A self-described “common-sense Midwest girl,” Kristi Rogers has made a name for herself as a startup guru. Now, she’s working to help other CEOs, politicians and top influencers cut through the Washington gridlock to get things done.
Co-founder of Principal to Principal, Rogers and business partner Rachel Pearson envisioned a setting in which C-suite leaders could get around partisanship and focus on crucial policy decisions.
“Rachel and I both understood that policymakers in D.C. needed to hear directly from CEOs — the job creators — not only from inside the Beltway but from outside as well,” Rogers said. “We conceived of Principal to Principal — name, logo, mission and all — on a flight back from Gabon, where I had been working on behalf of Aspen with Gabon’s Ministry of Health.”
“Our objective was and is to convene CEOs and C-suite executives from across the country with senior members of the House, Senate and executive branch in an intimate, off-the-record setting to discuss the most pressing issues and challenges confronting our nation,” Rogers said. “The meetings, usually dinners, are always bipartisan and bicameral when possible. This effort has proven to be personal, substantive and worthwhile to all who participate, often leading to real progress.”
Rogers said P2P, which was founded in 2014, continues growing its deep networks and strengthening proficiency across diplomatic, political and business communities in D.C. The business is now recruiting new members for the 2018 CEO/C-Suite Forum and plans on capping membership at 35.
From Aegis to Aspen to P2P
Rogers’ early experience includes working with the departments of Transportation, Defense and U.S Customs and Border Protection.
Among her top career experiences is her work growing the D.C. office for London-based risk management and security company Aegis LLC, where she was president and CEO 2006 to 2011.
“I pitched the idea to establish a U.S. company to the British board of directors, which included Britain’s last five-star general,” Rogers said. “After serious deliberation and questioning, the board agreed. I responded, ‘Great! Now, we need to find someone to do it.’ The board laughed and responded, ‘Well, that would be you.’”
Within five years, the D.C.-based operation had expanded from two people to just under 1,000.
After her work with Aegis, Rogers co-founded and became managing director and CEO of Aspen Healthcare Services/Aspen Medical International. Under her leadership, Aspen successfully ran full-service medical clinics in Liberia and Sierra Leone, including nine Ebola treatment units.
Rogers has spent much of her career involved in startups.
“I enjoy challenges, and when I see a problem, I feel compelled to find a solution,” she said.
Another experience Rogers said profoundly impacted her were the nine months she spent in Iraq from 2003-2004 working with DOD.
“We did accomplish some amazing things in the early days traveling across the country, meeting with phenomenal people, and witnessing the ever-present challenges and struggles,” she said. “I would say that the experience was unequaled, helping to shape me as a person, both professionally and personally.”
During her time there, a group she was traveling with narrowly escaped a remotely detonated improvised explosive device someone had set up on the road.
“It exploded between our two vehicles (in a convoy leaving Baghdad) and thankfully was defective,” she said. “It exploded out instead of up and out. It badly damaged the back of our vehicle, blew out all of the windows and jettisoned us forward.”
The other vehicle was also badly damaged but still drivable, so the convoy sped away quickly.
“Unfortunately, we later learned that when the IED exploded out, it hit the Iraqi vehicle in the lane next to ours and killed all passengers,” she said. “Some in our group sustained only minor injuries.”
Fast forward to 2018, and Rogers sees unrest of a different kind.
“Today’s environment both here in the U.S. and across the globe is increasingly unstable and polarized,” she said. “At the same time, we are realizing incredible technological innovation. Business and policy leaders must come together to align our economy and security for the good of all. We as Americans must regain the belief that we have more in common than not and that we are stronger and better working together.”
Rogers said CEO members have begun asking P2P to help them address challenges.
“Specifically, we have engaged with a few of our member companies on a project-by-project basis,” she said. “The projects include everything from improving cybersecurity hygiene throughout an organization, including the board of directors, to crisis response and crisis communication. We are also working with a member company to improve their footprint and impact within the policy and decision-making community.”
On top of that, P2P is developing a strategic plan for a small company looking for consistent growth. Rogers said she has no plans to ever completely retire.
Outside the Office
Still, now that the startup is past its infancy, Rogers is also able to enjoy some free time pursuing other interests.
“I love spending time with friends and family on the Chesapeake Bay,” she said. “There’s nothing better. And if I can do that while catching a Michigan State basketball game, I am thrilled.”
She and her husband, Mike, are parents to two grown children. Erin is a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Jon is a second-class junior at the U.S. Naval Academy. They also have a 6-year-old Labradoodle named Daisy.
“I call her our Humanog because she has so many different expressions, and I think she will soon just sit up and say something to us!” Rogers said. “Erin and Mike selected Daisy from a small Amish farm in Ohio on their drive back from Michigan when Daisy was only 9 weeks old. I’ve had dogs my entire life and would not be without one.”
Rogers serves on the board of directors for Qualys Inc. and the advisory council for Trident Capital’s Cyber Fund, the world’s largest venture capital fund focused on cybersecurity technology. She is also president of the State Society of Michigan and regularly speaks at Michigan State University’s College of Social Science and other institutions, including the U.S. National Defense University and the Australia Defence Force Academy.
Rogers and her brother were born in Kansas where their father was stationed at McConnell Air Force Base. With ties to Michigan and Connecticut, the family went on to move back to Michigan after her father left active duty at the Pentagon. Rogers completed her undergraduate degree in political science at Michigan State University.
“A unique job opportunity brought me to Washington, D.C., in early 2001,” she said. “I had always loved the East Coast and jumped at the chance.”