On the last day of our entrepreneurship Winterim trip in California we met Mr. Scott Walker, a Thunderbird Alumnus and the founder of the Walker Center. The meeting took place at his winery in Napa Valley.
Our team of three was the first to arrive and Mr. Walker warmly welcomed us. We had a conversation on many issues and when Mr. Walker learned that I am from China, he got excited and started to talk about his new international aviation fuel business located in China. After learning more about my background, he said he would make me an offer if I decided to go back to Beijing to work.
Shortly thereafter, Professor Stralser arrived and I joked with him that our experience was like the Amazing Race. We felt fortunate to be the first team that arrived and the prize I got was the job offer. Later, after the other teammates arrived, we toured the winery and then listened to Mr. Walker share his experiences.
Mr. Walker started his discussion by saying that when many people get successful, they tend to brag about their greatness and only remember the good things, but that he would tell the whole story. He graduated from Thunderbird in 1981 with a focus in finance. After graduation, he worked with GE Capital and Lloyds bank, living a very normal life. That was until 1991, when he went through a difficult time in his life including losing a job and a divorce. He had no choice but to change his career path and he made three rules for himself. There were:
1. “A tendency in human nature is to be with the crowd, I never want to be with the crowd. Think differently. Train your brain to think in a different way.”
2. “Never compromise my principles, integrity, never take a shift, and stand up.”
3. “I will not give up, ever! ever ! ever! And he will never compromise on anything and if he survives his bad patch, he will give back to society and to the people who have helped him.”
After staying jobless for a while, finally he got an opportunity to become a financial consultant for a small company named Telepay. There he worked hard and helped to turn it around.
Since then he has been partnering with his good friend, Mr. William. Working together they met a market need by providing outsourced alternatives to traditional payment methods using the latest automated technologies. This business plan resulted in the establishing of BillMatrix. The company has been highly successful and processes more than $5 billion in bill payments annually on behalf of its clients which include several Fortune 500 companies. Nationally, BillMatrix is considered the leading outsourced IVR bill payment company.
Mr. Walker then talked about his international experience in the aviation fuel industry. He found the entrepreneurs he met in China do not know how to drink and appreciate wine, so he said “Teach me how to drink tea and I will teach you how to drink wine.” The joint venture in China has been very successful, and it reminds me of my own experience in Thunderbird that a global businessman should always be willing and able to share knowledge across borders.
After his presentation, we had lunch with Mr. Walker and while tasting wine we had a casual conversation. We spoke about a variety of topics and I joked with him, “I’m Chinese, you have to teach me how to taste wine,” and he acknowledged that I had referenced what he mentioned earlier.
I was very happy that we ended the Winterim with such a great meeting. Now, each time I pass the Walker Building, I think of the old Chinese saying: “One generation plants the trees in whose shade another generation rests” and Mr. Walker’s 3 rules, and I hope someday to have the opportunity to give back to the people and society who helped me become successful.