“Tell me the name of your company!”
“Tell me the name of your company,” coaxed architect Edward Roche, UMass Class of ’72, as we sat on a panel tonight in the campus center. We were here for the Distinguished Speaker Series, and on my right and left sat three accomplished men with stories to share and ideas to exchange.
In front were about 25 students, ready to get some ideas.
Roche said that having a name of your company starts the ball rolling, and is crucial to anything successful. His favorite company? Failure, Inc., an engineering firm hired to fix structural failures in buildings.
At dinner before the event, Jeff Silver the head of Career Services at UMass, filled me in on the internship program. While 1000 students choose each year to take internships with local businesses, way more opportunities go unfilled. Despite how much of a difference the experience of internships makes on a resume, their programs are ignored by 20,000 of the other students who attend the university.
I kept thinking, ‘if i were a student, I’d definitely want credits for an internship instead of another class!’
Roche advised the audience to ‘be a good person. Treat people the way you’d like to be treated. Be the one who is courteous to the people who clean the office, treat people well no matter their status in a company.’
Tom Truong now owns a country club. He’s a serial entrepreneur with an energy that shows in the features of his face, he smiles broadly and is confident. His advice on choosing what kind of business to get involved with was to ‘judge the lifestyles of the people who are in that business. Would you like to live that way? Does it look like a life you want?’
Truong said that was why he choose to open three dry cleaning businesses in the Boston area a decade or so ago. It was all going great until 9/11 created a near security blockade of any building over 20 stories. He was dead in his tracks and had to go out of business. Truong said that the banks who he was honest with during his business failure remained valuable contacts later when they helped him finance real estate deals.
But failure is not a bad thing. It’s a teaching thing. Roche told of how he had to go out of business after a failed development deal, and was being counseled by the bankruptcy lawyer. He was advised to buy another expensive car and more suits, since he was going down anyway…but Roche refused, because he knew he’d be in business in the Boston area for many years after that, and again, be the good guy. Do the right thing.
Then Chris Ziomek bounded up on stage. The 2009 UMass grad is on a hot streak, helping to start up a college audience website called CampusLIVE and after years of hard work he’s now moving to the next level. Now he’s diversified into a marketing effort aimed at the desirable college age market. Great cash-out, get rich potential, which he said was the company’s end game.
“We slept in the office, all six guys on air mattresses!”
That’s how Chris explained that in order to succeed big you gotta starve sometimes, (“eat ramen noodles and live in your office!”) Now he’s got VC money and hopes to gross $2.5 million in 2011!
He was confident that it’s easy to find angel investors if you sell yourself. There is plenty of opportunity. “In the Boston area, there are 78,000 people who are millionaires! Now, I know a million isn’t that much any more, but still these people have money!
Up in Canada, hey they got lots of money too. The difference between the west coast VCs and the East Coast is, here they’re much tougher. They want to know where your sister went to college!”
Ziomek said he didn’t like to read much, but that he’d still recommend Dale Carnegie’s How to Make Friends and Influence People.”
My advice was that the audience should be thinking about what their job would be after college while they were in college. And that they couldn’t take too many internships, since this kind of learning, was to me, more valuable than writing papers and reading books. One student asked about how you can make your business become your full time job. I answered: “If you work hard, long into the night, and think about your business all of the time, and talk about it with everyone you meet, and push and push harder eventually you will push through and it will become your full time job.”