One-on-One with entrepreneur and new Huntsman School of Business prof Michael Glauser

Successful entrepreneur Michael J. Glauser was recently hired as the new Executive Director of the Entrepreneurial Program at the Jon Huntsman School of Business. As the founder and CEO of Golden Swirl Management Company and Northern Lights, Glauser recently sold his companies to CoolBrand International – a world leader in the frozen food industry, and is returning to the academic world. Glauser has extensive experience as a business consultant with clients including Associated Food Stores, The Boeing Company, and Department of Workforce Services and began his career teaching – he was a professor at the University of North Carolina. CacheValleyDaily reporter Mackinzie Hamilton had the opportunity to interview Glauser about the Huntsman School of Business and the unique qualities he has to offer the school and the business community. Hamilton: What attracted you to come to the Huntsman School of Business?Glauser: I’ve been involved with entrepreneurship my entire career and I’ve built companies and I’ve published some books and articles. But the Huntsman school is very interested in teaching entrepreneurship across all the disciplines of the business school; It’s one of their four pillars that they want to be taught to all the students. So it’s just very attractive to me to come help build on what they already have and maybe look at the curriculum and some community-based programs and help build on their competitions and the mentoring programs that they have. So, you know, I’m very excited to teach the skills of entrepreneurship and help both students and community members build successful companies. Hamilton: What about entrepreneurship is critical to succeed in the business field?Glauser: Well, you know we are now a world economy and we’re competing with countries all over the world and creating new products and services and business models. To be really competitive we need to be able to create new organizations and new businesses. Most of the jobs in this country – 70% of the jobs pretty much each year – come from small business rather than large corporations. So the economy is really driven by the development of new companies and new products and new technologies. The more that we can teach the spirit of innovation, which is looking at how do we do things better, how do we do things more effectively, more efficiently, how do we do things in a more satisfying manner for customers and employees; the more we ask those questions and have the skills to do that I think the better off our economy is. The better off we are in the world as a nation.Hamilton: Your story is pretty interesting. You started out as an assistant professor, you’ve created curriculum, developed business strategies, wrote books and research papers, and even founded two very successful businesses. How did you get started?Glauser: Well I at an early age when I went to college I really was attracted to this concept of building organizations of getting people together and having common goals and doing things that are significant and important in our communities. And so I went off and did my graduate work and started teaching but at that early age I thought, “You know, I really need to do the real thing. I want to leave the academic world and go out and practice what I’ve been preaching and see if I can do it.” So I left academics and started a company and then that went well and I started several others and have been doing that for the last 20 years. Now it’s just been really rewarding to go back to the university environment after having both the academic experience and the practical business experience and help others have that same experience I’ve had. So going back in this stage in my career is really satisfying to me. Hamilton: Was it hard to break into the business? Glauser: You know, I think people think it is going to be hard and it is hard but there are a set of practices that if we follow we really can increase our chances for success. For example, most successful companies are started by people who have worked in that industry and who know that industry really well. They know the customers, they’ve seen a need, they’ve seen a missing piece, they’ve asked around and people said, “Yeah, we need this. We’re not getting it. If you do it we’ll buy it from you.” So they are not as big of risk takers as entrepreneurs but they have real experience in a certain industry. They know customers, they know what customers want and aren’t getting, they’re able to marshal all the resources to start something and that’s what we try to teach here at the Huntsman School. We are going to teach people how do you up your odds that you’ll be successful and make it less stressful than it already is, because it is a real roller coaster ride; there are definitely ups and downs but it’s quite thrilling. There’s things we can do to increase our chances for success and lower our odds for failure so those are the things we’ll try to teach. Hamilton: What are some of those concepts that you will be teaching?Glauser: One thing is pretty much all the successful companies we’ve studied have been started by teams as opposed to a single entrepreneur. The business founder that wants to hold everything close to the chest and doesn’t want to share any of the ownership and thinks that he or she can do it all, you know, that just doesn’t work anymore; it’s too slow. Successful entrepreneurs look at themselves and they know who they are. They know where they’re strong and where they’re weak and they say, “I’m pretty good at these things but I need help with these things,” and they go out and find a team of other like-minded, passionate people. Individuals working alone can never be as successful as the right team passionately working together so that’s one of the things we promote.Developing really low cost prototypes and developing those before you spend a lot of money is another thing we teach. Another one is just great, phenomenal customer service. You have to be close to those customers and they even have to help in the development of your product and services. If you treat them better than anyone else does in that industry and you win them over initially and then you continue to give that great service to keep them, it’s one of a group of concepts that can really help someone be more successful in starting a new company.Hamilton: Where would you like to see the Huntsman program go under your direction?Glauser: Well I think in five years it would be wonderful to have the center up and running and have it endowed by a prominent entrepreneur that we can work with closely and we can be proud of so it’ll be sustainable over time. And I’d like to see 1st class curriculum and excellent community programs. But the most important thing, the way they evaluate and rank centers of entrepreneurship around the country is if real businesses are coming out of the center so we will do everything we can to work with anyone at USU involved in life sciences technologies, water technologies, commercialization offices, anyone with ideas and patents. We will do all that we can including helping students get real companies started and have those companies first survive and then thrive and become really important to our economy; that’s the overall objective to actually create successful organizations. Hamilton: Where did you learn the successful principles to business? Was that from formal education or founding your own business? What helped you most to learn these skills? Glauser: I think going to graduate school is helpful, teaching the concepts is helpful, but probably doing real business and building some companies myself has been the most important things. And also, after I sold one of my companies, I decided I wanted to collect stories of successful entrepreneurs so I started gathering oral histories of some of America’s top Entrepreneurs way back in the mid 90’s. It’s actually being in those companies with those people getting to know them, watching what they’ve done, looking for common practices across these successful companies that have probably been the best thing that I’ve done to educate myself. As to what the keys to success really are and how do we teach those to aspiring entrepreneurs and how do we implement them in new companies, that’s probably been the most valuable thing that I’ve done. Hamilton: What companies have inspired you, what entrepreneurs do you really respect and admire?Glauser: Oh, there are just hundreds of them and I haven’t, I’ve not tended to focus on the real popular, billion dollar companies and their founders like Steve Jobs and Apple – there’s thousands of articles written about those companies. I admire him greatly and I admire Dave Neeleman who started a number of airlines, most recently Azul airlines in Brazil. But I’ve really tried to focus on common everyday men and women that start successful companies. I focus more and the smaller companies and people who have just done really neat things in their communities. Amelia Antonetti who started a company called Soapworks and now she’s a Fox Business News consultant. We’ve interviewed entrepreneurs, street entrepreneurs in San Francisco who make a living preforming and selling goods and products down at Fisherman’s Wharf. So we really like to see all kinds of entrepreneurs: older, younger, men, women, big companies, smaller companies. Sometimes those smaller ones that really struggle and work hard and eventually become successful are most inspiring.Hamilton: What advice would you have to everyday people who have a dream about starting their own business? What would you tell them?Glauser: I’d say the first thing is to get real involved in an industry that you like and then start asking questions: “What’s missing? What do customers want that they are not getting?” and really try to find a true need. One of the first keys to successes is that you’ve identified something customers actually want and they’re telling you, “If you create that product or if you create that service we need then we’ll buy it.” It’s hard to create an idea in a vacuum, you know, just sitting on your couch instead of out there in the field with customers looking at products, looking at competitors’ products. So jump into an industry and start looking around. And, you know, you don’t always find the opportunity right off the bat. It’s hard to say, “I’m going to go out and start a company this month. What do I do?” It takes time. It takes months and sometimes years to find the right opportunity. So I would say jump into an industry you love and start looking around and asking questions and then, number two, get some help through formal programs like the courses that we teach or through some of the community-based mentoring programs. There are a lot of resources online for free. Utah, the government, has a great website that you can go to there’s a lot of other entrepreneurs who are willing to mentor you. We have competitions and programs and things you can get involved with as well. So first, get into an industry and really see what’s going on and learn what some of the real opportunities might be and second, just continue to educate yourself on what it takes to be successful and learn from those who have gone before you and done it. Hamilton: Will your entrepreneurial courses focus on just commercial businesses or will the classes concerning non-profit organizations be taught as well? Glauser: I’ve always believed there is really no difference between non-profit and for-profit other than the government tax code. In either company you still need great product or great services, you need a team, you need to figure out how to fund and sustain the organization, you have PR work, marketing and accounting. I don’t really make that much of a distinction between for-profit or non-profit. I think you apply the best business practices to both to be successful. But we do, we definitely do in our courses. We cover building a social organization, or a non-profit, or including a social component to the existing for-profit organization you’re running. We see those very closely aligned. One of the interesting findings that my years of research, that the very successful entrepreneurs aren’t doing this just for the money. They want to make a difference and they want to change the world in some way. They are heavily involved in their communities and they are out there doing things, they’re donating. They’re quite involved, and the line between non-profit and for-profit is becoming more blurred these days. I’d say anyone in a for profit enterprise really should have a social component that makes a contribution to the community because I think customers today and in the future are going to almost demand that of the organizations that they patronize that you’re a great community citizen as well as a decent business. Hamilton: How does this opportunity at the Huntsman School of Business rank among the other opportunities you’ve had? Glauser: Well the Huntsman School is very interested in building a world-renowned center of entrepreneurship and they have the passion and the enthusiasm and the team members and the resources. I’m basically a builder and they want to build something special and so it’s just a great opportunity at this point in my career having taught and having built companies and having consulted companies. To help create something here in Utah that will benefit a lot of people’s lives is very attractive to me.

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