COMPANY: Gearbox Software L.L.C., based in Plano
STATS: $25 million in sales in 2005, 75 employees, founded in 1999
WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW HIM:
He knows how to find and keep talent. Pitchford’s favorite interview question for prospective employees at his software company is, “Have you ever daydreamed about robbing a bank? How would you do it?” (If they say they haven’t, they’re either lying or not very creative.) Unfortunately, Pitchford hasn’t had much opportunity to ask it. In an industry known for its high turnover—videogame design—Gearbox has lost only four employees out of 75 in the past five years, and one of those four was to seminary school. Asked about such high retention, Pitchford, a law-school dropout, former window washer, and professional magician, talks eloquently about business management and technology evolutions, drawing examples from Star Wars or the old Incredible Hulk TV series. Also, Pitchford allocates 40 percent of Gearbox’s profits to an employee profit-sharing program. Under his watch, there’s been much profit to share. Brothers in Arms is currently the best-selling World War II videogame, which is saying a lot. Before Brothers, Gearbox developed a popular PC version of Halo, the game that pretty much put Microsoft’s X-Box on the map. In seven years, they’ve had more than $350 million in sales. It’s enough to make bank robbing entirely unnecessary.