After serving five years in Africa, Europe, and Iraq and earning a Green Beret, Jason McCarthy (MBA ’11) learned the importance of execution. Without proper implementation, he came to understand, ideas have little value.

McCarthy’s commitment to following through on a vision has served him as a business student and an entrepreneur. In 2010, McCarthy launched GORUCK, a maker of military-grade backpacks and gear designed for civilians willing to pay more for quality.

McCarthy had experience with high-quality gear built to endure in the toughest of circumstances. He also understood that too many companies offered claims like “built to last” without really living up to that standard.

McCarthy’s mission was to design backpacks that were both aesthetically appealing and rugged enough that urban-warrior types would see them as an investment in quality. GORUCK backpacks are priced from $175 to $395.

“There are some great names out there, but their products are just not military grade,” he maintains. McCarthy, who also serves as president of the McDonough Military Association, spent two and a half years designing GORUCK backpacks, which he modeled on the gear he had used in Iraq, minus features such as ammunition pockets. He worked closely with a designer to make sure the backpacks would hold up to his “best on the planet” guarantee, and then set out to find a domestic manufacturer so he could include a “made in America” label.

As he spent the summer after his first year in business school traveling the country with a small group of co-founders promoting GORUCK, McCarthy found that inspiring a team could even be more critical in business than it was in the military, which has a “rank structure” to keep everyone focused.

“In the military, there is less of a human element, given the absolute nature of the command structure. In small businesses such as mine, people need explanations and need to be brought and kept on board. People need to be inspired. The human element is the greatest challenge, but also the most rewarding, on both fronts.”

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