Local Business Leader Shares Secrets to Success with Beta Gamma Sigma Inductees

 Beta Gamma Sigma December 2017
December 2017 Inductees into Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jan 25, 2018) — If students want to become successful entrepreneurs, they cannot be afraid to fail.

Michael E. Russell, president of technology consultant firm ETS Solutions, shared this advice last month at the 2017 Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society induction ceremony, which welcomed 48 juniors, seniors, and graduate students from the Michael J. Coles College of Business into the prestigious academic society.

Russell earned a BS in criminal justice and political science in 1985 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before graduating from Coles College in 2002 with an MBA in Accounting and Finance. He attended the Beta Gamma Sigma ceremony as the Kennesaw State University chapter’s honorary inductee. During his presentation, the positive, energetic Russell outlined his fives rules for success in business, with overcoming the fear of failure topping the list.

“Don’t be afraid to fail,” he said, “because you will fail.”

Before starting ETS Solutions, Russell had a successful career as an accountant until life threw him a curveball. His five-year-old son was diagnosed with brain cancer and was preparing to undergo chemotherapy. Russell asked his boss for some time off to be with his family.

“I asked my boss if I could have every Friday off for the next two years so that I could be with my son while he does chemo,” he said. “My boss said I could not. So I walked out of the office and said I would never work for anyone else ever again. That’s when I started my company.”

By not being afraid to walk away from a comfortable job with a six-figure salary, Russell ultimately set himself on the path towards greater success. Had he been afraid to fail, he would not have quit his job.

The second rule Russell shared with the Beta Gamma Sigma inductees was to never pass up an opportunity to network.

He recounted the story of his initial struggles getting ETS Solutions off the ground in 2002. He was $250,000 in debt with no access to additional capital. Rather than giving up, he attended a black tie event at the Cobb Chamber of Commerce in the hopes of gaining new business contacts.

“Walking down the hall I saw a fraternity brother from my days at Chapel Hill that I hadn’t seen since 1985,” he said. “I asked if we could have lunch. It turns out he was a banker. He gave me a credit card for $25,000 when he probably shouldn’t have. That’s what saved my company.”

Russell’s presentation outlined three additional rules for success to the inductees:

  1. Work hard, and play hard. He advised the students to remember that pursuing a career should be fun. His company awards sales trophies, hosts family lunches, and even organizes group travel excursions. Last year he took the entire staff and their families on a cruise.

  2. Give back to the community. Russell believes businesses should be responsible members of their communities. During the last 15 years, ETS Solutions has donated more than $250,000 to 50 nonprofit organizations. Russell is personally involved in several nonprofits including the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation, Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital, CURE Childhood Cancer, Camp Sunshine, and Golf for the Kids. He also sits on the boards of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Kennesaw State University Alumni Association, and Coles College Business Advisory, and is Chair of the Robin & Doug Shore Entrepreneurship Center.

  3. Know Your Why. Borrowing a concept from a popular Ted Talk hosted by Simon Sinek, Russell told the inductees that they must always know why they do what they do. Russel recently led a corporate retreat so the team could determine why they want the company to succeed. The result: “We believe in building a legacy that strengthens our community.”

Russell wrapped up his presentation to the Beta Gamma Sigma inductees with one extra piece of advice as they begin their careers.

“Stand out in a crowd and show everyone that you are the best.”

Beta Gamma Sigma is the international honor society serving business programs accredited by AACSB International. Juniors and seniors in the top 10 percent of their class, and graduate students in the top 20 percent, are eligible for induction. Beta Gamma Sigma’s mission is to encourage and honor academic achievement in the study of business and personal and professional excellence in the practice of business.

- Patrick Harbin