An interview with Peter G. Ruppert, Founder, and CEO of Fusion Education Group
Tell us your name and a little about yourself.
My name is Peter Ruppert. I founded what is today known as the Fusion Education Group in Grand Rapids, MI in 2007. Today, I remain the CEO of the business. I am originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and started my career with Procter and Gamble. Later, I received my MBA, joined a consulting firm, and eventually became an entrepreneur in the consulting industry before moving into K-12 education almost 25 years ago.
Recently, I published my first book, Limitless: Nine Steps to Launch Your One Extraordinary Life. It’s targeted towards people who don’t want to “settle” or accept things as “good enough” and have dreams they want to chase, not give up on. It’s short: 150 pages filled with stories, additional resources to dig deeper, and a workbook-like format at the end of each chapter to help the reader design their limitless future.
What exactly does your company do?
Today, we own and operate 78 accredited private schools around the country under the Fusion Academy, Futures Academy, and Barnstable Academy brands. Our schools are unique, personalized private schools that provide one-to-one (one teacher, one student in each class) education for students in grades 6 through 12. Due to our small school populations, our teachers can get to know every child and provide mentoring as well as individualized instruction. Because of this personalized approach for each student, we are often able to provide life-changing results for our students.
Recently, we launched our first virtual school, Fusion Global Academy. With its on-line program, we can provide the same high-touch, highly personalized one-to-one educational program to anyone in the United States or even internationally.
What were the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
I was always driven to be an entrepreneur and I started a few businesses early in my career that didn’t work out. Realizing that something you worked really hard on wasn’t succeeding and trying to recover from that was a huge challenge. Fortunately, I learned from others that failures can actually be good things and what’s most important is how we respond to them. I made the decision to not let such events define my future. I was fortunate to have some great mentors who helped me get through some of these tough times.
What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?
I wish I had learned earlier about the power of vision-setting and writing things down. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I learned to write out a detailed, descriptive vision for my future and to set and write down specific goals on an annual and quarterly basis. That alone changed the trajectory of my life. In retrospect, the vision I cast and almost all the goals I wrote down have come true for me. Once we write things down in specifics, our mind seemingly attaches to these, and subconsciously works to move us towards these goals.
Also, I wish I had realized that even the most successful people in the world deal with self-doubt at times and often endure very challenging journeys on their way to “success.” I always thought successful people just had it all together and that I was the only one who had periodic struggles with self-doubt. Now, of course, I realize that all of us battle negative thoughts at times and it’s completely normal. Both of these concepts are covered in detail in my book. In fact, the first chapter is “Win the Battle in Your Head,” and focuses on the importance of building a positive mindset.
Who are your biggest influences and people you admire and why?
I’ve always loved learning about some of the great entrepreneurs and innovators. People like Howard Schulz at Starbucks, Steve Jobs at Apple, Walt Disney, etc. I’ve also admired many of the iconic sports coaches, like John Wooden at UCLA and Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Mark Twain once said, “Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that. But, the really great make you believe that you, too, can become great.” I love that quote because it shows what the power of great mentors and influencers can be.
Certainly, my parents were a huge influence on me in different but equally important ways. My Dad fueled my interest in entrepreneurship by loaning me the money to start my first two businesses in high school and college: a lawn mowing business and a blacktop sealing business.
Also, I did a semester-long internship for a gentleman named David Morehead when I was in college. He was a successful entrepreneur and provided great opportunities for me to learn about leading a business, but he also encouraged me to think bigger about my future. In one of our conversations, he encouraged me to try to get into Harvard Business School. At the time, I wasn’t even considering business school and never even dreamed of getting into a school of that caliber. But, that one conversation changed my perspective, helped me create new goals, and made me shoot higher. And, sure enough, four years later, I applied and was admitted. Certainly, that conversation changed my future dramatically.
What do you see as your greatest success in life?
I’m proudest that I’ve been able to be successful in more than just my career. I have a great family. My wife, Jess, and I have been happily married for over 30 years. We have four kids, Jack, Grace, Pierce, and Ben, who are each pursuing their own dreams. I’m a firm believer that success in only one area of life doesn’t mean much if other areas are unhealthy.
I’m also proud of the number of people who I’ve mentored or led over the years and the amazing successes many of them have become.