Difficult decisions key to Owens’ success

For those looking for career advice, this past Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010, the College of Management’s IMPACT series hosted Gregory Owens, Chairman and CEO of IronPlanet. A Tech alum who is also on the Board for the College of Management, Owens provided students with an array of advice on how to survive and prosper in the working world.
Owens began his presentation with three basic questions. These questions involved dealing with the recession, choosing a large or small company and choosing between product-based companies or consulting.
His biggest advice to people just entering the labor force was to work hard and put in the extra effort. Owens emphasized the presentation aspect of both finding the job and being successful with customers.
“I think it was refreshing, just to really hear where he was coming from and how he achieved his goals, [especially] the real world advice and just how people can go about being successful after they graduate,” said Richard Mokuolu, a fourth-year ME major.
He conveyed this advice using examples from his own working experience. After his own graduation, Owens answered the three questions by immediately working for a small consulting firm that was not his top choice. However, due to the recession, he chose to play it safe and to build experience overtime, something that he recommended to the audience.
“I liked how much I could relate to the speaker, [especially] the feasibility of his career choices, where he came from and where he got to be who he is,” said Charley Crosson, a third-year MGT major.
Eventually, he felt that he had become too successful to remain in a small company. This was his reasoning for transferring to the supply chain team at Accenture.
Throughout the lecture, Owens emphasized following passions over rules, noting that the financial aspect of one’s career will eventually take care of itself.
Accreditations, such as degrees, while important, are only necessary if one needs them for a specific career.
“You don’t have to get an MBA. But it’s a great game-changer,” Owens said.
Owens then discussed the importance of Tech and how it influenced the successes of his career.
“Surround yourself with smart people. Smart people make you smarter,” Owens said.
Owens’ career took many sharp turns. Even though he started out in a small firm, he eventually found greater success at Accenture.
While he was there, Accenture went from one billion dollars in sales to 10 billion dollars in nine years.
After this he eventually started and sold a packaged software company and also worked in private equity for a year and a half.
“My long-term goal was to run a company. I got an opportunity to run a software company at 39. I resigned from Accenture, and they thought I was crazy because the [software] company might not make it,” Owens said.
He eventually moved on to running IronPlanet, an online company that auctions heavy equipment and vehicles.
Recently, they have also become involved in selling motors, motorcycles and boats. He attributes the success of this business to his flexibility and adaptability.
“Look at the business model and see if it’s changing. Ask yourself, are you changing too?” Owens said.
This style of changing the business model to meet the environment is what Owens says helped his company overcome the recession.
Owens noted near the end of his lecture that the most important part of his decision-making was being able to make choices that did not seem easy.
As an example, Owens once took a 75 percent pay cut to start a new company.
According to Owens, hard work and tough decisions were the keys to his success.

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