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Inspiring Students on a Path Towards Entrepreneurship

- Entrepreneurship

Many influencers are dubbing 2018 as the “Year of the entrepreneur.” Patents are on the rise, investors are financing more companies and innovations such as IoT and AI are bringing about new ideas and inventions. Starting your own business requires investing all of your time, energy, and resources every day until your business takes off and become successful. It’s hard work, but rewarding – just ask the CEO of Banyan Hills Technologies Steve Latham.

For the second time, Steve spoke to a group of 40 students in a computer science class at Georgia State University. The first time he talked with them about the Internet of Things, this time it was about building an IoT company.

The students were excited to hear about all the new technologies, but they walked away with much more. They learned valuable lessons on how to be a business owner, a leader and an entrepreneur.

Steve shared stories and gave advice, methodologies, and strategies for leading and growing a company. He shared with the students a few tips on what it means to be an entrepreneur and to love what you are doing!

“I feel like this made Steve’s presentation both stand out and inspire me more than previous speeches from other guests,” said one student.

“I believe Steve is the first speaker who talked about life lessons more than the company itself. I was able to retrieve many lessons about life and entrepreneurship,” said another student

Each student was required to draft a recap of the class and the presentation. Below are six take-aways from Steve’s discussion with the students about becoming an entrepreneur.

Have a clear idea, vision and mission: Business plans written on napkins have almost become professional folklore, but this is exactly how Banyan Hills Technologies started. When one has determination and a clear idea in their mind, the communication channel is secondary. You don’t need colorful PowerPoints or interactive demonstrations to express a strong belief in your own ideas, so even a napkin is enough to inspire people and gain first supporters. Create a slide that has your mission and vision statement and regularly show it to your team and your employees. Steve mentioned that every single week during Banyan’s Tuesday meetings he starts off his discussion by showing the Vision and Mission Slide.

Be passionate about your business: Believe in what you are doing and the company you are creating. As IoT became more recognized for helping business operations, Steve realized that he could help advise an IoT strategy that could help businesses by making the most out of their large networks. When you are bringing a whole new platform that has the potential to make big changes in the IoT industry – you have to be passionate! Inspired by his idea, Steve took a risk, left his position at a big international company and kicked off his dream. Today, Banyan has 60 employees and the numbers keep growing.

Be creative & innovative: The old saying, “think outside the box” couldn’t be any truer when starting a business. Look at an old problem in a new way and come up with interesting solutions. Steve talked about how he was able to automate a popcorn machine—and he showed how the older popcorn gets, the price decreases through sensors. When you think of IoT, this is probably not the first concept and use of the technology to come to mind. But, Steve was able to easily show how sensors and IoT can be applied to nearly anything today—both creative and innovative use of the technology.

Create a unique culture: Creating a culture of fun and innovation is also a critical element to being an entrepreneur. What do you want your company to stand for? What emotional feelings do you want to invoke? Care for your employees, it can make a huge difference especially starting up a company when you want people to come along with you and follow your vision – but, also, choose your team wisely. Make sure you choose a team who has the same values as you do and the culture you want to create. For Steve, four elements stuck out – he wanted his culture to be one of integrity, humbleness, hard working and fun.

Name your business something meaningful: Make sure you name your business something you are going to love and that represents who you are and what you do. Steve came up with the idea to name the company Banyan Hills Technologies when he saw a banyan tree on one of his business trips. This kind of tree has a very unusual way of spreading – it grows trunks from its branches. A banyan tree can look like a forest, but still be one connected organism – just like the foundation of IoT. IoT has a potential to connect all aspects of an organization – and then some.

Measure & celebrate your success: Create a dream board, start with core values on top and core focus, which describes who you are. Describe your 3-year plan and 10-year plan. As motivation, include what makes you different and write a check system in ways you can physically measure your progress. Every quarter, look at that dream plan, and measure yourself. And when you win or achieve a goal, take a minute and celebrate. Enjoy the moment. Be proud of what you have done and reinvest your energy back into the hard work. Take deep breaths often, and reflect on accomplishments and success.

Since speaking at GSU, Steve has been contacted by a number of students and he is actively writing them back to continue mentoring and supporting them as they become the workforce, entrepreneurs, inventors and innovators of tomorrow.


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Mike Abernathy is Director of Business Resources at NSCA
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