By Brent Selmins’11, Entrepreneurial CEO Winterim Student
Hundreds of Thunderbird students walk by the Walker Center for Global Entrepreneurship every day, but it’s a rare opportunity to meet with the person for whom a building on campus is name after. Scott Walker opened up Professor Steven Stralser’s Entrepreneurial CEO Winterim on Monday morning, and he provides the ideal opening ceremony. Here is a man who has been through just about every peak and valley that a person can go through before emerging as a multimillionaire philanthropist.
Professor Straler’s seminar course offers Thunderbird students a peek at the various stages of the entrepreneurial process. Hundreds of future MBA’s here at Thunderbird dream of the rush of the start-up, the independence and the multimillion dollar IPO pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Mr. Walker certainly represents the ultimate dream for many aspiring business people, but his story also serves as a dose of reality for people with million-dollar dreams.
Mr. Walker risked losing everything by putting everything on the line. When facing the nadir of his own life, Mr. Walker’s competitive drive kicked in. By sacrificing nearly everything and giving himself completely over to his entrepreneurial instinct, Mr. Walker emerged out of bottom and became one of the most successful businessmen in Thunderbird’s history.
Mr. Walker’s story illustrates the sacrifice and risk necessary to have a name featured on a building on campus. The caveat for students looking to replicate Mr. Walker’s success is not every entrepreneur is wired like Mr. Walker. However, students in the Entrepreneurial Seminar will get many different perspectives from the 19 speakers coming to visit; hopefully, the perspective of the contrasting experiences will point some T-birds down the road to entrepreneurial success.
By Suzanne Lynn ‘11, Entrepreneurial CEO Winterim Student
All graduates make plans and have dreams of where they are going in life after earning a Thunderbird MBA – just ask Scott Walker, class of 1981. He knew he wanted to make money working in the finance field, but did not have a clear idea of where he wanted to go. Little did he know where life would lead him!
Mr. Walker was very successful early on in the banking industry, but the oil crisis in the 1980’s and the S&L scandals of the early 1990’s ultimately left him with neither a source of income nor his family. It was at this low point that Mr. Walker decided to take matters into his own hands, vowing to take charge of his own future by working for himself instead of someone else. He has not looked back since.
A crucial first step Mr. Walker recommends in any entrepreneurial journey is the identification and acquisition of an advisor and mentor that you can learn from and respect. While he partnered with his mentor during this stage, Scott challenges and recommends that everyone, including those who chose to work in the corporate world, find such a person to turn to in their professional life for guidance and advice.
A second recommendation Mr. Walker advises is to get out with people and be open to any possibility at all times. Two different opportunities in his life presented themselves in this way: one was at a poker game in which he was recruited into a CFO position and the second was at a neighborhood Mexican restaurant where his mentor presented him with another business challenge involving unsatisfactory contract fillers.
A last critical point for Mr. Walker is the ethical and reputation factor. Several times in his presentation, he categorically stated that certain lines were not to be crossed and as an example of living the mantra, the CFO position he garnered from the poker game ended when he refused to sign a 10-K that was wrong. Even when he was asked about corruption during the Q&A session of his presentation, Mr. Walker was adamant that he would never tolerate corruption in business dealings as he considered it a “slippery slope” and he wanted to be “nowhere near it”. A good reputation, Mr. Walker explained, is essential for continued success and necessary to earn the respect of your peers.
Scott Walker’s last admonition is to not let money control decisions – and good thing for Thunderbird as the entrepreneurial center owes its’ existence to Mr. Walker’s generosity and success with BillMatrix, his first true start-up.
By Sampad Das ‘11, Entrepreneurial CEO Winterim Student
“When you are at the bottom, there is only one way to go –UP.” That’s how the morning presentation was started by Mr. Scott B. Walker. Mr. Scott B. Walker is a recognized entrepreneur, philanthropist and leader in the financial technology industry. His company, BillMatrix Corporation (http://www.billmatrix.com ), was an innovative, profitable and respected company in the industry. We were honored to have him as our first speaker. He gave some enlightening insight into entrepreneurship and managing start-ups. Some of the takeaway from the session was to “Never give up”. Mr. Scott gave some example from his experience how he faced the situations without complaining or whining was very commendable. Mr. Scott’s focus on “Recognizing value in simple ideas” was an eye opener. It’s true that you don’t have to be a rocket science to be an entrepreneur; you can find value in simple ideas.