Although Tosh Cook, 44, is now known as the CEO of gigRonin, a successful temp staffing service, his work ethic and resolve was hardened in the cage of Mixed Martial Arts.
As a Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Cook trained for over 20 years and accumulated a 9-4 professional record.
And to think, it all started from watching his favorite fighter, UFC Champion Royce Gracie on television when he was young.
“It was unbelievable to be inspired by him and just watching him on TV then to be able to get punched in the face by him literally, was a lifetime experience for me,” Cook said.
While it may sound odd that getting punched in the face and working with temp staffing has a correlation, Cook is a firm believer that the lessons he learned training day in and day out as a fighter has given him the tools to be successful in his current venture, gigRonin.
Cook began to train with the UFC legend Gracie shortly after moving to Pepperdine in 1997. He would spar with Gracie and help him prepare for his professional fights.
Just being able to watch Gracie and his dedication towards his craft inspired Cook to take a shot on professional MMA. It’s safe to say it worked out after a 9-4 professional record once Cook retired shortly after 2008.
“I kind of always wanted to fight in the back of my mind. I never thought it would be something that could happen, but after seeing the commitment that it took and just how hard the fighters work convinced me,” Cook said. “I was willing to put in that same level of commitment, but it is a very unique experience to walk into a cage and hearing that door shut.”
Even after his professional fighting came to an end, Cook still strived for more. He then became a Jiu-Jitsu black belt after years of training in a ceremony he said is forbidden to speak about.
All of his belts, from white and above are from the Gracie gym.
“You have to go into a backroom with 40 or 50 of all Jiu-Jitsu black belts and you’re the only brown belt there at that time and you have to pass a test that I was sworn to secrecy about, but I can tell you it’s a very difficult endeavor.”
Cook took the test twice. With a 50 percent failure rate, he needed a second time where he eventually passed in 2013. Individuals from around the world come and take that specific test as well.
But, before he earned his black belt and after his professional fighting career ended, Cook began to get involved in the workforce-management industry. While Cook was always interested in MMA, his family had a background in business and for him, that was something he felt comfortable in as well.
Cook got his undergraduate at the University of the Pacific in entrepreneurship, before obtaining his MBA at Pepperdine in finance.
For the past 15 years, Cook has had his hands in numerous facets of the business world. From HR technology and staffing to selling that HR technology to interested parties around the state.
That formed a natural segway into his current venture, owning and operating gigRonin, which delves into the realm of on-demand staffing.
“What the app does is it matches open shifts at work sites in the service industry, so like banquet and catering along with other industries and hopefully more as we grow,” Cook said. “After talking to thousands of business owners, you realize that properly aligning their labor or need for production is a constant struggle.”
But, Cook sought to tackle those issues.
His app gigRonin, sought to connect both workers and the worksite in a low cost but effective way.
“If they have the experience and are available, right down the street there is somebody who needs that kind of experience and is understaffed, it seems obvious that there is a match there,” Cook said.
As owner, there is never really an off day for Cook. His mind is always on gigRonin and how he can improve his business.
Even if it means waking up in the middle of the night to write down a note, something that could help his business.
“It’s an endeavor that requires a lot of commitment, similar to MMA, you have to be committed and willing to get in the cage fight and the same with training,” Cook said. “I have to be committed to building the best company and technology and as a startup, you have to be smart and scrappy. Sometimes you get outclassed by somebody that is a little bit bigger and you just have to match up your strong points and their weak points.”
Cook’s ability to translate his past success in the cage into his startup, has given gigRonin a unique perspective.
“I think what I really learned was to stay calm under pressure and to apply thinking or technical knowledge to the situation and I think that is a similar thing when you look at MMA and business,” Cook said. “I’m big on emotional intelligence and working with people who have that, knowing everybody is going to stay calm and help try and figure out what the solution is makes things easier. Nothing ever got accomplished by throwing the stapler.”
Whether someone is trying to punch you in the face, or your business is trying to enter into a new market, similarly you have to figure out a way to leverage the best assets available to you so that no longer is an issue.
And for Cook, that’s something he’s been doing for decades.