By Kevin Gray
Someone once said that Jeffrey Fry ’81 is like the A-Team or Delta Force for entrepreneurs.
It’s an apt description for the Austin-based entrepreneur and consultant, who has more than 25 years of experience in operations, technical sales, marketing, strategic planning, and business development.
“I start my own businesses and help others starting up businesses,” says Fry, an electrical engineering graduate. “I come in, fix problems, take a little bit of money, and I’m always there to help.”
Fry, who calls himself the “Profit Prophet,” has a wealth of diverse work experience, a penchant for taking risks, and a robust network—his Rolodex includes luminaries such as the late Steve Jobs, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, and marketing author and speaker Seth Godin.
“I tell my clients that they can pay me what they think I’m worth when we’re done,” says Fry, who does not charge a fee up front. “My goal is to see them be successful. If they aren’t successful, I don’t want to be paid because I failed. I put my money where my mouth is.”
Some of the companies he has founded or advised include Firefly Funds, ManeGain, Soundtracker, Seda Rico LLC, and Austin Medical Technology.
A recent venture that Fry considers one of his major successes is Help Find Care, a new home health care service that empowers health care service professionals to go into business for themselves. He was inspired to start the business because in seeking care for his mother, who has early onset of dementia, he discovered that the provider was making less than 50 percent of what he was being charged by the agency.
“My goal is to lower the cost for in-home care and increase the salary for the caregivers,” he says.
Fry’s advice typically guides his clients to success. And they usually pay him more than he would have charged.
As he interviewed for engineering positions after graduation, Fry’s versatility was evident. His communication skills so impressed his interviewers that they encouraged him to take his technical skills into sales and marketing.
“All of the things I learned at Lafayette, I use,” he says. “I just translate it into a different area. Engineering still applies in business. It’s the process of thinking, a creativity process. Our professors would give us points for creativity even if our answers were totally wrong. We found solutions when we were stuck. That really carried over.”
“Sales is much more difficult than engineering,” he continues. “You have to understand the process and have the ability to change midstream. I’ve had success by putting engineering aspects into a non-structured field.”
Fry was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in Washington, D.C., where his mother worked for the U.S. Department of State.
His grandfather, Macon Fry, who was a nuclear physicist, had a significant influence on his future.
“He went to MIT and was a brilliant man,” Fry recalls. “When I was trying to choose where to go to college, I gave him a list of 20 schools I was considering, including RPI, Lafayette, Stanford, and MIT, and asked his opinion. He said the most well-rounded engineers he ever met came from Lafayette.”
Fry made the most of his college experience. He was a member of the tennis club, a disc jockey for WJRH, and helped organize the first women’s engineering society. He and a friend booked the Grateful Dead to play in Kirby Field House during All-College Day in 1979.
As his passions for marketing were stoked, Fry turned the event into a fundraising venture by selling T-shirts, water, and candy.
“We made a lot of money for the College,” he says. “That was not something I learned in a classroom. It was situational learning.
“That’s a great thing about Lafayette. Because it’s not a huge university, you have the opportunity to stick your neck out a little bit. Sometimes you fail. But boy, you learn a lot. That desire to take some risks has stayed with me throughout my career.”