A strong entrepreneurial spirit and a tech-savvy mind led Michael Garvey ’89 to several successful business ventures over the past two decades. Starting with an idea that would help him in his career as a police officer in New York, Garvey, who studied marketing and information systems and operations management while at Fairfield, ran with his idea and created License Monitor, Inc., a company with an award-winning system that helps to “keep bad drivers off the roads.”
Garvey’s initial plans, after graduating from Fairfield, did not include joining the police department – he had already had several successful positions in marketing and sales before he graduated. Following graduation, he considered pursuing different careers – especially at start-up companies. “I like to hop on early with industry trends and ride the wave,” he said. After working for U.S. Paging Corporation (prior to cell phones, when pagers/beepers were very popular) as a marketing associate for several years, he began working for a small advertising agency that specialized in the magazine and billboard industry. Garvey explained that as small businesses often do, it folded, and for the first time, he found himself out of work.
That didn’t slow him down for long. “My father was a civil servant, and he taught us that you couldn’t go wrong in civil service. It’s a great line of work and an honorable way to make a living. That intrigued me when I was a kid – I actually always thought about being a fireman or policeman,” Garvey said. He eventually took the tests for several civil service positions, including the police department.
The Police Department offered him a job, and although Garvey considered passing on it in favor of other higher paying jobs, he was encouraged by family and neighbors (who were in law enforcement) to give it a try considering it was something he always wanted to do. “It turns out I loved it,” he said. Garvey graduated valedictorian of his police academy class and when talking about his career in law enforcement he stated that he really felt that he was contributing to a greater good. Despite being exposed to many tough things, specifically, a side of humanity that most people never really see, Garvey considered law enforcement a fantastic career.
While he was a police officer, Garvey couldn’t help but continue to innovate and solve problems. When he was studying for a promotional exam (after which he was promoted to sergeant), he read something that stuck with him. “It said, ‘at the request of the local police department’s Chief of Police, the commissioner of motor vehicles will send to the chief a list of all suspended and revoked drivers in that jurisdiction.’ I highlighted that section, thinking that it would be a great list for police officers to have while on patrol,” Garvey explained.
New York had made it a crime to drive with a suspended or revoked license and Garvey knew that if he had the list of people with those limitations from the DMV, his numbers of arrests for traffic violations would go through the roof. He approached his Chief with the request to get the list from the DMV. “I said, listen, I want to pursue this,’” said Garvey. “With that list we could get all the bad drivers in our town off the road.”
The Chief at the time, who Garvey admitted was a bit “old school” when it came to computers and technology, grudgingly gave him permission to pursue it. Garvey came across more difficulties when he requested the information from the DMV: they did not have the capability to collect and share the data. This didn’t stop Garvey. After several back-and-forth trips to Albany and working with a local assemblyman that he knew, he was shipped a two-foot high stack of 3.5” “floppy” discs with the information. He took the data and uploaded it all to his computer, and just as he thought, his numbers for catching suspended drivers skyrocketed.
“Every cop I worked with wanted the list,” Garvey said. “This was not a private sector ‘for-profit’ endeavor, I was just using my entrepreneurial background to solve a problem for law enforcement purposes.” Soon, other police departments around the state began to receive access and could download the list of suspended, revoked, stolen, and expired registration and licenses in New York.
After the success of the system, Garvey began to feel the entrepreneurial itch again. He began calling other organizations such as bus companies, limo services, and pest control companies to see if they would be interested in a similar type of DMV data for their employees who drove company vehicles. The response was very positive and Garvey decided to go into business for himself. In 1999, with permission from the Police Department, he officially founded License Monitor Inc., which would convert driver license suspension data into an effective, time-saving management tool for business owners. It allowed business owners to keep their insurance costs down and virtually eliminated the risk of lawsuits of employees with suspended or revoked licenses getting into accidents. With the development of a strong business plan, License Monitor won the Grand Prize at Notre Dame University’s McCloskey National Business Plan Competition, and was the 2003 New York State Small Business Development Center “High Tech Company of the Year.” In 2012 he sold the company to Solera Holdings and currently serves as Managing Director.
Garvey, who lives in New York with his wife, Bonni and their three children, was inducted into the NYS Small Business hall of Fame for “Extraordinary Entrepreneurial Spirit” in 2006. In April of this year, Garvey agreed to be a judge at the Dolan School of Business’ Business Plan Competition (see page 5). The Dolan School was eager for his perspective on student plans. “Michael has continuously applied entrepreneurial ideas to the problems that have confronted him in his work,” says Dr. Donald Gibson, dean of the school of business. “He serves as a terrific example for our students of how successful one can be by persistently pursuing interesting—and profitable—ideas.”
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