
Being named a Distinguished Alumni Award winner is a touching honor.
“For everybody who wins that award, it’s a recognition for what they have accomplished. For most people it’s sort of a natural progression — they did well in school, they did well in their careers, they gave back to Terry. But for me it’s been a story of redemption … going all the way back to that F in physical education.”