My-Take co-founder Rich Armstrong was asked by the University of Texas McCombs School of Business to speak to a group of marketing students from the MBA program. The following is a brief Q & A with Armstrong following his session:
Q: So, what is your tie to the Texas program and what was the catalyst for your visit?
Armstrong: I graduated from the Texas MBA program in ‘92. I used to recruit for them and always stayed in touch. I was recently visiting one of our clients in Austin and stopped in to touch base with a few of my former professors, which spurred the thought to speak to a class about my experiences.
Q: Clearly we are in a tougher economic climate than when you graduated. What is the general outlook of the Texas students and what are their plans?
Armstrong: All schools face a challenge of placing students in today’s job market. This program does a great job of keeping in touch with corporate contacts, which for students can be a beneficial experience if you want to be an entrepreneur. Schools recognize that it’s tough out there, so it’s important that kids have work experience. The key thing that most employers are looking for is that “real world” experience. That doesn’t mean they have to be somewhere for 15 years, but a couple of years experience can definitely help. It provides students with a context of what a company may need, not to mention it’s hard for a young entrepreneur to sell a product if they don’t understand how a business would apply that service.
Q: Having worked at Fortune 500 companies, and now leading your own business, how did you advise students in terms of choosing between a corporate career versus entrepreneurial endeavors?
Armstrong: Do what makes you happy. It’s not bad to have experience, but there are upfront challenges to both. From the corporate end – there are a lot of things that can be learned. We never could have started this business without our corporate experience and a lot of My-Take’s success came from the people Todd (Todd Hoskins, My-Take's co-founder) and I know. Plus you could have the best idea in the world, but there’s a whole process of selling it and the skills you need to be versed in to make the business happen. With an entrepreneurial path – I control my own destiny. It really comes down to what you want out of life.
Q: What was your overall impression of the students you spoke with?
Armstrong: Very energetic, inquisitive. All the students came from various backgrounds and it was a very diverse group. They seemed all hard working, optimistic and upbeat.
Q: What is the one thing that you wanted to make sure you impressed upon the Texas MBAs?
Armstrong: Stay positive in whatever you’re doing. Rarely is there a straight line that gets you there, but stay focused on your end goal.
Q: How can students best prepare themselves to succeed in the current environment?
Armstrong: Get some experience on the job, whether you do an internship or work full-time first. Network and don’t let opportunities pass you by. Be proactive with folks.
Q: How about once these individuals are in their first job or at the beginning of their start-up – how can they get off to a fast start in their careers?
Armstrong: For either case it’s about delivering results. The only thing that matters is sales and getting the job done. If you don’t have results and can’t translate your work to the bottom line, you’re not going to be around long. Deliver results on the objectives you’ve got; go above and beyond to be a team player.
Q: Last question. What is the best question asked by a student in your session?
Armstrong: The funniest question I was asked – Virginia Tech or Texas? I root for both teams but if the two were playing against each other I’d choose Virginia Tech (my undergrad).