Entrepreneurs, students mingle in annual conference

Mike Foley | University Advancement | 16 February, 2007

King Husein at BYU-Hawaii Over 100 highly successful Latter-day Saint and other business owners converged on the BYU-Hawaii campus from February 14-16 for the annual Willes Center for International Entrepreneurship conference and business plan competition, providing all a rich feast of advice and training, and golden opportunities to network.

In the opening general session on February 15 CIE Director Gregory V. Gibson, J.D., traced the business field's rapid development over the past few decades and explained the theme of this year's conference is Entrepreneurship: Empowering Students Worldwide. Over half the BYUH student body comes from Asia and the Pacific islands.

"It's a way that we can teach those things that are necessary for students to return to their home countries, to places where there are no jobs, very little technology, and students are locked out of employment," Gibson said. "Entrepreneurship is very empowering."

In the annual banquet that evening keynote speaker Firoz "King" Husein — a BYU graduate ('71, ME) and member of the Presidents' Leadership Council — shared some of the principles that have helped him grow over the past four decades from a young engineer of "humble circumstances" who needed to borrow $500 to get from India to graduate school in the U.S., to the owner of several construction and design companies which routinely build expansive Costco and other structures on a 100-day schedule.

"Anybody who starts a business from scratch doesn't start by building big projects," Husein said. He recalled thinking in his early work experience of working for others, "if I was running the business and I was making the decisions, I would do it differently. That is the spark that probably started igniting [entrepreneurship] inside of me."

"I did not have the resources to start a business," Husein continued, "but fortunately, somebody had faith in me and was willing to back me up...for a short time. My first office, and I tell you this not to feel sorry for me but to know you can take [such] opportunities back home — you do not have to start big and worry that everything has to be in place — was a small closet."

Husein said he has since found "if you combine three basic principles, you can be successful: Your education..., the experience you have along the way..., [and] gospel principles. That is a strong foundation for a successful business."

He added several other successful practices he has followed in his business over the past 27 years, including:

  • "Stay out of debt. If there's some debt, it needs to be manageable."
  • "Avoid litigation. [It's] very unproductive."
  • "Get organized and stay organized. You'll be more efficient if you run an organized business. I firmly believe in living by my calendar."
  • "Don't be afraid to work hard. You need to develop a good work ethic. You need to have tenacity. Business is tough; you have to be tougher."
  • "Be innovative: Keep up with the latest technology to get ahead of the competition. With all the latest technology, we cannot afford to compromise our service and quality."
  • "Stay focused. In business you'll have a lot of opportunities to go off in different directions; stay focused."
  • "Be honest," he said, citing Gandhi who said: There is one honest man for every hundred that claim to be honest. That is a sad commentary."

Husein also said, "There are times in business when you have to close the doors, kneel down and pray. Prayer does work in business."

Several students also spoke at the banquet, one recounting the progress he has made on his business plan and the other telling of recently applying entrepreneurial principles in the Philippines.

Earlier in the day, two guest speakers addressed the attendees: First, 25-year-old entrepreneur Doug Robinson of Utah, president of Atlas Marketing, Inc., said, "If you apply principles of success, you will have success time and time again, just like you do with gravity." He added, "Never let age get in the way of you having success."

And young Honolulu business owner Evan Leong told how one of his business heroes shared a secret with him: "I will not do any business unless it benefits the community. ...You give back to the community, make a difference, and the money will follow."

As part of his radio interview business, Leong said he always asks his guests two questions: "What's your greatest life accomplishment? What is your greatest regret?" He said 96% of them respond "children" to the first, and 96% saying "not spending enough time" with their children to the second. "The most important thing we have in our life is our family."

The conference also included the visiting entrepreneurs presenting workshops in a wide range of subjects, including creating wealth through real estate, import/export, financing and cash flow, e-business, doing business in China, finding partners, networking and others.