Anderson, Indiana

Emmett Dulaney: It takes a village in business

Wed, 2012-04-25 13:29 -- univcomm
April 25, 2012

There is a popular character in business lore that is more often fiction rather than fact.

We like to regale in tales of the lone wolf entrepreneur who has an idea and then takes on the world — often defying what others think to be conventional wisdom — to wildly succeed only after pouring all of their attention and energy into the undertaking. Whereas so many others would have given up, they single-mindedly soldiered on to make what was in their head a product that the market then richly rewards. Many times, they turn around and follow the same formula to deliver parallel incredible results time and time again.

As inspiring an image as it is, it is rarely a reality that one person can be that motivated and deliver those results alone. When you look at the great success stories, it seems difficult to find ones involving only a single person. Bill Gates of Microsoft is often held up as the visionary who revolutionized computing, but he had Paul Allen at his side in all the formative years. Steve Jobs not only founded Apple, but came back to save it after the board had ousted him; far from being alone, he had Steve Wozniak with him in those early days. Google, which was founded by two extremely intelligent individuals (Larry Page and Sergey Brin), came from nowhere and stole the market from the likes of Yahoo! (founded by Jerry Yang and David Filo), and Ask Jeeves (founded by Garrett Gruener and David Warthen).

Outside of the technology realm, one of the best known “lone wolves” would be Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway (Geico insurance, Fruit of the Loom clothing, See’s Candies, and so on). While Buffett certainly stands out alone in the spotlight, he personally owns less than one-third of the company and always refers to Vice Chairman Charlie Munger as his partner.

The reason there are so few lone wolves can be summed up by the title of Hillary Clinton’s 1996 book on education: it takes a village. Starting a business is a massive undertaking and to be successful, you need support. That support can come in the form of family (imagine how much more difficult undertaking a risky venture would be if your family were opposed to it), but it can also come in the form of a business partner. That business partner can be one to bounce ideas off of, to argue with, and — in some cases — to even provide financial backing. Without a solid support structure beneath you, the odds of your success shrink the same way the possibility of building a high rise without a solid foundation would.

If you’re interested in supporting others, I would encourage you to come watch seven teams (narrowed down from 140 students) present their business ideas to a panel of judges in the second annual Anderson University Graduate Business Plan Competition. It will be held this Thursday night (6 p.m.) at the Flagship Enterprise Center, 2701 Enterprise Drive; villages are welcome.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology. The Falls School of Business is one of Anderson University’s largest academic departments offering eight undergraduate majors as well as MBA and DBA programs. The school is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and is a member of the Christian Business Faculty Association (CBFA).

Columns from Anderson University’s Falls School of Business are published Tuesdays in The Herald Bulletin. Tuesday’s columnist is Emmett Dulaney, who teaches marketing and entrepreneurship.