Rebel, Rebel


by Grace O'Sullivan

Are you on the rebel end of corporate  -or-  the corporate end of rebel?

I'll admit that I've always been drawn to counter-culture and slightly subversive souls. What happens to those values once we have to grow up and take on big-time responsibilities? Where does that punk kid go?

Each day, I marvel at the level of talent in our associates. What a cadre of eclectic experts! When I founded Rare Fiber, I was trying to describe the ethos of the firm, our work and one specific example kept coming to mind.

Our associate, Ean Hernandez, spent his twenties working and touring the world in a pop-punk band and is now a VP at a multinational corporation. In between those activities, he went to Oxford for his MBA. During the application process, he met the the standard essay question: Which leader do you admire the most? Ean has been kind enough to let us post his entire essay. I think his answer says it all.

Greg Ginn – Founder, SST Records and Black Flag by Ean Hernandez
      Greg Ginn is not an internationally famous millionaire, CEO, or business owner.  He is however, a driven, inspiring, visionary leader, whose creative and business successes have not blinded him to the value of philanthropy.  Most well known as the guitarist and creative force behind the seminal US underground punk band, Black Flag, Ginn also started SST Records, the most significant and influential US independent record label of the 1980s.
      In the late 1970s, mainstream bands enjoyed an entrenched system of record labels, radio stations, distribution chains, and performance venues, while underground bands had little chance of accessing this system.  Ginn had the vision to see that mainstream channels could be bypassed.  With this in mind, he paid for Black Flag’s first record to be pressed, released, and sold through Solid State Tuners, a small electronic parts company he started as a teenager.  Realizing that there were other underground bands in need of a label and a large fan base for these bands, Ginn began releasing records by other bands on the Solid State Tuner (now SST) label.  In doing so, he opened the largely untapped market of underground music fans, and put SST Records onto the path of becoming the premier US underground record label.
      Underground clubs, booking agents, and promotion companies simply did not exist in most of the US during the early 1980s.  Ginn created the first US underground touring circuit, leveraging grassroots networks to book and promote concerts for SST bands.  He also allowed the networks, which persist to this day, to grow organically by sharing them with other underground labels—recognizing that increased collaboration ultimately benefited SST. 
      Only a driven leader could stay the course during the years required to build SST, Black Flag, and the touring circuit, but Ginn passed further tests that few business leaders encounter.  Widely viewed as subversive in the 1980s, members of Black Flag and SST were intimidated, beaten, and jailed by law enforcement officials.  Undaunted, Ginn refused to alter his vision or give up his goals.  His willingness to roll up his sleeves and lead by example also inspired those who worked for him.  Ginn is famous for pushing Black Flag to practice eight hours daily, while practicing additionally for hours on his own; when on tour, the same ethic had Ginn driving trucks, hauling gear, and selling t-shirts. 
      Not solely focused on business, Ginn is also a philanthropist, dedicating considerable energy to Los Angeles area programs that rescue, vaccinate, neuter, and find adoptive homes for feral cats.  A recent sold out series of Black Flag reunion concerts donated its entire proceeds to Los Angeles area feral cat rescues.  Not content to simply donate money to programs run by others, Ginn also runs a cat rescue out of his own home.
      Greg Ginn is a visionary, has the drive to bring his vision to life, inspires his team, achieves great things, and is a philanthropist.  The first three characteristics make him a leader; the last two earn him my admiration.