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Chairman and CEO of Euronet Worldwide Offers Entrepreneurship Advice for StudentsMarch 6, 2013
Students within two Helzberg School of Management business classes – Business Leadership: Strategy, Policy and Ethics and Senior Capstone in Management – had the opportunity to hear from local business leader and entrepreneur Michael J. Brown, chairman and CEO of Euronet Worldwide Inc.
Brown discussed his career and how he became an entrepreneur in college, starting his own portable disco business with friend and business partner Mark Callegari, ’80. During their senior year, Brown and Callegari went on to start another company together – Innovative Software – which later merged with Informix, a leading provider of advanced database software technology, in 1988. Annual revenues grew to $170 million before Brown left the company in 1990.
“I enjoyed learning about his career track, from being a small profitable entrepreneur in college to a very successful CEO,” said Hero Balani, ’15, an international business student from Belize City, Belize. “These types of success stories help stimulate students like me who seek opportunities and want to continue the process of learning throughout our lifetime.”
Turner White, visiting assistant professor of management and instructor of one of the classes, asked Brown to speak for just that reason – to offer inspiration.
“Mike embodies what we work with our students to achieve – self-assurance, good faith, fair dealing and lifelong inquisitiveness about the world,” he said. “There is a lot we gain from listening to the stories of others and their pathways in life.”
Brown described an entrepreneur as someone who notices opportunities and thinks about how they can fill the gaps. And that’s just what he did when he came across a barrier establishing Euronet Worldwide, a company that has helped modernize how more than 39 countries access their finances.
“After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, I traveled to Budapest, Hungary, and quickly learned that all transactions were happening in cash,” said Brown. “People needed cash to do business, and there were no ATMs.”
Brown put in 300 ATMs across Hungary and sold banks access to them on a per-transaction fee. Eventually, the company expanded into Poland, a much larger market. After a slow start, the company now has 4,000 ATMs and dispenses about 25 percent of all cash in circulation in Poland alone.
“Being a successful entrepreneur is about more than having a good idea,” said Brown. “You need a solid business plan, and you need to realize it is going to take a lot longer and cost a lot more money than you think. It’s a lot of hard work, but it is an attitude I won’t give up. Barriers arise, but you have to persevere and know you’ll get through it.”
White felt this story would resonate with students.
“It’s similar to what we’re doing with our business projects in the community,” said White. “Our students ultimately gain the real-life experience of positive innovation with the lives of others – a pattern we hope they’re inspired to continue after they graduate from Rockhurst.”
Brown ended his presentation by offering a few pieces of advice.
“The key is to read everything you can, and be able to boil it down into two sentences so you can retain it and access it later,” he said. “Mentors are also important. Even if you don’t agree with them, you’ll get something out of it.”