Inside Track: Circuitous path helps to pay it forward
Cancer survivor and Askme Entertainment CEO and owner wants to help those battling disease.
Andrew Rounds is still alive.
Less than a year ago, his life was in doubt after the CEO and owner of Askme Entertainment Group LLC was diagnosed with one of the deadliest diseases in the world.
What started out as a pain in his side and a concern that he may have ruptured his appendix, a hospital visit revealed a scary diagnosis.
“I found out that I had colon cancer,” Rounds said. “It was isolated, but it started to spread. I had it taken out at the beginning of September (2018), and it was bigger than what they thought it would be, based on the scanning. So, it is really a miracle that it was caught because if I didn’t have that pain in my side, it would continue to grow and spread, and I wouldn’t be sitting here today.”
Since it started spreading, Rounds had to do four rounds of chemotherapy and, for him, that meant both through IV and taking pills. He started doing chemotherapy in October.
For Rounds, the first-round routine was one day of IV treatment and 14 days of taking pill medications, eight pills per day — four in the morning and four in the night — and then seven days without taking anything. On day 21, he would start the cycle again, but he had to adjust the next three rounds by taking six pills for 14 days. He no longer needed an IV treatment for his fourth round.
He said his cancer diagnosis was his most crippling health revelation, but during his diagnosis, he had another health setback. The doctors found that he was anemic, low on iron, and almost needed a full blood transfusion.
However, Rounds said when he started his chemotherapy, his hemoglobin levels increased and, eventually, the concern for a blood transfusion went away.
“The doctors had no explanation as to why it was increasing, but I said, ‘It has to be God,’” Rounds said. “I didn’t say that to him, but I said, ‘I know why it was happening,’ and I think he knew what I was talking about.”
The first week of January, Rounds finished his last round of chemo, and now, he said he is cancer free.
“I am blessed for the fact that I didn’t have to do other intense treatments like radiation or go through a lengthier process,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, the treatment was intense, it was nothing fun to go through, but people go through a lot worse.
“I believe it was a way of God telling me to slow down.”
Rounds’ diagnosis came at a crucial point in his life when he was leaving the corporate world to create a family-owned company.
Last year, just before his cancer diagnoses, Rounds and his wife Sherri Rounds founded Askme Entertainment. The family-owned entertainment company’s name, Askme, is the first initials of Andrew, Sherri and their three daughters — Kaitlyn, Melissa and Erriana.
Askme Entertainment is designed to be the parent company of different businesses he started and acquired to turn them into brands. The first business he started was i dj tonight in 2011, which provides DJ services to corporate and special events, and Visionerri Lighting Services in 2017, which offers lighting to all types of events.
In January, Rounds officially acquired a disc jockey company in West Michigan, Music Host Entertainment, the company he spent the last 12 years of his life working for part time. Rick Reuther founded Music Host Entertainment more than 30 years ago in 1988.
“We’ve always talked about if (Reuther) retired, then I would be interested in taking over Music Host Entertainment,” he said.
The acquisition came at a pivotal point because although Rounds founded i dj tonight and Visionerri Lighting Services, those were entertainment services he provided during evenings and on weekends.
During the day, Rounds worked at Grainger Industrial Supply, which is a global broad line supplier of maintenance, repair and operating products. He was the consumer service manager who led a team of 10 people to help consumers transition from their old supplier to Grainger.
After multiple jobs and company changes, Rounds worked at Grainger before the company closed his division and eventually was laid off in 2018. It was at that point he and his family decided to create Askme Entertainment Group as a parent company and acquire Music Host after previous years of ongoing talks with Reuther.
Ever since Rounds graduated from high school, he has been serving others. The Buffalo native started working at Metric Fasteners Corp. in California, where he grew up since he was 9.
During his time at Metric, the company changed its name to Fabory and was later acquired by Grainger Industrial in 2011. As the company made several transitions, so did Rounds’ role in the company where he worked for a total of 25 years.
Rounds started working in the warehouse department pulling and packing products at Metric Fasteners, which offered an assortment of fasteners, tools and industrial supplies. After a year of working in the warehouse, he took a position in sales, working at the sales desk where he started directly interacting with consumers over the phone and in-person. He worked in sales for about four years before he was offered the opportunity to become the branch manager at the age of 24. At the time, Metric had multiple branches across the country, including in Grand Rapids where the headquarters was located.
He was asked if he wanted to relocate to Grand Rapids in 1994.
“They wanted to centralize their purchasing department because, prior to that, every salesperson would have to find and source their own products and corporate consumers and ship them out,” he said. “So, you had one supplier that (you) dealt with, but they could be getting 25 to 35 calls from our company. So, they wanted to try to centralize that because it was too much for the … supply base and too much internally.”
Rounds then moved from California to Grand Rapids in 1995 and his position changed from a sales role to a buying role, interacting with suppliers instead of consumers.
“Now, I am buying and (suppliers) are selling to me instead of me selling to them,” he said. “It shaped my career path in knowledge because not everyone gets to do that. Some people are in sales their whole life and some people are purchasers their whole life. So, I get to blend the two, which was really good because I can sympathize … because I have been in their shoes.”
After 10 years, Rounds said he left the company because he felt like he couldn’t advance. He joined Chicago-based C.H. Robinson, which is a freight company. He took on a remote position selling freight loads that travel by land, sea and air internationally.
With a growing family, Rounds moved on to Gill Industries, a manufacturing company that makes sitting, office furniture and automotive components. He worked there for about three years until he got laid off because of the economic collapse in 2008.
It was at that point he joined Grainger Industries, where he was laid off and started Askme Entertainment Group.
Rounds said he believes his experience in both sales and purchasing will help him grow Askme Entertainment, and after battling cancer, he wants to help others who are battling cancer and raise awareness.
“I just want to give back,” he said. “I feel like I have been very blessed. I just want to know how I can help others.”